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Is EPUB3 Qualified to Change the Future of eBook Reading?

Posted on 2013-Mar-11

by BB eBooks Staff


Have you ever wondered why so much tech jargon circulates in eBook industry news? Seemingly, the book industry is crossing over into a fully digital platform that you and I are prone to get gradually disconnected from the bombardment of new technologies. Let’s have a quick look at the so-called vocabularies, such as EPUB3, HTML5, MathML, CSS3, KF8, Cloud system, etc. The list might expand as major players in the market tend to commercialize their trademarked items to create brand loyalty. While most of the terms mentioned above are directly linked to open source standards, KF8 stands out from the rest due to the fact that it is the officially featured format from Amazon. Regardless of the native compatibility with most eReading devices, Amazon successfully popularizes its format to further promote the Kindle family.

2011: Early Adoption of Promising Technology


To provide you with a little bit of history about the eBook evolution, almost two years ago EPUB3 was supposed to be a life-changing phenomenon that upgraded EPUB2.0.1. The clash with HTML5 prompted the writer to explain how eBook standards were actually based on the core language of HTML5. The promising advancement of EPUB3 aimed to resolve the frustration behind default presentational settings, enhance multimedia experience with better support of audio and video, process vector graphics (SVG) in the eBook, render complicated mathematical formulae, and add a lot more features into eBooks.

The initial concept behind KF8 creation was analyzed by Thad McIlroy, a digital publishing guru, how the format was again actually based on HTML5 and EPUB3. Despite conspiracy theories, the intention was to produce “attractive eBook formatting.” Ideally and probably eventually, eBooks would take advantage of web pages and recreate the same browsing experience for eBooks.

Cloud reading system, introduced in 2011, started to gain traction through Amazon’s Cloud Reader. The system allows the reader to synchronize their record of purchased books with web browsers. No eReader is required to read your favorite book and you can download it to be read offline.

2012: Bottlenecked Implementation


In 2012, the interview between Sanders Kleinfield of O’Reilly and Bill McCoy of IDPF presented a technological standstill that led the future of eBook reading to nowhere when EPUB3 had not been fully implemented on any major platform. Despite witnessing how many eReaders and tablets were launched into the market, it was interesting to see how they did not support EPUB3. Unlike most eReading devices, Apple’s iBooks was far more advanced than its competitor’s eReading system. It uses the WebKit engine found in its sisterly web browser, Safari, to render HTML5 content. The result is pretty obvious that iBooks is more likely to adequately handle EPUB3.

According to Mr. McCoy, publishers got away with digitizing books to be read on devices without innovating new ways to improve advanced formatting such as interactivity, reflowable text, and hyperlinks in Phase 1. But the Phase 2 was a bit more challenging when ‘apps’ were involved to upgrade eBooks content to be better display on tablets.

Sanders actually saw EPUB3 as a web app that would help develop Phase 2 more effectively. Based on the publisher’s perspective, he saw the potential in creating apps to deliver customized content to readers. Bill expressed his opinion how creating web apps was not a viable solution for every publisher to invest their fortune, especially for small publishers who did not have dedicated manpower and a large budget. Bill hoped that more open source software would pave ways to “facilitate and compliment the growth of EPUB3.”

Moving on toward the difference between ‘web apps’ and ’eBook’, Bill’s argument did not approve the web app since it would bring “limited enhancements to largely text-centric linear documents.” A web app requires extra resources to make it work. When it came to EPUB3 rendition, iBooks was the poster child here to produce a rich eBook. Instead of referring to different Javascript libraries, Bill hoped that they would adopt the same library that web browsers are using-Webkit-to preserve all the rich features.

2013: Convergence


Fast forward to the year 2013, reliving the confusion surrounding HTML5 and EPUB3 seems ironic as if the red carpet arrival of EPUB a few years ago never took place, yet there are more positive signs for EPUB3. Marilyn Siderwicz, the Marketing and Communications Manager of W3C, gives the picture of what the readers want—rich media and a level of interactivity with more complex content. The technology is there in HTML5 that will allow EPUB3 to grow because of their relatable history. David Burleigh of Overdrive sees the potential growth of HTML5-based eBooks to be read anywhere across platforms.

Coming back to KF8, according to Matt Edelman from Glossi, self-published digital magazine provider, Amazon’s featured format will be around as long as the mega retailer wants it to survive. Although not many people want to adopt the format, it is undeniable that the market share somewhat drives the format to fame and widespread acceptance.

The W3C representative welcomes everyone in the publishing industry to participate in shaping eBook technology. Tom Waters, Autography CEO, wants to see flexibility of contents being offered to readers like various movie formats for different types of consumers. Although Eric Hellman, President of Gluejar, said that EPUB could be the next best thing, the current technology cannot produce a “standard for distributing self-contained book-like websites.” Matt’s reassurance in web technology approves HTML5 as “the most economical” platform that makes it convenient for consumers to access their content regardless of platforms and devices.


HTML5 is undeniably the powerful tool to change the eBook industry, and the EPUB3 spec is mostly composed of HTML5-type standards. Regardless of the future of eBook technology, it is interesting to see how the industry develops a solution to bring the reader the level of enhancement website visitors can enjoy due to their similar technological adoption.

Label: Technical and Design

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