By Edward Nawotka
The International Digital Publishers Forum, responsible for developing Web publishing standards, held its open membership meeting yesterday as part of BookExpo America, where the issue was raised as to whether or not the organization should be absorbed into the W3C, as discussed in yesterday’s PW Show Daily. Bill McCoy, IDPF executive director, reserved the second half the two hour meeting for an open question and answer session.
IDPF and W3C, also known as the World Wide Web Consortium and responsible for developing open source nonproprietary web standards, and made it clear they have been working together to make publications more accessible and interoperable.
A technology breakdown during an overview of the proposed implementation of EPUB 3.1 led one member of the audience to prompt the meeting to push forward conversation about the proposed merger, but McCoy ultimately spoke for a solid 80 minutes before soliciting comment from members.
Much of McCoy’s talk centered on the potential benefits of the proposed merger, which include the promise to accelerate widespread adoption of device agnostic content, making Web documents more portable. The idea would be for W3C to validate EPUB3 and assume ongoing development of EPUB3, with IDPF members converted to a Publishing Business Group and board members turned into a a Digital Publishing Steering Committee.
When arguing for the merger, McCoy cited the need to compete with Amazon’s scale — a place that measures its resources in buildings and the challenge of how to scale up to get what the organization wanted done — something that a merger with W3C might empower.
McCoy outlined three options for the organization going forward: increasing scale, narrowing the organization’s mission (for example, focusing just on the interchange format for trade books), or combine with another organization. He noted that the IDPF board had been working on the challenge for months and that mergers with organizations other than the W3C were considered and rejected.
The underlying consternation surrounding the potential merger focuses on whether or not the book business and its constituent content businesses will be a priority for W3C or lost in its broader mission, as well as whether a merger might delay further development of EPUB and/or strip it of its branding and identity. Fees, too proved a priority for members, as many expressed concern about whether or not members could afford W3C membership fees and whether or not under various fee structures they would be empowered to vote and or have their voices heard.
Right now, the IDPF is soliciting feedback from it’s members; no date for an official vote on the merger vote is yet set.