Archive for August, 2007

Adobe Strengthens Digital Publishing Business Team

I’m very pleased to announce that Nick Bogaty, currently Executive Director of the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF), will join Adobe next month to lead our digital publishing business development. Nick has demonstrated strong vision and the ability to “herd cats” in successfully guiding the IDPF, a trade group that brings together publishers, vendors, and other publishing industry stakeholders to advance technology standards and promote market development. While Nick understandably decided to seek new challenges after an almost six year stint at the helm of IDPF, his passion for promoting the broader adoption of digital publishing was clearly unabated, so I’m delighted that he’s chosen to come on board and play a key role in advancing Adobe’s contributions. Adobe remains a strong supporter of IDPF, consistent with our overall philosophy of promoting open standards and interoperability, and we are committed to helping to ensure a successful IDPF leadership transition.

Authoring EPUB from InDesign CS3

Several of our key developers, including our lead architect Peter Sorotokin, recently started a new Adobe Digital Editions blog . One of the first posts delves into best practices for authoring EPUB XML from InDesign CS3. The team plans to cover a wide variety of topics relating to the technical underpinnings of Digital Editions and various authoring workflows. Future posts I’m looking forward to include automatic conversion of DocBook XML to EPUB, and delving into the use of XSL-FO master page templates as an EPUB extension that facilitates dynamic, adaptive layout. If you have topics you’d like to see covered, suggest it in a comment on Peter’s intro post.
There’s a broader issue with use of our new InDesign feature that I’d like to touch on here: the tradeoffs between authoring PDF and EPUB. Many content authors have long been firmly rooted in a “WYSIWYG” mindset, and some have as a result expected EPUB to be some kind of XML version of PDF, that preserves all the composition of InDesign. That’s not the case: if you want final-form fidelity, you should stick with PDF – that’s what it was designed for, and it does its job very well. EPUB is designed to represent a more adaptive portable document – one that encapsulates a sequence of linear text flows (“Stories” in InDesign/InCopy lingo). Content-level styling can be applied (via CSS), final-form content can be embedded within a text flow (as SVG or Flash SWF), and hints as to page-level formatting can be applied (via our XSL-FO-based extensions to EPUB), but at the end of the day it’s up to an EPUB processor to determine the proper page layout based on a user’s screen size, resolution, font size preferences, etc. And different EPUB renderers are free to make different line layout decisions.
One implication of this is that “your mileage may vary” in creating EPUB from InDesign CS3. If you have a nice linear book, with InDesign stories flowed into well-designed page templates things should go well – especially if you follow the tips in Peter & Piotr’s post. If you created page layouts manually in a “pasteboard” manner, then things may get a bit stickier. Again, you may choose in this case to just stick with high-fidelity PDF. Our DIgital Editions software natively supports both PDF and EPUB as first-class citizens. But if you want the benefits of adaptive layout, mobile device optimization, and increased accessiblity of using EPUB, you may wish to reconsider your authoring workflow, to more consistently utilize InDesign Story flows to pave the way for structured EPUB XML export. This is something else I hope the team will blog about in more detail down the road.

Flash (and Digital Editions) to support standards-based H.264 video

Today Adobe announced that Flash Player 9 will gain support for standards-based H.264 video , which will enable compatibility with MPEG-4, QuickTime, and 3GP mobile video content. H.264 support is coming in an imminent update “dot” release, a beta of which will be available on Adobe Labs later today.
Flash Video is of course already broadly proliferated on the Internet. But until now Flash Video has been limited to specialized codecs that have had limited adoption on mobile devices, not much integrated HW acceleration, and not a great deal of choice iin software encoding tools. Now we can have the best of both worlds: seamless end-user experiences in Flash Player, and interoperability with a wide variety of video creation tools and device and PC HW-acceleration options. This announcement is also another strong demonstration of Adobe’s commitment to the open standards community.
Adobe Digital Editions, our new application for reading and managing eBooks and other digital publications, is built on an extended Flash Player 9 runtime (in effect a precursor to Adobe AIR). Digital Editions 1.0 was just released in June, but we are already hard at work on an update to, among other things, localize to a number of languages. We decided some time back to synch our update with the impending “MovieStar” Flash Player dot release – but until today couldn’t disclose one of the key underlying motivations. I believe the added benefit of H.264 video support definitely makes it worth the wait. Many publishers are eager to enhance learning and entertainment experiences by adding video to eBooks and other digital publications: the ability to choose a standards-based video encoding will be a big plus, and is consistent with Digital Editions native support of open standards PDF and EPUB.

Google: a Glass-House Dweller re: Misleading Notices?

Google, Others Contest Copyright Warnings , today in the WSJ, notes a pending complaint that the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA) , a trade group in which Google, Microsoft and others are members, is filing about copyright notices that, according to the CCIA, mislead users by not noting legitimate fair-use reproduction rights. What Google’s role, if any, in the complaint is not entirely clear, but it certainly seems ironic that Google is being associated with this complaint, at the same time as they are putting putting highly misleading notices on scanned public domain works:
The Google notice, found as page 1 on downloadable PDFs of public domain works available via Google Book Search, “asks” users to:

Make non-commercial use of the files. We designed Google Book Search for use by individuals, and we request that you use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes…
Maintain attribution The Google “watermark” you see on each file is essential for informing people about this project and helping them find additional materials through Google Book Search. Please do not remove it.

There is clear U.S. precedent that scanning a public domain work does not create a new copyright so there seems to be absolutely zero legal basis for restricting use or forcing users to preserve inserted per-page watermarks-cum-advertisements.
In previous email-list discussions some have argued that Google is only “asking” users to not do these things. Yet putting the above in a sternly-worded “Usage Guidelines” notice (containing phrases like “Keep it Legal”) certainly makes it sound like it’s intended to convey to users the impression of restricted rights. And it hasn’t been entirely clear whether Google is claiming contract-based usage restrictions between it and users of Google Book Search.
So Google: which is it? If I make commercial use of one of these files or remove Google’s watermark advertisements am I violating a contract with Google or otherwise breaking any laws (in which case terms like “ask” and “request” are disingenuous)? Or, am I not in violation of anything legally (in which case your current notice seems at least as misleading as anything being complained about)?
Personally I hope that the latter is Google’s position and that, in the spirit of “do no evil” and to avoid undermining the FTC complaint it may be backing, Google will revise their notice to make it clear that it is perfectly legal for users to make commercial use of their files and/or remove their per-page watermarks.
My position is based on the principle that what’s in the public domain must stay in the public domain. That a deep-pocket corporation chooses to pay for digitization is meritorious but doesn’t give that corporation the right to dictate subsequent usage. If that company is the prevalent entry gate for discovery, and so can arrange that “its” copy of a work, rather than any other digitized copy, is the most widely utilized, the potential for undue corporate intrusion into the public domain is obviously even higher.