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EPUB3 ready to go, now Amazon responds with Kindle Format 8

31 October 2011

New Zealand publisher and digital publishing consultant Martin Taylor is not terribly happy that Amazon has announced a new format:

Like EPUB3, the new Kindle format introduces support for the latest web standards, HTML5 and CSS3, and adds a host of new features that will allow development of much richer ebooks.

. . . .

This is good news. But for those of us who had hoped that EPUB3′s arrival might prod Amazon into adopting direct EPUB support, this announcement is a pretty clear indication that, if it comes at all, it will be some way into the future. We’ll have richer, higher quality ebooks but we’ll have incompatible formats. For the time being, this probably won’t bother Amazon’s users who are a happy lot. Amazon has done a great job of pleasing them with an eco-system that’s easy to use, with the best selection of ebooks, and support for most of the e-reading devices they’re likely to want to use.

But for publishers, it could add challenges as the new features these formats offer mean ebook production requirements and costs will scale up. And for the newly-minted EPUB3, it poses a challenge to stay relevant as Amazon’s importance as the number one sales channel might tempt some publishers to bypass it.

Even where sales of EPUB ebooks lag behind Kindle sales, many publishers have now built their workflow around EPUB as their primary source files. These convert well into the current Kindle format, allowing publishers to maintain a single format. To keep this workflow, it will be important that Amazon supports error-free EPUB3 conversion in its Kindle Gen 2 toolset. But as complexity increases, so do the opportunities for things to break. We won’t know until Amazon releases more details whether EPUB3 can continue to serve as this reference format. Indications are that EPUB3 is a richer format so publishers might want to restrict themselves to a feature subset that’s common to both platforms. No mention yet, for instance, of JavaScript support, MathML, or EPUB3′s extensive accessibility features.

Link to the rest at eReport-Digital Publishing Downunder

Amazon, Ebook/Ereader Technical

2 Comments to “EPUB3 ready to go, now Amazon responds with Kindle Format 8”

  1. KF8 vs. EPUB3 may be similar to web development in that you have to write in a bunch of “hacks” for clunky Internet Explorer browsers. I don’t think it’s so bad though. Tech has always been pretty freewheeling and different formats and technologies pop up as time goes on. Things tend to sort themselves out in the end though. If it was heavily regulated by some government entity, we’d all be reading eBooks on our Commodore 64s or something.

  2. And for the newly-minted EPUB3, it poses a challenge to stay relevant as Amazon’s importance as the number one sales channel might tempt some publishers to bypass it.

    That says it all. KF8 is going to seriously stand on EPUB3′s air hose. Indie writers and e-publishers will have to make a decision whether it’s a cost-effective use of their time to even bother with any variety of EPUB. For the time being it probably is, but there’s a good chance of the personal economics changing about that.

    My prediction: as much as I prefer open standards, EPUB3 is a dead man walking.

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