Call for Review: EPUB 3.2

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This is a guest post form the chairs of the EPUB 3 Community Group, Dave Cramer and Rachel Comerford.


We live in exciting times for the world of ebook standards, with the IDPF-W3C merger and web publications. Yet for most of us, the EPUB we create and consume has not changed in a while. EPUB 3.0 came out nearly seven years ago. The minor changes of EPUB 3.0.1 happened more than four years ago. EpubCheck hasn’t had a major release in nearly three years. That’s not necessarily a bad thing for mature specs. EPUB 3 works. It satisfies lots of use cases, and lots of actual users. Most publishers have existing tools and processes to create and distribute EPUB 3 (if you don’t, you should).

But the world, and especially the world wide web, keeps changing. HTML and CSS, the building blocks of EPUB, keep getting more powerful. Implementations evolve. New media types are invented. And specs must adapt to those changes. In April, I wrote a blog post about the recent history of EPUB 3, and why the W3C EPUB 3 Community Group was working on EPUB 3.2.

I’m pleased to say that the work has gone well. We’ve created a draft spec that satisfies our requirements of being completely backward-compatible with EPUB 3.0.1, while updating EPUB’s relationship to the core web specs of HTML, CSS, SVG, etc. But don’t take my word for it—go see for yourself.

Consider this a formal request for wide review of the EPUB 3.2 specification. Let us know what you think. Is the spec clear? Readable? Implementable? We want to hear about everything from typos to fatal flaws. If you’re comfortable with GitHub, the best way to provide feedback is through GitHub Issues. We’re also happy to receive emails. The ambitious can even send us pull requests.

EPUB 3.2 is a modular family of specifications. Feel free to review any or all of them. Note that we have not made any changes to EPUB Accessibility, as it is not tied to a particular version of EPUB.

  1. EPUB 3.2 Overview: A non-normative introduction to EPUB
  2. EPUB 3.2 Specification: One spec to rule them all!
  3. EPUB Packages 3.2: describes the package document, which provides both metadata and structure for the publication
  4. EPUB Content Documents 3.2: the good stuff: HTML, CSS, and more!
  5. EPUB Open Container Format: how to turn a bundle of content into a single file
  6. EPUB Media Overlays 3.2: how to synchronize audio and text in EPUB
  7. EPUB 3.2 Changes: what’s changed since EPUB 3.0.1.

Our plan is to spend about two months in this final review period, until around the end of September or beginning of October. We will address all the feedback, and create a final version of EPUB 3.2, which will need approval from the Publishing Business Group before being published as a final community group report.

Thank you for your attention, and please let us know if you have any questions.

—Dave Cramer (Hachette Livre) and Rachel Comerford (Macmillan Learning), co-chairs of the EPUB 3 Community Group.

One Response to “Call for Review: EPUB 3.2”

  1. I’m starting to understand why Amazon didn’t adopt EPUB. They were simply being smart. EPUB is a world of hurt for anyone trying to create ebooks with even a fraction of the versatility that print allows. Digital should be better than print. Instead, it is far worse.

    I saw that a few months back when Amazon notified me that their Kindle specs were being revised to include the ability to determine where an image appears on a reflowable page. Technically, that’s not hard. Framemaker was offering that for reflowing print books (mostly long technical documents) in the late 1980s. When you insert a graphic, you simply state where it is to appear on a page no matter how the text flows, such as at the top of the next page. It’s also one of EPUB’s most pressing needs. You can’t create useful, attractive books without it.

    Is anyone involved in EPUB paying attention to its main competition, Amazon’s own format? I wonder. And is this revision to EPUB going to do that? The closest to commenting on that comes in this remark and it’s not encouraging: “While it is possible to incorporate more highly formatted content in EPUB — for example via bitmap images or SVG graphics, or even use of CSS explicit positioning and/or table elements to achieve particular visual layouts — Authors are strongly discouraged from utilizing such techniques.”

    Note that what EPUB has for controlling image placement are ways so clumsy they must be “strongly discouraged.” Something that useful should have been in EPUB 2.0 not be sneered at years later.

    Digital publishing is roughly two decades old. I find it disgusting that the primary standard for it is so lacking in vision and implementation that users can’t do what Gutenberg did so marvelous in his first movable-type printed book. I have seen his Gutenberg Bible. It’s beautiful. I’ve also seen a host of recent ebooks that still look as ugly as the first ebooks on Palm devices. That is pitiful, and at the root of this problem are EPUB’s dull and unimaginative standards.

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