Digital Reading: DBA Judge Tallent on EPUB3, Higher Quality, Amazing Reading Experiences

Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.

It’s summer. I’m not at the beach yet, but I am thinking about the Digital Book Awards (first deadline for entries is September 1, everybody). And the more I think, the more I wonder about what I’ll see in this year’s competition. Naturally, I’m hoping for excellence, innovation, and of course, a great reading experience. I asked Joshua Tallent, DBA Judge and Chief Ebook Architect at eBook Architects, for his thoughts on the matter.

Joshua Tallent, Chief Ebook Architect,

Joshua Tallent, Digital Book Awards Judge and Chief Ebook Architect, eBook Architects

AK: You know EPUB development better than anyone, I bet. Are you excited about any particular features you’ve been able to use or that you see others using?

JT: I’m very excited about seeing more ebooks using EPUB3 semantics and accessibility. Publishers are starting to see the value that comes with high-quality EPUB files, and there is a movement toward not just adopting the EPUB3 format, but also creating files that have these important core features built in from the beginning. One of our clients, Brookes Publishers, creates all of its files in EPUB3, including implementing accessibility and using a lot of forethought on the functionality of each book.

AK: What’s the biggest development challenge facing ebook producers this year? Is there a work that’s overcome that challenge?

JT: I think the biggest challenge most ebook developers face is making ebook files that will be accepted by all of the major retailers despite inconsistent levels of support for design features and differing requirements from retailer to retailer and device to device. This is not an easy problem to navigate. At eBook Architects, we have developed a workflow that includes flexible ways to develop different files for different retailers/devices, and we have an extensive quality assurance process that allows us to catch potential issues before the files are sent to the retailers. One of the titles we were able to successfully do this with recently was The Happy Herbivore Abroad, for Kindle and iBooks.

AK: How about marketplace challenges?

JT: I think the same issue is actually one of the biggest marketplace challenges we have seen this year, too. Publishers and authors have a difficult time choosing what formats to use, what devices to target, and how to sell their ebooks to interested readers. Unfortunately, the varying standards and requirements make it harder for everyone to sell ebooks with enhanced design or functionality broadly, so the overall quality of the reading experience continues to suffer. In too many cases we have to water down the design or remove functionality in order to make a book saleable on more devices.

But we’ve seen that Apple, Kobo, and Google are all progressing in their support for EPUB3 and related functionality, so it is easier now than before to create files with better design and more functionality that work well in at least those three retailers’ systems.

AK: How are you feeling about ebook development? Is it getting anywhere? If so, where? Are we seeing better use of the format?

JT: I am very excited about where ebook development is right now. When we launched FlightDeck in late May we were concerned that the quality of ebooks would not be important enough for people to use a tool that extensively tests EPUB files. Instead, we saw a massive amount of activity during the beta test, and have been excited to see people from across the industry (and across the world!) use it. We are definitely seeing better use of the ebook formats, better quality files, and more concern about building amazing reading experiences.

AK: Amazing reading experience? I’ll take it! Beach, here I come.

The Digital Book Awards is open for entries. If you are the author, publisher, producer or developer of a great digital book, consider entering the competition. All the information you need is HERE. The early-bird deadline is September 1; the regular deadline is October 1.

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Anne Kostick

About Anne Kostick

Anne is a UX fan girl and a partner in Foxpath IND , specializing in the transition to and from traditional content publishing and online content development, management, and publishing. Her clients include trade book publishers; technology and financial services websites; and arts and cultural institutions. Her occasional column, Digital Reading, discusses user experience and related topics in ebooks and digital reading. Anne is emerita president of Women’s Media Group, an industry organization, program director of the Digital Book Awards and a member of BEA Conference Advisory Board. She is the author of several books for children and a definitive collection of jokes.

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