Industry Adopts eBook Standards

June 20, 2006

Major software companies and device manufacturers have announced plans to support new electronic book standards developed within the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF). The companies will support these standards in their next generation software and devices, alleviating many of the previous file interoperability and production issues affecting the eBook industry and its customers.

The standards are created by two groups within the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF), the trade and standards organization for the digital book industry. The IDPF has previously developed the already widely adopted Open eBook Publication Structure (OEBPS) standard. The two groups are the Unified OEBPS Container Format Working Group and the OEBPS Working Group.

Garth Conboy, President of eBook Technologies, Inc, and co-Chair of both working groups, commented, "This is a very exciting time for the industry – vigorous standards setting and adoption efforts are under way, new technologies, products and companies are entering the market, and these factors as well as innovative marketing and searching will drive increased digital content availability."

Emerging Digital Publication Standards

The Container Format working group is set to release a container format to allow publishers to release only a single standard file into their sales and distribution channels instead of the multiple proprietary files that they currently produce. The new ZIP-based proposed standard, OEBPS Container Format (OCF), is an extension of the packaging format defined by the OpenDocument OASIS Standard (ISO/IEC 26300).

"Adobe has been very pleased with the rapid progress within IDPF towards creating an open and neutral container format", said Bill McCoy, GM ePublishing, Adobe Systems, Inc. "An open packaging technology clearly has applicability across multiple areas of our solutions, including eReading systems, and we look forward to working with industry participants to finalize this community-developed standard in the coming months".

The container format is expected to be submitted to the IDPF for official approval in the next several weeks. A draft specification is publicly available at:

In the second specification, the OEBPS Working Group is developing the next generation of OEBPS to improve this XML-based standard as both a production and a final delivery format for digital publications. The effort will focus on detailed control of content rendering, navigation and accessibility, and alignment with other standards efforts.

Software & Device Implementation

At the IDPF Connected & Mobile 2006 conference in May, Adobe Systems demonstrated a forthcoming thin-client application for reading-centric secured content, codenamed "Twist", that will support OEBPS-based and PDF content. Also, eBook Technologies, Inc. featured an application built on the OEBPS Container Format (OCF) at the conference.

Other reading application companies also voiced support for the upcoming specifications:

  • "Mobipocket has been a great supporter of open standards in the eBook world since the OEBPS creation. We are excited about this new initiative, which is the right way to go to make this market mainstream. We plan to fully support this new standard in our product line," said Thierry Brethes, CEO & co-founder of, an company.
  • "OSoft intends to support the new OEBPS standards with the upcoming release of dotReader," said Mark Carey, CEO of, an open source document company. "The enhancements to the standards will improve accessibility and be more publisher and consumer friendly. Of particular interest to publishers is the standardization of a master e-book format which will greatly improve document workflow and reduce e-book publishing costs."
  • "Motricity's vision is to increase the adoption and consumption of premium mobile data such as ebooks," said Elizabeth Mackey (Vice President and General Manager of eReader/Motricity). "We fully support open standards and access as the cornerstones of IDPF's efforts as we believe it's exemplary of the type of collaborative process that will build mainstream awareness and further the independence and productivity of the mobile lifestyle."

Hardware companies also voiced implementation plans. iRex Technologies' VP Marketing and Business Development Willem Endhoven stated, "iRex Technologies will support the development of these standards as it will accelerate the momentum in electronic reading. We believe that consumers will benefit from a more harmonized, open system approach and simplicity of use. We expect to support the IDPF standards for use in the iLiad e-reader in the future."

Cooperation with Other Information Technology Standards Organizations

IDPF has begun working to formalize its cooperation and collaboration with other organizations. While the needs of the digital publishing industry may require specific technologies, IDPF policy is to build on broader information technology standards wherever possible.

IDPF has recently joined the OASIS international standards consortium, and hopes that the IDPF OCF may be further advanced within OASIS as a general file containment technology standard.

"We are happy to have the IDPF join our organization and pleased that they plan to contribute proposed extensions to the OpenDocument OASIS Standard for their Open Container Format," said James Bryce Clark, director of standards development at OASIS. "We are looking forward to working with them on future standardization efforts."

IDPF is also cooperating closely with DAISY, which is a member of the IDPF. The upcoming OEBPS revision is working to be aligned with requirements of the DAISY-based NIMAS initiative for accessible K-12 textbooks.

"The disability community is looking forward to the day when commercial eBooks are usable by persons with disabilities with their Assistive Technologies," said George Kerscher, Secretary General of the DAISY Consortium.

The combined standards efforts will result in a non-proprietary way for publishers to deliver digital books through the distribution chain to consumers, similar to the MP3 format for digital music. No patent encumbrances are expected of either new specification. Participation in the Working Groups is open to all IDPF members and documents published by both groups are regularly posted on the IDPF website at

Additional Relevant Information

IDPF Specifications & Documents:

Open Container Format (OCF) 0.94 Working Draft Specification:

Open eBook Publication Structure Specification Version 1.2:

Use Cases & Requirements for Next Version of the Open eBook Publication Structure:

IDPF Working Groups:

IDPF meetings & teleconference schedule:

IDPF membership information:

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