The EPUB Summit – A Triumph in Bordeaux


The 7th – 8th of April saw the EPUB community convene in Bordeaux for the first EPUB Summit organized by the newly created EDRLab, the headquarters of the IDPF and the Readium Foundation in Europe.

This action-packed two day conference was held at the extraordinary Librarie Mollat (the largest independent bookstore in France) and was attended by over 130 international delegates who came together to share innovations from a variety of different perspectives. The audience consisted of technical people engaged in standardisation, open-source developers, publishers, e-distributors, reading system vendors, members of associations for the print-disabled and many more.

Virginie Clayssen (Editis) opened the conference with some stirring remarks on EPUB 3 and the creation of EDRLab – “To speed up the movement and facilitate the work of stakeholders, we must develop software components and facilitate the dissemination of EPUB3, online and offline, across all operating systems”. EDRLab needs the support of as many European countries as possible for this to be successful. See here for a complete transcript of Virgine’s welcoming address.

Bill McCoy (Executive Director of IDPF and President of the Readium Foundation) followed showing his support for EDRLab, IDPF’s pleasure at the new relationship and thanks to the French Government for their support of EDRlab in leading the way with digital standards in Europe. He stressed that we are part of a global community with broad goals for EPUB. Ebooks are just the first step and he urged us to look further and think bigger. IDPF’s mission is to build an open accessible digital publishing ecosystem.

Bill MCCoy

Readium’s Ric Wright and EDRLab’s CTO, Laurent le Meur took the stage to present a roadmap for Readium. Ric highlighted the 20 applications which are based on readium – “that’s the beauty of open source”. He called for support from developers, testers and financing – all would be very welcome to realise the potential of the Readium SDK project. Laurent stressed that EDRLab focusses on the freedom, accessibility and interoperability that readium gives.

Micah Bowers (BlueFire) enthralled us with his presentation on mobile. He opened with an announcement of the forthcoming Cloudshelf reader app from BlueFire due out in May, based on Readium SDK and fully EPUB 3 compliant. The mobile content experience isn’t just about delivering standalone books as we need to deliver content to an entire ecosystem. Optimising content for mobile also is not just about reflow, Micah pointed out. The art form of producing successful adaptive layout is the future of content on screens – giving us the ultimate reader experience.

Micah Bowers

Nicolas Georges, the French Minister for Culture and Communications gave a rousing plenary speech highlighting the government’s support of EDRLab so that all conusmer opinions can be represented. The ministry’s focus on accessibility and access to libraries for readers can be realised through EPUB and the interoperability that it offers. He urged the publishing industry to deliver on these.

Bill Rosenblatt (Giant Steps Media Technology Strategies) gave us an update on content protection and LCP (Readium Lightweight Content Protection) born from a need to have an interoperable DRM standard linked to EPUB. LCP has been pursued as a a sub-project of Readium SDK and is expected to provide a module for Readium SDK as well as server-side components. Finding at home at EDRLab, the LCP project is expected to be available from November 2016.

Alex Bernier (BrailleNet) and Daniel Weck (DAISY, EDRLab) spoke to us about accessibility with Alex giving a high level presentation on the need for accessibility in ebooks and explaining the term “print disabled” with Daniel following with the technical approach taking us on his Journey in Digital AccessibilityEPUB 3 provides a foundation for born accessible digital publications and Daniel called for further collaboration within the EPUB 3 ecosystem proposing an evolution strategy to align EPUB with the open web platform with accessibility as a core value. His slides are available here.

Markus Gylling (CTO of DAISY & IDPF) presented an overview of EPUB 3.1 confirming that open web platform alignment does indeed form part of the revision focus for EPUB3.1. It also includes the removal of several obsolete features as detailed in the current draft that is available for public comment. A new draft will be available in the near future and touching upon Daniel’s presentation Markus stressed that “if you are an accessibility expert then you can use EPUB to create something more accessible than humanity has ever seen”. An accessibility profile for EPUB is in the pipeline and can be adapted to all variations of EPUB.

Ivan Herman (W3C) followed with a presentation on Portable Web Publications (PWP). The mission of the Digital Publishing Interest Group at W3C (chaired by Markus Gylling and Tzviya Siegman) includes working on a future of digital publishing as Portable Web Publications. The difference between a book and a web application is becoming blurred these days particularly in education publishing and Ivan also envisages a time when the separation between publishing online as web sites and offline will be diminished to zero.

Bill McCoy joined Markus and Ivan to discuss the future of EPUB stressing that traditional publishers and web developers need to need to work together to invent a new paradigm. The rest of the afternoon was devoted to 3 workshops on accessibility, authoring & conversion and transmedia storytelling, each of which had a lively and interactive audience for debate and discussion.

Day Two opened with a keynote from Samuel Petit (Actialuna) on linearity within the digital reading experience. Encoding the reading experience can be an enormous  challenge for designers and comic strip authors and Samuel aptly demonstrated many of these! He has proposed an EPUB evolution for linear reading to enable an improved interactive media experience for EPUB and the web.

Ron Martinez (Invention Arts) entertained us all with his keynote on Building an Independent Bookselling Ecosystem which highlighted the limitations of device and ereader capabilities in an incompatible market – a “deadly” combination. In the digital bookselling space loss of control over the business platforms wasn’t meant to happen and Invention Arts have developed aer.io – a new decentralised independent bookselling ecosystem.  Aer.io offers a new kind of marketplace and retail network where anyone can act as a seller, a buyer, a supplier or all three.
A round table discussion ensued featuring Bente Franck-Saetervoll (Bokbasen), Francesca Noia (Edigita), Jean Philippe Bougie (De Marque), Philippe Goffe (Librel.net) and our host, Denis Mollat (Librarie Mollat) where the distribution mechanisms for digital books in respective markets were discussed. This was followed by a session on EPUB and Children’s Publishing involving: Nicolas Marie (Creative Digital Book Factory), Mathilde Bonte-Joseph (Nathan-Jeunesse) and Julie Guilleminot (L’Apprimerie). Here the opportunities and challenges of rich and complex digital content were exemplified by the speakers with some lively demonstrations and innovative approaches.The simple but effective Le Lapin Bricoleurhighlighted an effective approach.
Markus Gylling and Laurence Zaysser (Editis) gave the final presentation on EPUB for Education (fka EDUPUB) and it was exciting to hear that EPUB 3 books have taken over the top 25 books on the vitalsource platform in terms of student engagement with titles, highlighting the impact that EPUB for Education has already had. Accessibility is guaranteed within this profile of EPUB and the focus in the near future will be on implentation and certification. Laurence presented a fascinating case study for EPUB for Education showing the serious commitment that Editis have towards the success and development of the profile and their adoption strategy for digital learning resources.
The EPUB Summit was brought to a close by Pierre Danet (Hachette and CEO of EDRLab) and Bill McCoywhere a well deserved round of appluase was given for the main organizers of the event: Cyril Labordrie and Laurent Le Meur of EDRLab. Pierre Danet gave us a final thought: The collaboration of W3C, IDPF, EDRLab and many others is cause for us all to have great confidence in the future.
It is hoped that the Bordeaux summit will be the first of a number in an EPUB Summit Series and EPUBZone looks forward to other opportunities to hear such high profile and visionary speakers in the future.
This article was originally published on EPUBZONE on April 15th.

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