Following my “bold prediction” that 2014 will be the breakthrough year for illustrated books, I am gratified to see ereaders beginning to step up to the challenge. It’s only when all the ebook retailers can sell the same interactive, multimedia ebook format that the illustrated book market will really be able to take off. This article in Talking New Media, about Kobo suggests that Kobo are starting to adjust to the agreed standards for ePub3 hammered out by the AAP last year. Kobo have revised their ereader app for iPhones, so it can read ebooks with audio clips in, and video clips, as part of the text. I am hopeful that this is in response to the ePub3 white paper, which sets out how device manufacturers (is an app a device?) can take advantage of the new standards, and enable publishers to produce one ebook for all markets.
After Frankfurt 2013 I boldly made the prediction that 2014 would be a year of opportunity for illustrated books, like never before. This year, they will finally get their chance to shine, and find a way to market.
EPub 3 can make a lovely illustrated book with multi-media, interactivity etc etc, but finding a place to sell the resulting glossy beautiful ebook is much harder. Apple iBookstore can sell them, and people can get the full experience on their iPads, but beyond that, the market is sketchy, and the formats are incompatible.
That means that to sell the same book on say, a Kindle Fire, you have to re-do the whole thing, because the format that works for Apple doesn’t work for Kindle, and neither of them work for other kinds of tablet. There is one standard in theory, but it’s customised by each retailer for their own device. To sell the book for many devices means producing the ebook in many formats. The problem is, that’s too expensive and complicated to produce – and for most books, the sales don’t justify that level of investment.
Currently, publishers of illustrated books are left with two choices – steer clear, or dumb down to the lowest common denominator – an uninspiring flat, fixed format that may or may not fit on the reader’s screen – Not Good.
The Association of American Publishers decided to do something about this. They spent 2013 getting device manufacturers, retailers and publishers to talk to each other, and agree on a set of features from ePub3 that they could commit to support.
The promise is that new devices and software coming out will all display the same set of features. This means that if a publisher produces a book which makes use of those features, they can be sure that the same ePub3 ebook file will work on all the tablets from all the retailers. They only need to do one file, and it will be suitable for many markets. This is revolutionary! Thank you AAP for getting it together.
You can see the ePub3 standards in the Implementation Paper published by the AAP just after Frankfurt: http://publishers.org/press/117/