Quick on the heels of the Starship Library post comes news about the specs of EPUB 3. And boy it does not disappoint. Inclusion of HTML5 compliance, CSS, embeddable video and audio.
So all that stuff I was concerned about being stuck in a single operating system? Pretty much going out the window. People are realizing that multimedia books are going to be the thing now, and being able to standardize that is super important.
This has a ton of potential, and could really take things to new levels. Let’s kind of brainstorm here for a moment.
Publishers are now going to be in the position of acquiring content to create enhanced eBooks. Whether that be audio, video, or additional texts, the role of the publisher is going to be to bring more to the table than the author can do himself. The author’s job is to write a text. The publisher’s job is going to be to make that text sing with special features.
Let’s talk about Shakespeare for a minute. Wouldn’t it be amazing, and incredibly informative to have a video of a staged performance of something, say Measure for Measure, which is loaded with period specific innuendo, with the text of the play going along beneath it, and highlighted links to articles about words and phrases that provide bonus exegesis on the text? Sure you could read the play, and click around through the textual analysis, but being able to both watch and read the play as its happening would be a godsend to educators.
Imagine a Criterion Collection of eBooks. Just think about it.
This is totally going to change the audio book landscape. With audiobooks incorporated directly into the text we’ll probably see some acquisition of companies like Blackwell and Recorded Books. Plus, it would make for a fascinating opportunity for the public domain things coming in through LibriVox. To be able to bundle the audiobook and the ebook together will be a blessing for everyone. Not only does it mean that you don’t have to choose, you can change between them as you like. So while you’re on the train you can read the ebook edition, but in the bathtub or cooking dinner you can listen to the audio edition.
This is also going to justify price changes in the ebook marketplace. Whereas before the user expected something akin to a text file, and wondered why he was paying full price. Now he can get a whole suite of things in one eBook edition and would be more than happy to pay for the privilege of it.
This also means that eReaders are going to have to grow up and fast. The technology to create color eInk with a high frame rate is out there. And with this kind of technology we’re going to need it in next gen eReaders. Maybe having hybrid eInk and LED/LCD screens is the solution for day and night transitions (and yes it’s possible, it’s how all the One Laptop Per Child devices work). It also means we’re going to have to talk about space constraints on devices. Services like Kindle where you can download content and archive it remotely are going to have to become the norm unless we move into seriously high capacity storage on tablets and eReaders.
Oh this makes me very happy indeed.