Bookmark your library – digitized text in hand

By Philippa Martin-King

The e-book and its tablet form have come a long way since the first digital devices were announced. The original models were greeted with a fair amount of skepticism. There was doubt concerning proprietary software that might constrain the choice of model or reading titles, and a possible lack of connectivity that would prevent widespread use. Now, all of that seems to be changing, and the original skepticism has given way to enthusiasm and a multitude of new developments.

Amazon Kindle The e-book reader: safeguarding a future for print media

Today, there are literally thousands of titles available for the reading and a wide choice of hardware models that are more or less portable depending on their size of screen. Screen technologies have also improved, and the user can now choose between LCD (liquid crystal display), with its backlit colour contrast, and the e-ink book-like black and white screen, which has the advantage of being clearly legible in bright sunlight but not displaying colours.

There are models to suit all pockets. Some use touch screens, others not. Some have their own wireless connection; others need a Wi-Fi hotspot or to be connected to another device for downloading new material. Some are cross-platform so they are compatible with a variety of systems that allow the user to “carry around” a cloud-computed reading collection. Most, in addition to their own proprietary formats, read open standard files such as EPUB, the dedicated e-book format, and PDF (portable document format), the format created by Adobe Systems in 1993 for document exchange. The need for portability and exchanging of files from one system to another requires protocols on how to store and distribute content.

IEC TC 100 leads the way in multimedia e-publishing

These standards are the work of IEC TC (Technical Committee) 100, TA (Technical Area) 10:  Multimedia e-publishing and e-book. Under Technical Area Manager Yashio Uemura and Technical Secretary Mikio Mukai, TC 100 produces International Standards for multimedia e-books, multimedia e-publishing and related technologies, including:

  • formats of multimedia e-book contents
  • minimum requirements for multimedia e-book viewers
  • user interfaces for multimedia e-book viewers
  • e-publishing services
  • guidelines for e-book distribution by interchangeable storage media

At present, the three PTs (Project Teams) of TC 100/TA 10 are working on:

  • Digital Audiobook File Format and Player Requirements (PT 62571)
  • Multimedia systems and equipment
  • Multimedia e-publishing and e-books
  • Interchange format for e-dictionaries (PT 62605)
  • Texture map for auditory presentation of printed content (PT 62665)

MT (Maintenance Team) 62448: Multimedia systems and equipment – Multimedia e-publishing and e-books – Generic format for e-publishing, is working on the next edition of IEC 62448, the standard that specifies a generic format for multimedia e-publishing that’s used for e-book data interchange among publishers and people preparing data. The format has the advantage of being revisable and extensible with a heterogeneous logical structure. TC 100/TA 10 has ongoing discussions with IDPF (International Digital Publishing Forum) about establishing a category D liaison in order to work more closely on the EPUB format and participate together at the WG (Working Group) or project level.

When IEC 62448 was first developed in 2006 the e-book market was still very small. It is only in very recent times that the market has grown and with it the demand for the EPUB format to be standardized. ISO (International Organization for Standardization)/IEC JTC (Joint Technical Committee)1/SC (Subcommittee) 34: Document description and processing languages, has also established an ad hoc group to discuss EPUB standardization. TC 100/TA 10 is also discussing other important technology areas in order to establish digital audiobook file formats and player requirements and an interchange format for e-dictionaries, together with a texture map for auditory presentation of printed text.

Advantages of e-books

An e-book has the advantage over printed material of being able to enlarge type so that, even if the screen is small, the display features make reading more accessible to a great number of people. Over and above providing an interface for reading text, the picture quality can be far better on a tablet than on a computer screen; it also offers the ability to create a multimedia interactive storytelling. At the same time the e-book offers advertisers new opportunities to reach their audience.

The first generation Kindle was released by Amazon.com in November 2007. Nook was announced by Barnes & Noble in October 2009. In 2010, the first iPad was launched and with it a new attitude to e-reading that included many features found on a Netbook or laptop, including a library of downloadable additional applications.

New e-book developments

The popularity of the iPad has sparked new interest in e-books. Just as the CES (Consumer Electronics Show) was closing in Las Vegas, US (United States), the announcement of TEDBooks arrived. Better known for its 20-minute TEDTalks on a broad selection of subject matters and the resulting digitalized video that is made freely available to the public over the Internet, TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is filling the gap between the visual and the printed with a new solution.

TEDBooks, the non-profit company says, are expected to provide a “short, compelling book”, which far from “dumbing down of reading”, will “be trading up”.

“Instead of browsing a magazine [TEDBooks]… will make ideas accessible in a way that matches modern attention spans”, the company says.

With this launch, a new tendency towards digitalization of previously paper-bound traditional books appears to be well established and set to investigate new realms of the written work. 

Amazon Kindle The e-book reader: safeguarding a future for print media
Barnes & Noble Nook A complete library in your pocket