eBooks: Great Expectations for Web Standards

Summary of the Electronic Books and the Open Web Platform Workshop

W3C, together with IDPF (International Digital Publishing Forum) and BISG (Book Industry Study Group), held a Workshop on Electronic Books and the Open Web Platform, under the title eBooks: Great Expectations for Web Standards, on the 11 and 12 February 2013 in New York, USA. The Workshop was co-located and hosted by O'Reilly Tools of Change for Publishing Conference.

The Workshop's technical discussions focused on Open Web Platform technologies currently used in eBooks and the need for improvements of these technologies for future digital publications. The over-arching question of how to bring the publishing industry closer to the development of Web technologies to ensure a smoother cooperation was discussed by participants throughout the sessions and during the breaks.

Executive Summary

Today’s eBook market is dynamic, fast-changing and strong. eBooks compete with printed versions, and there is a wide choice of hardware and software available for eBook readers. Nevertheless, publishers face major business and technical challenges in this market, some of which could be reduced or removed through standardization.

The International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF) has defined the EPUB standard (latest version 3.0) that largely builds on W3C’s Open Web Platform technologies. OWP is also increasingly used at the core of standalone desktop and mobile applications. However, more can and should be done to address the specific issues and requirements the publishing industry has for Web Standards as applied to eBooks, the publication of Web sites, or content applications.

W3C seeks to support the wide adoption of Web technologies in digital publishing contexts. Consequently, there is a need for the Web and Publishing communities to reinforce cooperation around well defined technical issues. This Workshop was a first step, bringing together a wide range of stakeholders to share their own perspectives, requirements, and ideas to ensure that emerging global technology standards meet the needs of the Digital Publishing industry. The Workshop has identified a number of technical issues where the W3C could and should work together in the coming years.
The Workshop participants began discussions to prioritize lists of topics such as presentation, layout, fonts, or accessibility. As a next step, the W3C staff will work with stakeholders, such as IDPF and BISG, in the digital publishing ecosystem to identify opportunities for work related to publishing standards and that can be launched at W3C.

There were 43 position papers submitted, and 89 registered participants. There were 24 presentations spread over 5 sessions during the one day and a half of the workshop.

The top topics in the call for papers were:


■standardization issues, including relationship to current and future W3C standards like HTML, SVG, MathML, Web API-s, metadata, etc.

■layout definition and control (fixed and adaptive layout, high quality typesetting, font definition and management, etc.)

■accessibility (authoring accessibility guidelines including graphics, fallbacks)

■voice control


■color management and conversion

■device descriptions

■widgets definitions, standardization

■conformance (definitions, requirements, testing methodologies, certification)



■DRM management (including interoperable and open DRM systems, social DRM, etc.)

■unique identification of eBooks

■outreach and deployment


■metadata storage and vocabularies

The Workshop participants reached a broad consensus that technologies in the Open Web Platform provide a compelling basis for eBooks, but further work is needed. There was strong support for work on presentation issues, accessibility, testing, but also on other topics. The full list is given in the summary of the wrap up session.

Main workshop discussions

■Workshop agenda, links to slides and minutes

First day, February 11th afternoon

The first day included: an Overview speech; a first Keynote 1; and two sessions -- the first on Presentation and the second on OWP/ePub. [Minutes from Day 1]

Following a welcome by session moderator Karen Myers (W3C) and scene setting talk by Thierry Michel (W3C) [Slides] the Workshop Co-Chair, Jeff Jaffe (W3C) [Slides] presented an overview of the World Wide Web Consortium and the Open Web Platform as a platform for innovation, consolidation, and cost efficiencies. Jeff also presented the expectations for this workshop and the workshop success criteria.

Bill Mc Coy (IDPF) [Slides] gave a keynote on the need to increase collaboration between W3C and the IDPF, urging that W3C collaborate on a shared vision and roadmap, building on EPUB 3 as the standard packaged format, for the eBook (portable document) instantiation of the Open Web Platform. Bill also talked about the need to extend current W3C work to address the requirements of the publishing industry, such as high-design content and rich media, accessibility for people with disabilities, internationalization, and semantic structure. He also emphasized the difficulty met by developers when adopting the large number of individual W3C Recommendations that constitute the full Open Web Platform.

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