XML Standardization Key to Publishing's Future
"To make the workflow work," Meirs said, "you need to have an XML format that works for both. And that's what we're calling ePUB Next." A joint venture of the IDEAlliance, the PRISM Working Group and the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF), ePUB Next "takes the best of both specifications and will help us move forward in a way we have not been able to do before."
Kennedy outlined the history of PRISM, first introduced in 2001 to address print workflows and updated for cross-platform media and distribution in 2008, at which point a new vocabulary was created to integrate usage rights and descriptive metadata for images (a key component for interactive magazines). "ePUB Next is our big project today," Kennedy said. "We're working with the IDPF so that PRISM can come under that umbrella of standards that will drive the next generation of standards for the e-reader channel."
Key to the effort will be building in specifications for the exchange and management of information on the Web through inclusion of an XML channel called ICE (Information and Content Exchange Specification). Originally developed in the late '90s, ICE came out at the same time as free distribution standards RSS and ATOM, but was designed to be compatible with digital subscription and other paid content distribution "push" models. "We were very much ahead of the curve," Kennedy said. "... Our minds have changed now; we don't want to deliver content free of charge on this new e-reader channel. We want to monetize it. We want to control it. We want people to subscribe, and we want to be able to push the content according to the terms of this subscription. That's what ICE is all about."
IDEAlliance and its partners have set an aggressive timeline for development of ePUB Next, projecting a working draft by September and final recommendation by May 15, 2011. The goal, Kennedy said, is to "have standards in place so that the manufacturers of the next generation devices will understand what form the content will be in when it's delivered to their devices."