EPUB 3 Adoption is Still Elusive

ibooks epub3Has the new EPUB 3 standard been the boon that is was supposed to be when it was released almost two years ago at the Frankfurt Book Fair?

Has it delivered on the amazing features, accessibility, and simplicity that were promised to digital publishers?

The short answer is yes however the journey through transition to EPUB 3 for publishers has not been without its share of struggles and caveats.

Among some of the most prevalent issues are backward integration and lack of widespread support in both the publishing and device communities.

Adoption of EPUB 3

EPUB logoThis is perhaps the most troubling hurdle the publishing industry and EPUB 3 faces.

This is also something endemic to any new platform or technology.  You can create an amazing new tool or technological process but it’s really people that make the magic happen.

When people aren’t on board, concepts die before they even leave the launch pad.  It’s also difficult for people and companies to change, especially when not everyone is rushing in to do it.

Despite a strong push from some in the ePublishing community, there are a good number of eBook platforms that do not support EPUB 3.  Other prominent retailers support portions of the new platform.

So what is the hold up?

There doesn’t seem to be a simple answer but time and cost do play a role.  In switching over any workflow, there is a time and cost element to consider.

It will take a lot of time and in some cases a lot of money for publishers and retailers to switch over from the old epub2 format to the new one.  There are those who, for whatever reason, are not ready to undertake that task yet.

One of the main focuses for the IDPF (International Digital Publishing Forum) for 2013 is to keep promoting the adoption of EPUB 3 standards across the industry.

Their efforts are particularly focused in the area of e-textbooks for tablets despite slow adoption of the devices to supplant textbooks on college campuses.

Backward Compatibility with EPUB 3

HTML5Adding fuel to the adoption fire is backward compatibility of EPUB 3 on popular devices.

Publishers who have a brilliant usability plan for their content (like dynamic popup footnotes or links to other sections throughout their content) may find that their EPUB 3 syntax doesn’t work correctly on devices that support prior versions of the platform.

Publishers making content for iBooks will not be able to deliver the same experience to their readers who use other types of devices that do not support EPUB 3.

The solution at this point is to produce two versions of marked up content; one for EPUB 2 and one for EPUB 3.

Markup present but not supported will be ignored by devices but what about devices that support both?  O’Reilly currently sells universal EPUB bundles  on its website that publishers can check out.  Another caveat to the backwards compatibility issue is that of metadata.

This is the information that helps increase discoverability of eBooks in search and also helps buyers make decisions in a virtual space about the titles they want to buy.  In order to make sure all devices can utilize metadata, it must be provided twice.  Once in the EPUB 2 format and once for EPUB 3.

Leading By Example

epub3 and html5Despite some industry players announcing their push to change earlier this year, widespread adoption of EPUB 3 remains elusive.

One elephant in the room is the major players in the digital content space like Apple and Amazon who, for a long time now, have competed using a model where customers are locked-in to the content channels built by these mammoth corporations and the devices used to consume it.

Microsoft may also be looking to become a player at some point in the near future.  Its possible to submit content that is EPUB 3 compliant to these companies but what they do with it afterward no one really knows and will all the functionality designed into an eBook still remain?

So far, these companies support bits and pieces of EPUB 3 but full adoption is still withholding.

IDPF logoHats off to the IDPF for working hard to create a universal standard that has long eluded those in the eBook publishing arena.

For the time being it appears that EPUB 3 is still in the initial stages of adoption with many still unsure as to how they will incorporate it into their workflow.

One thing is for sure, EPUB 3 offers a much richer experience to the end user.  If you are a consumer who likes eBooks or a publisher that produces them, EPUB 3 offers a much more interactive and delightful experience than previous versions.

Are you currently designing EPUB 3 content for your titles?  What road blocks have you encountered (if any)?  Join the conversation by commenting below.

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Making the Fulfillment Video

Anne Maier

Anne Maier laughs between takes in her interview for the fulfillment video.

Its 2pm on a Thursday afternoon. Some of the folks in the payroll department walk by an office in fulfillment and do a double-take. Normally Anne Maier, Director of Fulfillment for Edwards Brothers Malloy would be working at her desk. Today they see what looks like a movie set with lights, a camera and Anne shooting an interview. It isn’t quite the set of a movie but the scene will be used in a video for the company’s fulfillment services. Video equipment, lighting and marketing or outside parties making videos has become a common sight around the facilities. The fulfillment video is just one more in a series of short videos that have been made to showcase Edwards Brothers Malloy.

Pat Heckaman

Pat Heckaman (our lighting technician) sets the stage in the main fulfillment work area.

Video is a big part of online marketing for business. When people use the internet, most of them spend the majority of their time either watching video or being on social media websites. Video is a great learning tool and it is also a great way to tell people about a business. For companies, you need to have buy-in from others in order to make something great. Fortunately for us, we have no shortage of people willing to help. The people that are shown in our videos work here every day and the people that help make them also work here. That is important to note because no one knows this business like the people who have helped build it.

Tom Allen

Tom Allen (Fulfillment supervisor) is ready for his debut.

It took about a month to get all the shots we needed to make the fulfillment video. We shot video in a number of different locations around the Jackson Road facility. In all, about 22 hours of footage were captured and edited in order to produce the final two minute video. “It’s amazing, the amount of time and effort that goes into making a simple 2 minute video,” says Anne. She’s right. In order for everything to come together, you have to think about lighting, sound, all the background noises and routines that have to be stopped in order to capture good video, etc. All of it has to be planned out in advance in order to make something professional.

Pat Heckaman

Pat is getting it just right.

Pat Heckaman

Pat checks the lighting on the camera (I fill in as subject).

Video has been a core part of our online presence since we started doing all this a couple of years ago and it remains as such. We have plans to make many more videos on a number of different topics so stay tuned!

Do you like it when companies use video to teach or inform? What are some of your favorite online videos? Join in the conversation by commenting below.

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Printing the D.S.M.-5

Printing the DSM 5In our line of work as printers, it’s great to see that the products we make have a positive impact on peoples’ lives and society in general. Recently we had the opportunity to print a book that does just that. The D.S.M.-5 is the official manual covering mental disorders and its content is put together by the American Psychiatric Association. Last week we finished printing and binding thousands of copies of the book.

The APA also took the liberty of having a writer, Aaron Levin, to cover the printing of the manual at our facilities in Ann Arbor. Needless to say, Aaron did a great job in capturing the detail of the printing process and making it fun to read about. You can read Aaron’s full article here.

We also helped produce a short video featuring some of the process of printing the book.


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How to Save Money on Book Paper

It’s estimated that paper makes up roughly 40-60% of the total cost of printing a book.  This makes paper choice incredibly important for buyers.

In our experience, many people go with what they have been using for a while or maybe their knowledge of paper is limited so they go with what they know.

These strategies may not always be the most economical approaches for achieving a desired result.  Check out some of these tips for saving money on paper.

Coated vs Un-coated Book Paper

Coated book paper is very nice but it is also more costly than un-coated paper.  Buyers generally like coated sheets because graphics and images render very well on them.  They also convey a high degree of professionalism and quality.

It used to be that coated paper was the way to go because un-coated stocks were inferior and couldn’t produce the same quality in terms of the presentation of images and graphics.  Coated paper was originally developed as a solution to dot gain.

With advancements in paper manufacturing technology, un-coated smooth papers are now a viable substitute for coated stocks.  Graphics and images can look just as appealing on a smooth un-coated paper as they do on a coated stock.

The Cheapest Paper isn’t Always the Best for Your Book

For some titles, a publisher may opt for a ground-wood sheet which is one of the least expensive book papers on the market.

It can be tempting to do this, however, keep in mind that some printers charge penalties for using lower quality papers because of the indirect costs related to their use on manufacturing equipment.

For instance ground-wood stocks can cause excess scum on printing blankets or they can be difficult to fold causing the job to take more time.  You could end up paying the same price as you would had you selected a higher quality paper.

In general, the expense of paper from most to least will be coated, acid-free, free-sheet (non-ground-wood and non-acid-free sheet) and ground-wood.

Try to Use Standard Book Paper Sizes

Book manufacturers operate within market demand in order to remain competitive and efficient.  When it comes to book paper, this means only stocking sheet sizes that get used on a regular basis.

Keeping every kind of paper measurement in stock simply is not practical and pretty much any printer will make a custom paper size for you.  The only caveat here is that it will cost you extra.  Sometimes this is unavoidable and a publisher must have a specific paper measurement or things won’t work.

Other times though, there may be some room to play and if you choose a floor sheet that a printer carries, this should save you some money on your paper purchase.  Making custom paper sizes involves extra time and extra equipment which drives the cost up.

Lighter Papers Cost Less Than Heavy Papers

While this is not a rule set in stone, in general it is true.  Naturally you shouldn’t (and many publishers can’t) just go out and choose the thinnest possible book paper for their titles however it should be something to consider.

This won’t save you a huge chunk of money, but combined with other cost saving measures, it all adds up, right?  If at all possible, try going with a thinner sheet of paper over a heavier one.

Print Less

Yes I know this isn’t technically a “savings on paper tip” and being a printer, we naturally want our customers to buy more print not less.

That being said, we also want our customers to maintain a healthy business and sometimes printing less (even though that means higher unit costs) can save you money on obsolete or unsold inventory down the road.

Case studies have shown that printing smaller quantities can help save publishers money over time should they inaccurately predict market demand for a title.  This isn’t always a practical scenario, but if you can pull it off, you should.

So, to review a little, the following tactics will help you save money on book paper as well as your overall print job:

  • Use uncoated sheets where ever you can do it appropriately.
  • Don’t automatically go for the cheapest paper.
  • Try to use standard sizes where possible.
  • Use lighter stocks where possible.
  • Print less

How do you save money on your paper costs when printing a title?  Is paper a flexible choice for you?

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