Open eBook Standards Advance

Today the IDPF announced the completion of OCF 1.0, the single-file container packaging specification. With a record 88 members, IDPF includes a broad cross-section of publishers, vendors, service providers, and library and learning insitutions. The super-majority vote to elevate OCF represents strong incremental progress towards ending the “Tower of eBabel” of incompatible proprietary eBook formats. With PDF for final-form paginated publications and XHTML (now with OCF packaging) for reflow-centric content publishers can address all their requirements via broadly-adopted open standards.
Adobe’s new Digital Editions publishing platform supports the forthcoming OEBPS profile of XHTML with OCF, as mentioned in the IDPF press release. In addition last week Adobe also announced a technology preview of Project Mars, which is developing an XML representation of PDF. The single-file packaging for Mars is based on IDPF OCF, and the page contents description is based on W3C SVG, which the IDPF OEBPS WG is working to support within the eBook profile of XHTML.
While Mars is still at an early stage, the prospect of a single container format and XML-friendly standards-based representation for both paginated PDF and “liquid” XHTML based content is a very promising development.
The bandwagon of convergence to broadly-adopted open standards for digital publishing is definitely rolling! I strongly encourage anyone pushing NIH-driven alternative formats to put their egos, spite and vested interests aside and actively participate in the IDPF community process. I also encourage any content publishers considering adopting non-standard formats to beware: despite the rhetoric, these look to make the “Tower of eBabel” even worse, and could represent a costly cul-de-sac.