This is my inaugural post as Dr. Xappy. In my future blogs, I will advocate the Tin Can  Experience APIor more commonly called xAPI. It is an open standard successor to SCORM. The xAPI standard enables us to capture and merge experiential learning analytics from many sources. The xAPI standard also supports the interconnection of multiple learning management systems. When the xAPI standard came out, our R&D teams set to the task of enabling e-publications (ePubs) to speak with learning management systems through xAPI. From there, RePubIT was born with a desire enhance the learning process. Viva ePub3 Revolution!

Here’s a quick overview in Slideshare

Adobe InDesign User Group meeting

On February 17th, I delivered a briefing and workshop about to the Adobe InDesign Users Group in Orlando, FL.  I focused on interactive eBooks and the data analytics and how InDesign power users might take advantage of the next big wave.

The members of this user group are highly skilled design and production professionals primarily for print. They shared with me a great concern over their career options as they see volume and demand decline around them. Many shared a vague awareness of the “ePub3 Revolution” since it often develops in departments isolated from the print design and production. That needs to change!

I asked them what they wanted from the evenings meeting. Here’s a quick summary:

  • Better understanding of eBook design and production
  • Discussion of what makes interactive eBooks different from PDFs and older ePub standards
  • Why they should make mastering interactive eBooks a career priority

In the first hour of the session, I distilled seven years of ePub history. This included sharing technical and design experience. Happily, they found that they already had many needed skills.

In the second hour, I introduced the next generation eBook ecosystem and the the game changer: ePUb3 + xAPI = Networked Interactive eBook with data connectivity, social communication, and high security.

Well this fully engaged audience turned our 2 hour scheduled presentation into 3.5 hours. It also prompted the group decision turn ePub3 Revolution into a three-part series with the second session for April. Stay tuned

History of the ePub Revolution

ePubs date back six years. The first ebooks (ePub1) we developed were for e-Ink readers. They had black and white text with images rendered in either 8 or 16 shades of grey. Vastly inferior to print but mobile, and cool. They used the ePub2 format (mobi for Kindle). It displayed like the earliest of web pages, no wraps, overlays, just text and marginal images. Trade books and novels were the target market. It contain very little imagery and simple one column designs.

Of course, we immediately started to push the envelope. With the promise of a full color tablet, the iPad, on the distant horizon, cookbooks, art books, and childrens books entered the digital queue. A new format, Fixed Layout was developed allowing us to exactly replicate these print designs. I co-authored the Book Industry Study Group’s Field Guide to Fixed Layout ePub if you enjoy detail.

By then the iPad and other full color tablets entered the scene and brought a new capability : multimedia.  Both Fixed layout and what we called Enhanced ePub could contain audio, video, and even read-along audio tracks with follow along highlighting for childrens book animation drew our focus. While producing this, our standards committees at IDPF and BISG were hard at work on a new ePub specification that encompassed all this and more: ePub3.

An interim market emerged just prior to ePub3 release which allowed users to design highly stylized, but proprietary eBook formats for their reading platforms. Apple iBooks and Inkling created an authoring and reading environment able to create attractive and complex layouts, template driven, as one might layout Powerpoint or Keynote presentation. They also introduced a new concept of the widget or as a pre-packaged functional module that a designer can place in a page as simply as a photo. The widget however, would provide complex functionality (pre-programmed) to make it simple. Widgets can provide a slide carousel, a video player, a multiple choice quiz, pan and zoom image maps…

Textbooks represent a quantum leap up in complexity. Transition to eBook distribution began slowly with the proprietary formats but would really gain momentum with the release of the ePub3 specification.  All of the functionality seen to date, audio/video, widgets, animation formed the base of ePub3. It also brings brings content streaming, multi-lingual, data analytics, rich metadata, inter-ePub links and more.

In the next post, I will begin to delve deeper into ePub3 and xAPI