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Planning the future of the Digital Publishing Interest Group

Time flies… it has almost been two years since the Digital Publishing Interest Group started its work. Lot has happened in those two years; the group

  • has published a report on the Annotation Use Cases (which contributed to the establishment of a separate Web Annotation Working Group);
  • has conducted a series of interviews (and published a report) with some of the main movers and shakers of metadata in the Publishing Industry;
  • is working with the WAI Protocols and Format Working Group to create a separate vocabulary describing document structures using the ARIA 1.1 technology (and thereby making an extra step towards a better accessibility of Digital Publishing);
  • maintains a document on Requirement for Latin Text Layout and Pagination, which is also used in discussion with other W3C groups on setting the priorities on specific technologies;
  • made an assessment of the various Web Accessibility Guidelines (especially the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) from the point of view of the Publishing Industry, and plans to document which guidelines are relevant (or not) for that community and which use cases are not yet adequately covered;
  • established a reference wiki page listing the important W3C specifications for the Publishing Industry (by the way, that list is not only public, but can also be edited by anybody with a valid W3C account);
  • has conducted a series of interviews with representatives of STEM Publishing and is currently busy analyzing the results;
  • commented on a number of W3C drafts and ongoing works (in CSS, Internationalization, etc.) to get the the voice of the Publishing Industry adequately heard.

However, the most important result of these two years is the fact that the Interest Group contributed in setting up, at last, a stable and long term contacts between the Web and the Publishing Industries. Collaboration now exist with IDPF (on, e.g., the development of EPUB 3.1 or in the EDUPUB Initiative), with BISG (on, e.g., accessibility issues), and contacts with other organizations (e.g., Readium, IDAlliance, or EDItEUR) have also been established.

The group has also contributed significantly to a vision on the future of Digital Publishing, formalized by experts in IDPF and W3C and currently called “EPUB+WEB”. The vision has been described in a White Paper; its short summary can be summarized as:

[…]portable documents become fully native citizens of the Open Web Platform. In this vision, the current format- and workflow-level separation between offline/portable (EPUB) and online (Web) document publishing is diminished to zero. These are merely two dynamic manifestations of the same publication: content authored with online use as the primary mode can easily be saved by the user for offline reading in portable document form. Content authored primarily for use as a portable document can be put online, without any need for refactoring the content. […] Essential features flow seamlessly between online and offline modes; examples include cross-references, user annotations, access to online databases, as well as licensing and rights management.

But, as I said, time flies: this also means that the Interest Group has to be re-chartered. This is always a time when the group can reflect on what has gone well and what should be changed. The group has therefore also contributed to its new, draft charter. Of course, according to this draft, most of the current activities (e.g., on document structures or accessibility) will continue. However, the work will also be greatly influenced by the vision expressed in the EPUB+WEB White Paper. This vision should serve as a framework for the group’s activities. In particular, the specific technical challenges in realizing this vision are to be identified, relevant use cases should be worked out. Although the Interest Group is not chartered to define W3C Recommendations, it also plans to draft technical solutions, proof-of-concept code, etc., testing the feasibility of a particular approach. If the result of the discussions is that a specific W3C Recommendation should be established on a particular subject, the Interest Group will contribute in formalizing the relevant charter and contribute to the process toward the creation of the group.

The charter is, at this point, a public draft, not yet submitted to the W3C Management or the Advisory Committee for approval. Any comment on the charter (and, actually, on the White Paper, too!) is very welcome: the goal is to submit a final charter for approval reflecting the largest possible constituency. Issues, comments, feedbacks can be submitted through the issues’ list of the charter repository (and, respectively, through the issues’ list of the White Paper repository) or, alternatively, sent to me by email.

Two years have passed; looking forward to another two years (or more)!

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Article Source: Planning the future of the Digital Publishing Interest Group

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