Open eBook Authoring Group Recommends Electronic Book Publication Standard

Posted on May 26, 1999

In a step that will accelerate availability of electronic book content, the Open eBook Authoring Group yesterday announced the completion of a draft recommendation of the Open eBook 1.0 Specification, which defines the format that content takes when it is converted from print to electronic form. After seven months of work, the Open eBook Authoring Group, which consists of publishers, eBook pioneers and other software and hardware firms, completed work on the standard, basing it on the same HTML and XML specifications that define the World Wide Web.

The Open eBook initiative was proposed in October 1998 by Microsoft Vice President Dick Brass during his keynote speech introducing the world's first electronic book conference. The conference, held in Gaithersburg, Md., was sponsored by the NIST.

"The goal of the Open eBook standard has always been to ensure that there is a free flow of electronic books from a large number of publishers to millions of consumers," Brass said. "It was also designed to prevent a damaging standards war in which each device would be incompatible and publishers would produce few titles for each."

"I'm delighted that the Open eBook Authoring Group has worked together to finalize the standard so quickly, and that firms like NuvoMedia and SoftBook Press have been willing to overcome competitive pressures and work together for the common good of the industry and of consumers," continued Brass, who is vice president for Emerging Technology at Microsoft.

The Open eBook standard is designed to allow content providers -- publishers and authors of books, articles and Web pages -- to deliver their material in a single format. This format will then be accepted by all systems compliant with Open eBook. A title can be read on all machines adhering to the standard, and publishers will be able to reach a wide audience without separately reformatting their titles for each machine. The standard is also designed to allow existing eBook devices to quickly accommodate it.

In addition to releasing the recommendation for a final specification, the Open eBook Authoring Group proposed a process for final approval of the standard:

* Members of the larger Open eBook group will have several weeks to provide comments on the specification.

* The Authoring Group will then accept or reject pertinent feedback while further refining the standard.

* Finally, the Authoring Group will present the revised final draft for approval to the Open eBook members. A vote to approve the final standard is scheduled to take place by July 1999.