W3C and IDPF: Better Together?
Dave Cramer

What W3C and IDPF merge meant to me.

I walked on almost the same way as Dave. I don’t write C++, either. My experience in digital publishing is around 7 years, from iPad interactive magazine editorial and design (failed as you know), to evangel EPUB 3 in Taiwan. Trace back to my college days, I had been an assistant of a research project for implying XML in journalism (thirteen years ago).

In 2013, W3C held three workshops worldwide before Digital Publishing Interest Group found. One in New York, one in Tokyo, and another in Paris. I attended i18n(internationalization) workdshop in Tokyo for Bopomofo Ruby issue.

That was my first trip for W3C event.

Standardization in Taiwan

Believe it or not, there are more than 100 company joined IDPF around 2008, But seldom of them participate the process of EPUB 3.0 specification. Why?

Because government in Taiwan had a project to develop digital publishing industry in that time. If you want to get subsidy, you must join IDPF as member (to vote, they want to get one seat for the board but eventually failed).

Only one organization called “Institution for Information Industry” participated the activities: telconfs, f2f, and maillist. They had got around $1M funding by government, so they had to do. But they cannot contribute as much, most of asian language specified spec was proposed by members from Japan — not only in IDPF but also in W3C as well. They left some -epub- prefixed CSS properties like: -epub-ruby-position, -epub-ruby-align. They disbanded EPUB team just after the specification is done.

So when IDPF was going on EPUB 3.01, Murata Makoto askedif there anyone implied those -epub-prefixed CSS properties. If yes, leave it; if not, slash it. Some one had been in the EPUB team forwarded the mail to me, Because I was the only one willing to deal this issue. I found that Bopomofo Ruby should be done with W3C, and there was the workshop, so I was there. (Bopomofo had on W3C ruby notes from 1999, not done till now)

Later, I attended W3C TPAC in Shenzhen, it’s not too far from Taiwan, as an observer (years later, I finally know TPAC only open to members and invited experts). And next year, Beihang — one of W3C’s host — started Chinese Text Layout Taskforce. I’ve already translated JLREQ(Requirements for Japanese Text Layout) into Chinese, and rewrite for Chinese text layout as a draft. So I was in.

I’m running an one man start-up company that provide EPUB authoring service and consultant service for ebook stores and publishers. To be frank, I cannot fully participate all activities with DPUB IG and CSS WG. What I can do is whenever there is Chinese issue on the mail-list, I’ll reply, and I tried my best to attend TPAC, because implementors there and we can discuss/prioritize in a fast pace (than through ML). I paid the trip fee from my pocket or sometimes by crowd-funding. It’s tough, but if I quit, nobody will stand for our language — Traditional Chinese.

That’s my story.

How about the members in IDPF?

After governmental subsidy stopped, they didn’t pay membership fee any more (as they didn’t do anything). And transition from EPUB 2 to EPUB 3 is hard, so they stick on old spec, even though EPUB 3 could provide far better quality for Traditional Chinese ebooks. For now, I have to fight and argue and push them to adopt EPUB 3.

I believe IDPF/W3C merge will let things be better. W3C has i18n WG to help deal with scripts, and we can prioritize issues to browser / reading system implementors. If I raise language specified issue in IDPF, it would possibly be left undone for years. But in W3C, system-wide change would help a lot.

In China

Two years ago when I visited Beihang’s W3C office, I heard that IDPF set an office in Beijing, but not went well. Publishers in China are all owned by the government, and another department is in charge of international standardization activities. So they won’t join IDPF for EPUB specifications. Ebook vendors and service providers will send proposed solutions to them.

But there are so many members in W3C: Alibaba, Tencent, Baidu…Some of them have their own ebook/content business. They have great engineer team and business team and do not afraid to try new technology.

So I think in China, W3C will play better, but have to wait.

In Japan

JEPA assigned Mr. Murata to participate IDPF activities for quite long time, and also had lots of members in IDPF. But as I know, Japanese companies do not directly discuss issues on ML, they may gather opinions by JEPA, then send consensus throught JEPA.

But in W3C, Mr. Murakami and Florian Rivoal from Vivliostyle, Mr. Sakakibara and Mr. Baba from BPS will do the same job with Japanese publishers and ebook vendors, even directly from designers and editors. Ishii Koji is a spec writer and implementor for long time. They can push things forward in a fast pace, from layout things to format, eventually books in browsers.


IDPF really did good job to publish EPUB 3, unfortunately I didn't participate the process. But there are many issue not to be done. I'm on IDPF's mail-list because I have paid for one year membership fee (then I paid for W3C TPAC's flight), Sometimes I felt that IDPF's events are too United States centric, hard to participate with. IDPF deals business issues, but we can see ebook's market share, in the U.S., around 30%, in Japan, 10%(most from Manga, fixed layout thing), in Taiwan, less than 3%. We are on different stages, and participants' resource differ. I like W3C's pace than IDPF's.

W3C has more experience to deal international requirement for their own language and specified issues. I think one organization would be better for me, and for other players around the world.

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