January 22, 2022

W3C Launches New Digital Publishing Activity

From the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C):

Today W3C launched a new Digital Publishing Activity to make the Web a platform for the digital publishing industry, and to build the necessary bridges between the developers of the Open Web Platform and the publishing industry.

Today’s eBook readers and tablets for electronic books, magazines, journals and educational resources use W3C technologies such as (X)HTML, CSS, SVG, SMIL, MathML, or various Web API-s. Commercial publishers also rely on W3C technologies in their back-end processing all the way from authoring through to delivering the printed or electronic product and beyond.The publishing industry is one of the largest consumers of W3C technology.

However, the alignment of these formats and the W3C Recommendations, is not perfect. Necessary features may be missing in the W3C documents, or are in draft only; as a result EPUB3, the standard for electronic books, introduced its own extensions to cover the needs of publishing. More specifically, the EPUB3 Standard relies on some W3C technologies that have not reached a stable state yet; some of them are already Candidate Recommendations but some others are still Working Drafts, considered unstable by the W3C Process. These should be harmonized with the W3C Recommendations to ensure that no unnecessary forking of the technologies occur. The Workshop on eBooks and the Open Web Platform, jointly organized by W3C, the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF), and the Book Industry Group (BISG) (see also the report of the workshop) revealed a number of issues and areas where the needs of the publishing ecosystem is not yet adequately reflected by current W3C Recommendations; such areas include improved paged media, CSS writing modes, advanced font management, internationalization, adequate metadata vocabularies, content protection, accessibility, or HTML templates.

Although that W3C Workshop concentrated on electronic books only, similar concerns can be raised for publishers in general who may want, for example, to offer digital versions of their high-end magazines through the Open Web Platform. Electronic versions of journals and magazines also have demands for highly structured data formats (for example to ensure very fast indexing through search engines); on-line advertising, that is often a core part of the business model for digital publishing, may also have the very same high-level requirements as book or magazine publishing; the online education market may have very high quality publishing requirement for textbooks, online tests, illustrations, etc.

The goal of this Interest Group is to provide an in-depth and exhaustive overview of where the discrepancies between the Digital Publishing industry and the development of the Open Web Platform occur, backed with specific and well documented use cases and technical requirements. These documents should be developed, whenever appropriate, in  cooperation with the relevant Working Groups listed in the liaison section.

Work in this activity primarily takes place in the Digital Publishing Interest Group.

That Interest Group is a forum for experts in the digital publishing ecosystem of electronic journals, magazines, news, or book publishing (authors, creators, publishers, news organizations, booksellers, accessibility and internationalization specialists, etc.) for technical discussions, gathering use cases and requirements to align the existing formats and technologies (e.g., for electronic books) with those used by the Open Web Platform.

The launch of this Activity follows two W3C Workshops this year so far: Great Expectations for Web Standards (February) and Richer Internationalization for eBooks (June). W3C is also holding a Workshop on publishing workflow in September in Paris.

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.