Wednesday, 3 March 2010

John Markinson , CEO Penguin defines company's future as software - application developer - not publisher

The e-book market and the business opportunities tø come for both platform providers, and publishers continues to morph into view.  It is a fast moving space, and I miss stuff - not least this from John Markinson, CEO, Penguin from earlier in Feburary, 2010.

In this three minute video extract,  he seems to have re framed Penguin as a software content company -application developer -  not a book publisher?

He also seems to be saying that Penguin isnt all that interested in the ePub standard because it won't give him what he wants - audio - video - gaming - as well as text and graphics.

At the least, his dismissal of the ePub standard as not currently capable to take care for their requirements is worth our attention.


mcginniwa said...

Here's Wikipedia's entry on ePub:

My quick reading of it is that the standard is largely XHTML/CSS/supporting media files wrapped in zip archive file (a bundle in other words).

I'm not sure how this isn't compatible with rich media inclusion. As XHTML, I would think it was quite capable of presenting video as web pages are.

So his remark leaves me very curious about what he sees the specifics of the technical limitations of ePub to be.

mcginniwa said...

From a quick look of discussions of the limitations of ePub around the web, many seem to be "InDesign layout tool is what publishers use and exporting ePub rather than PDF gives bad results".

My suspicion is that negative impressions of ePub might be because of a tool's bad output, rather than a something that is in the standard.

I'm pretty ignorant about ePub and InDesign, so take this comment with a large grain of salt.

mcginniwa said...

Another follow up. Here is the demo bit of the speech that gives much more context to the rich interactions that epub isn't necessarily capable of:

After watching that, his comment makes much more sense. It isn't just about audio/video embedding, it's about custom interfaces to digital objects. In this case, an app does make more sense.

However, most books, even text books, will be just fine with epub I would bet.

It's really important to take his comment about epub in context of what he has just shown.

mcginniwa said...

Now that the iPad has been launched, there is a technical writeup that hints at the multimedia limitations:

mcginniwa said...

Following up on my first comment about the multimedia embedding capabilities of the ePub format.

The distinction with ePub is that it is tied to a version of HTML (XHTML) that doesn't have audio and video embedding on its own (i.e. not without the aid of Flash or Javascript).

Interestingly, Apple has gone ahead and supported at least part of HTML5 in its implementation of the iBooks reader which means that you can include embedded video (and maybe audio, but I haven't heard that confirmed) using the HTML5 video tag in your ePub.

It's probably the result of single HTML rendering engine that is shared with other applications such as Safari.

Here are the details:

Of course, this means you are making a non-standard ePub and there are no guarantees that it will work on non-Apple platforms.

The changes aren't large (looks pretty easy to produce an iBooks version of an ePub and along side of a standards compliant ePub) and they are based on a proposed standard.

However, my feeling is that the reality of the market means that a new version of the ePub standard will adopt HTML5 style embedding. So it's probably a matter of "when" not "if".

It should also be noted that this is a hack by ePub producers and not something that Apple has advertised as being supported.

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