On January 18, 2017, the IDPF (International Digital Publishers Forum) held an open meeting at the Digital Book World conference to discuss the impending merger of IDPF into W3C.
It was, to say the least, an engaging session. If by "engaging" you mean "confrontational."
W3C has been circling the waters of digital publishing for nearly 5 years. In 2012, they formed the Digital Publication Community Group, looking at issues such as accessibility, markup, metadata and more. That group closed in 2013, and the Digital Publishing Interest Group formed in its stead. This group examined issues relating to the W3C Open Web Platform, layout and pagination, annotations, metadata, accessibility and CSS.
It became apparent that the IDPF's EPUB standard stood at risk of "forking" as the W3C got more involved. And as W3C already managed the HTML and CSS standards, it seemed logical that they should house the EPUB standard as well.
Or so 88% of the IDPF voters thought.
Not so Steve Potash, who has been CEO of Overdrive for 23 years, and who founded the Open eBook Forum in the late 1990s. The Open eBook Forum would go on to become the IDPF, which Potash served as President for many years.
Potash forcefully accused the current Executive Director of personal profiteering, and accused the W3C of commandeering the standard only to ignore it in favor of other standards. He also accused both parties of steering the EPUB standard out of the book industry.
This was all refuted handily by both the Executive Director and the representatives of W3C, as well as by the IDPF board itself. The Web standards group cares deeply about EPUB and digital publishing - within the book industry and beyond.
It was a difficult moment for IDPF and W3C, and was handled gracefully. Suffice it to say that it is a good move for the EPUB standard, because now it can take advantage of proximity to other standards, cross-pollinate committee meetings, and develop the standard to be flexible and accommodating to the many different constituencies that use it.
It is also a sign that indeed, the Web has come for books. That books are important to Web developers - as rich mines of content that can be presented in a variety of ways. Surely, as we know, the print book will continue to offer the same reliable experience it always has - but with digital publishing being embraced by the W3C, it will be exciting to see what other applications besides digital facsimiles of print await.