EDUPUB Tokyo 2014 Report

September 24, 2014

The fourth EDUPUB meeting was held on September 17, 2014 at Microsoft Headquarters in Tokyo with the goal of furthering the profile's global reach and applicability. As noted by Bill McCoy, Executive Director of the IDPF in his opening remarks, the Japanese have played a significant role in the development of ebook technologies generally – Sony having developed the first e-reader in 2004 – and EPUB specifically, not only with the development of global language support in EPUB 3 but also helping drive the evolution of the specification. It was, therefore, only natural to select Tokyo to host these meetings. 

Shunichi Kajisa, CTO of Microsoft Japan,  reiterated the important role that EPUB 3 has played in standardizing ebook production and consumption in Japan, and he reinforced the need to push for further standardization in education to avoid a fragmented market.

The morning sessions began with Markus Gylling, CTO of the IDPF, recapping the current state of EDUPUB as it approaches its first anniversary. A second iteration of the EDUPUB profile was released on September 8, with the primary new addition in this cycle being guidelines for teacher's editions and guides. The next cycle is now under way, and  the development of a baseline CSS for styling EDUPUB content will be a high priority.

Also highlighted was the alignment of  EDUPUB with a number of specifications currently being developed to support the broader EPUB ecosystem:

  • The widgets working group published a Packaging and Integration specification in May, which will enable the distribution and reuse of educational widgets across publications. The group is expected to publish an API specification later this year that will detail reading systems and widget communication.

  • Open Annotation in EPUB was released as a draft specification in May, and is the model for portable annotations in EDUPUB.

  • The Distributable Objects specification was also released in May, but currently only addresses the identification of objects within an EPUB publication. Distributable objects will allow the distribution of component pieces of a work, such as individual chapters, as well as facilitate content remixing.

  • A new draft of the EPUB Multiple-Rendition Publications specification was released in August, and is expected to become a recommendation later this year. The ability to include more than one rendition of the content will allow text-based renditions to be included with image-based versions in EDUPUB to maximize readability for all users (i.e., allowing the user to select their preferred format).

Rob Abel, CEO of IMS Global, then followed to explain the meshing of EDUPUB with IMS' own education-based specifications, such as Question and Test Interoperability (QTI) and Common Cartridge (which facilitates moving content between learning management systems). He explained how the work of the two organizations is complementary, as IMS is  vertically focused on educational frameworks, whereas EPUB is horizontally focused on content rendering that cuts across the publishing spectrum.

IMS is actively working at integrating their standards with EDUPUB – a best practices guide for integration with EDUPUB is currently under development – but much work remains to be done. It was also  highlighted that on-going  internal specification development  within IMS is expected to lead to new versions of their standards in the coming year, that should better harmonize with EPUB and the Open Web Platform. At the same time, a call was made for interested parties in Asia to join with IMS and help with the internationalization of their work as thus far their focus has been very heavily on the North American market.

The key new development of the morning sessions was the decision to look at integrated conformance testing for EDUPUB and IMS standards. Although IDPF has been developing validation support for EDUPUB content in the epubcheck validator, and IMS has its own conformance checker, there is a growing need to verify that content is being created in compliance with both organizations' guidelines as they continue to work together.

After a morning of recap, the afternoon sessions delved into practical issues that still need addressing. A long list of items was presented to the group, many moving beyond content and looking toward requirements for learning systems, such as authentication and persistent identification, user preferences, and note taking. It is expected that these will not  be addressed until 2015, after the initial push to develop the content model has been completed.

A session reaffirming the need for fixed layout guidelines in an upcoming iteration of EDUPUB  led to an interesting tangential discussion concerning the need to indicate the quality of renditions in the EPUB container. For example, if the primary rendition contains inaccessible image-based content, there is concern that publishers may have to rush a text-to-speech enabled version to meet EDUPUB's requirement. As this version may not meet their quality standards for use by any reader, they won't want it sold as such. Expressing this kind of content intent may be possible using the EPUB Multiple-Rendition Publications specification, but further investigation is necessary and being pursued.

The day was  closed by Clancy Marshall, VP Core Platforms at Pearson, who acknowledged  the amazing work that has already been done to develop the profile and how quickly it is moving to a working solution that publishers will be able to adopt.

JEPA Press Release: Announcing EDUPUB Tokyo 2014