FAQ for IDPF Members About Proposal to Merge With W3C

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for IDPF Members About Proposal to Unite IDPF and W3C


What’s the history and current status of collaborations between W3C and IDPF?

W3C and the IDPF have been collaborating for many years, with a formal liaison that helped guide IDPF’s adoption of HTML5 and especially CSS 3 during the development of EPUB 3. The IDPF’s work on global language support helped revive work on CSS Writing Modes and other features to address composition needs like line spacing and dropcaps. IDPF work on Page Templates for EPUB led to proposed W3C work on CSS Regions and CSS Pagination Templates. Throughout this period the primary use case for EPUB remained non-Web-based (e.g. off-line) use.\


As it has become clear that Web-technology-based publications need to exist both online and offline, and that there was a desire for seamless transition between these states, W3C and IDPF technical leaders collaborated to develop a shared vision of a future EPUB+Web which was jointly presented in October 2014 at the conference “Books in Browsers”.


Meanwhile, W3C has increased its support of industry verticals with a notable emphasis on the publishing industry. After holding several workshops starting in early 2013, the W3C formed a Digital Publishing Activity and Interest Group (IG) later that year, which, in addition to working on enhancing existing W3C specifications to provide more layout features for Web documents and better meet the needs of publishers, has also taken on development of the vision of EPUB+Web, now named Portable Web Publications or PWP.


In parallel, the IDPF has begun work on an incremental revision to EPUB, EPUB 3.1 . The IDPF is also completing work on a profile of EPUB for e-Textbooks and other learning content.


Furthermore, EPUB has been targeted from its inception to support accessibility requirements, facilitated by a longstanding collaboration with DAISY Consortium and aligned with W3C’s Web Accessibility Initiative.  A potential opportunity for further collaboration has recently arisen to rapidly accelerate EPUB’s adoption in new segments of document publishing due to revisions of accessibility mandates in the US (Section 508) and other regions that will require electronic documents to be accessible (a requirement that is difficult to meet with PDF). The new requirements are based on W3C WCAG 2.

Why are IDPF and W3C considering uniting right now?

It has become apparent that the work going on at W3C on what is currently termed Portable Web Publications (PWP) is, logically, what should become EPUB 4, i.e. the next major (not fully backwards-compatible) revision to EPUB. It also became clear that to achieve this goal the specific engagement of IDPF and its community is absolutely critical. Taking into consideration these elements the merger may provide significant opportunities to optimize coordination, resources, and community perception as the PWP work proceeds in parallel with a significant incremental release of EPUB (3.1).  Bringing clarity that a future EPUB 4 (nee PWP) specification is being produced in W3C, with the integration of IDPF expertise, will both accelerate the PWP work and justify continuing a very tight focus for EPUB 3.1.


IDPF has strong participation from the global publishing industry, especially eBooks. However, the goals for EPUBs as next-generation portable documents for the web platform transcend commercial publishing into other segments than book publishing.  With the merger, W3C will provide staffing and connections with more of the Web community which can facilitate the broader evolution and adoption of an EPUB 4 as the standard for Web-based portable documents in general. The  upcoming accessibility mandates for electronic documents will also take advantage of this solution.


EPUB is already built on HTML5 and other elements of the Open Web Platform, and this dependency is growing even closer with areas such as Open Annotations in EPUB (the basis for W3C’s Web Annotation work) and the new WCAG-based accessibility mandates. EPUB is therefore already critically dependent on W3C’s future success.  The boundary between digital publications and other Web content is blurring further as evidenced by the shared PWP vision.  IDPF has also realized in recent years that to meet publishing industry needs its strategy needed to include “...and advancing” Web Standards, not just building on them.


Therefore we believe that the integration of next-generation EPUB work into W3C can be an effective way for IDPF and W3C to better exploit their specific knowledge and advance a shared vision and mission, while also addressing near-term coordination issues.  W3C will help make EPUB and portable Web publications more visible and credible outside the book publishing industry, while IDPF’s strong connections to the publishing industry will help make the PWP work begun in W3C more relevant and credible for the publishing community.


Was it considered to continue the IDPF as a trade association while moving EPUB standardization into W3C?

While IDPF activities originally included business-level evangelism and promotion of eBooks and digital publishing, over the last six years our organization’s strategy has evolved to concentrate on standards development, specifically: “developing (collaboratively) and promoting EPUB as the universal accessible interchange and delivery ecosystem for digital publications based on and advancing the Open Web Platform”. Other organizations, such as BISG, have focused more on business-level concerns. With standards development moving to W3C, and with the significant convergence of digital publishing and the broader Open Web Platform, the IDPF Board believes that the best interests of the publishing industry will be served by consolidating all IDPF functions into W3C and continuing strong collaboration with other industry groups such as BISG, EDItEUR, DAISY, and others.

Has combining the organizations already been approved? If not what will be the approval process for IDPF?

The combination is not yet approved. The W3C leadership as well as the IDPF leadership and Board have both approved pursuing a prospective merger of IDPF into W3C, but a decision to actually combine is subject to further due diligence, and gaining the feedback, input and, ultimately, support of IDPF and W3C memberships as a whole.


On the IDPF side, the IDPF leadership and Board are soliciting that feedback through late May, prior to any decision by the IDPF Board to call for a member vote to formally approve the combination, which would be the final step on the IDPF side.


Note that while this FAQ and other communications refer to the combination of IDPF into W3C as a "merger" that term is used informally and the legal process almost certainly will not be structured as a merger agreement per se (like many similar arrangements, it will likely be structured as an asset transfer agreement with certain commitments on the part of each party).

What will happen if the merger is not approved?

IDPF and W3C will continue to collaborate closely whether or not we agree to unite at this time. This is an amicable proposal agreed by the leadership of both organizations, with full understanding that there are risks as well as potential benefits, and both parties are prepared for outcomes other than proceeding with the merger.

What’s the future of IDPF events?

It is anticipated that outreach to the publishing industry through targeted events will continue.


How will be IDPF members participation be managed within W3C after the merger?

W3C will create a new Publishing Business Group to foster ongoing participation for former IDPF member organizations and other publishing industry participants.  Additionally, a two-year transition membership program will be created to allow current IDPF members to participate in a Publishing Working Group with a charter to specify the additional components of the Open Web Platform that will collectively be the next major revision of EPUB.

What will be the role of the IDPF Board after the merger?

Current IDPF Board members would be appointed as interim members of a Publishing Steering Committee, pending a quorum of Publishing Business Group members who will ultimately elect this Steering Committee  (anticipated to occur sometime during 2017). This Steering Committee will have significant oversight responsibility including liaison with the W3C Publishing Activity Lead in setting and evaluating goals and priorities, and involvement in selecting Publishing Working Group Chairs/Co-Chairs.


Will the proposed merger change the plan or timeline for EPUB 3.1 or EPUB for Education development?

No. A primary reason for proposing that this combination not be effective until January 2017 is to enable the IDPF to finalize during 2016 the EPUB for Education profile as well as EPUB 3.1 under IDPF processes and Intellectual Property policies, rather than try to make any mid-stream changes to these initiatives that are already significantly under way and needed in the publishing industry.


The IDPF EPUB Working Group has recently concluded that the EPUB 3.1 revision should be reduced in scope, with certain capabilities deferred or detached until a future more major upgrade in order to reduce risk and focus on immediately useful improvements that will minimize any migration costs. That change does not directly relate to the proposed combination but it is consistent with the plan to pursue an EPUB 4 revision cycle in W3C that would among other things help deliver on these additional capabilities (such as a more “browser-friendly” unpackaged serialization, support for the non-XML HTML serialization, migration from epub:type to ARIA “role” attribute). Since these features all relate to longer-term Web Platform alignment it seems very appropriate that they would be undertaken after EPUB development moves to W3C.

Will EPUB 3.x, EPUB for Education profile, and other modular EPUB extensions (Indexes, Dictionaries, Multiple Renditions, Open Annotations, etc.) be maintained if the merger moves forward?

It is anticipated that EPUB 3.x, as well as related IDPF modular specifications and profiles will continue to be maintained in a lightweight “open source” manner, with the oversight of the W3C Publishing Business Group and its Steering Committee.

What are the plans for an “EPUB 4” in W3C and how does this relate to the work of the W3C Digital Publishing Interest Group (DPUB IG) on “Portable Web Publications”?

The long-range planning of “Portable Web Publications” undertaken by DPUB IG [1] is anticipated to be a major input to the development of the next major revision of EPUB, prospectively EPUB 4, along with other inputs including work that was originally targeted for EPUB 3.1 . It is anticipated that a charter for a Working Group would be proposed and reviewed according to W3C Process.   The scope of a future EPUB 4 will not be a “clean slate” format development but will need to build on and respect the aspects of EPUB 3.x that will foster the continued expansion of the EPUB community rather than cause disruptive transitions. As well, since the transition to full EPUB 3 is still underway, we need to ensure that the community is confident in backwards compatibility and the integrity of large catalogues of content developed in EPUB 3.

Who will hold the copyright to existing EPUB Specifications, and ownership of the EPUB trademark, logo, etc.?

If the combination is approved, IDPF will assign all its copyrights, trademarks and other IP to W3C.

Will the Publishing Activity (including Publishing Business Group and Publishing Working Group) work on other things besides a future EPUB 4?

Absolutely. Proposed charters for the prospective expanded Publishing Activity and new BG & WG would be defined and submitted for W3C Member review later during the transition period but a key reason to prospectively choose the name “Publishing” rather than “Digital Publishing” is to indicate a possible broader scope of work. For example, improved high-quality printing (including POD - print-on-demand) features for Web content in general may be pursued.


What next communications can we expect to see from IDPF or W3C?


The IDPF will hold a member meeting on Wednesday, May 11 in Chicago from 2:00-4:00pm CDT.  We strongly encourage your attendance at this meeting to ask additional questions. Members of both the IDPF and W3C leadership teams will be participating . Due to logistics at BEA, the May 11 meeting will not be broadcast. Additional information and opportunities for global Q&A and feedback will be communicated in the near future.

Document last revised: April 28, 2016


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