On Publisher Participation in Digital Publishing Specifications Development
Posted by Jean Kaplansky - Tagged

Originally published as a comment on Medium:
Absolute Truth

Absolute truth. BUT… Publishers from various vertical publishing markets must step up to the plate to let Reading System developers in on expectations, use cases, and other niceties that are expectations of the craft of typography. Lots of people know how to write CSS or get content out of Indesign. These same people know a lot less about the craft and best practices of typography that many publishers want to see preserved in digital publishing reading systems.

Which is fine, except… RELEVANCE. Are books on the web relevant, or should it be content on the web — because a book truly is a different medium package from content packaged specifically for the web.

We talk about “books in browsers.” Heck, we have a whole conference for “Books in Browsers.” But has anyone confirmed that there is an actual market (with metrics) for BOOKS in BROWSERS, OR is what people currently think of as “books in browsers” really something completely separate — a new package of connected content in browsers that is distinctly webbish in flavor, and has evolved away from the from the traditional concept of book?

My observations tell me that people are very interested in connected content in browsers that is distinctly webbish in flavor… and that this content has some very different qualities from traditional books

We have had the Books in Browsers discussion, but I don’t think we have had a public discussion of whether or not Books in Browsers is truly the conversation we should be having.

The W3C Digital Publishing Interest Group is starting to tackle the question in the PWP (https://w3c.github.io/dpub-pwp/) and some people think this is really futuristic stuff with limited user cases specific to parts of the publishing industry rather than the whole of the publishing industry.

What if we shifted our thinking away from the concept of “book” as the only package for long-form content? Maybe we need to stop thinking in terms of books, periodicals, volumes, etc. as we move toward packaged content on the web.

And this is is where the publishers come in, since they are supposed to be the people who know the use cases for content on the web. Most publishers don’t participate in the W3C Digital Publishing Interest Group on a regular basis, though, and this is throwing a wrench into the work to define exactly what packaged content on the web is, and what it’s about. The DPUB needs more informed opinions and contributions from Publishing vertical markets — not just from Edu/Scholarly/Academic publishers. The debate regarding where to draw the line — how many opinions from each of the verticals = too many opinions to reasonably work with is ongoing… but the end result is moot if we don’t have voices from the various verticals participating in the conversation.

Whoa. This comment went very meta. But I think it’s an important point to get out in front of people… so here it sits. A reaction to some considerably thoughtful ideas about approaching typography on the web. Now we just need to figure out what the context really is. I’m not convinced that it should be all about “books in browser-based reading systems” or “books on the web.” I think we may have evolved past our definition of book. We need a new noun to describe long-form content on the web that is packaged an connected. Publishers need to help us figure out exactly what this is in specific contexts.

OK. I’ll be quiet now. 🙂


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