Streaming Digital Books: IDPF Digital Book 2012 session

The following presentation was given at IDPF Digital Book 2012.

I recommend viewing the original HTML5 presentation (requires a recent WebKit browser, and was optimized for the 1024×768 projector). The source code can be downloaded and used according to the terms of the accompanying license.

Audio of the original talk is kindly made available by the IDPF.

Streaming digital books

If you start counting from the introduction of the Kindle in late 2007, the modern retail ebook ecosystem is approaching five years old. There’s a lot we’ve gotten right: EPUB 2 is an established universal distribution format, and ebooks are accessible to markets and customers who had previously had limited access to books due to geography or disability.

Yet some of the most well-attended sessions at ebook events are about tweaking ebook markup, or managing the scale of producing a half-dozen near-identical ebook files for distribution into the supply chain. As support for EPUB 3 matures, the problem of producing ebook files that meet the individual requirements of the retailers will get far worse due to the expanding matrix of capabilities.

In this talk I present some suggestions on moving away from the file-based model, which I believe is overly dependent on a mental association with print distribution. Publishers should not have to produce hardcoded final-format files that meet the specific limitation of each retailer. Instead, I propose a system in which retailers are shipping ebook “manuscripts”, containing high-resolution or even raw assets, transcoded on demand based on the end-user’s device capability, connectivity, or even individualized preferences like language or reading skill.

Comments welcome!

A turn up for the books

Welcome to the Safari Books Online tech blog!

We’ve carved out this space to address our colleagues in publishing and technology, and to share some of the things we’re working on that excite us. In some aspects this site will cover much of the same material that Keith and I did on the Threepress blog, but as we’re no longer working as closely with ereading technologies and specific ebook markup, we’ll focus more on web, publishing, and general nerdiness. (There are much better resources for keeping on top of ebook format developments these days.)

Working with a larger team means having a lot of great people at your side every day. I look forward to sharing this space with the talented product managers, developers, and designers we have on board at SBO.

Summer is traditionally a quiet time in publishing and software development; publishers have their half-day Fridays and software developers are typically heads-down scrambling to make fall product deadlines. We’ve got our deadlines for sure, but it’s been a long radio silence, and I’m eager to talk about what we’re doing and comment on the ever-changing digital publishing landscape.

To kick things off, I’ve posted my presentation from IDPF Digital Book 2012: Streaming Digital Books. Lots more to come.