The IDPF/W3C merger is a change for the worse that must be stopped
This site is the home of the publishing community initiative focused on lobbying the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF) to suspend its planned merger with the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).
The transfer of the IDPF EPUB specification to the W3C jeopardizes the future of books and reading.
“I loved reading when I was a kid, partly because I was traveling so much, and there were times where I’d be displaced, I’d be the outsider… And so the idea of having these worlds that were portable, that were yours, that you could enter into, was appealing to me.”
Barack Obama, as quoted in “President Obama on What Books Mean to Him,” The New York Times, January 16, 2017
Those of us who oppose the International Digital Publishing Forum’s (IDPF) plan to dissolve and “merge” with the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) have already written at length about the many ways in which the deal fails to protect the interests of the publishing industry. Those risks to our industry should be enough to stop the merger, but the deal also fails to protect the interests of readers. The W3C is focused on promoting the Web, but eBooks are not websites. When the IDPF is gone, who will advocate for readers?
OverDrive and many other organizations and individuals—indeed, an entire industry—trusted the IDPF to act as the steward of an investment in reading and literacy centered around books. eBooks are an extension of physical books. Today, eBooks are being used to help teach children the joys of reading through interactive and Read-Along titles with characters they know and love. eBooks help readers with failing eyesight and synchronized audio for improved accessibility. These scenarios take advantage of EPUB—a book-centric standard developed by book publishers and publishing experts.
Books have the power to move us and change the way we think. The experience of getting lost in a book (“immersive reading”) can shape our lives and is very different from the experience of consuming information on websites. Books are not websites.
Now the IDPF intends to transfer the future of reading in the digital age to an organization focused on the promotion of websites and e-commerce, where reading will be an afterthought and subservient to varied commercial interests, if it is valued at all.
But books are not websites. Reading should not be a stepping stone to collecting a reader’s credit card information. At its peak, the IDPF enjoyed the active participation of authors, librarians, publishers and educators who fostered and promoted eBooks and immersive reading in the digital age, a goal derived from the fundamental premise that books are inherently important, even sacred. Now, with this “merger,” the IDPF has abandoned that mission.
If completed, the transfer of the EPUB specification to the W3C will put the future of books at risk. The members of the W3C who are focused on digital signage, advertising, credit card processing, integration with auto manufactures and over 50 other non-book related interests, will be controlling the future of books.
Instead, authors, editors, agents, publishers, librarians, teachers, and readers should be directing and controlling the future of books—book people—not the representatives of other industries for whom the experience of getting lost in a book amounts to a lost opportunity for a digital purchase or click-through.
The transfer of the IDPF’s assets to the W3C has been approved by the members of the IDPF. If the industry believes that the IDPF and W3C are truly committed to safeguarding the future of books, and that a “merger” with the W3C is truly the best path forward, the IDPF and W3C should be willing to agree to the following:
I continue to believe that the transfer of the IDPF’s assets and intellectual property to the W3C is a mistake. The W3C is focused on promoting the Web—not the experience of getting lost in a book. Those who advocate for this deal are missing the essential issue: books are not websites.
Steve Potash, Founder and CEO