Information Today
Volume 17, Issue 10 • November 2000
Open eBook Forum Launches Standards Initiatives

The Open eBook Forum (OeBF), the international trade organization for e-publishing, has announced a framework and two initiatives to further accelerate the growth of the e-publishing marketplace. The organization is launching a standards-coordination initiative to bring together standards-development activities in the e-book and e-publishing arenas. Additionally, the OeBF announced its new requirements-gathering and -harmonizing initiative, part of its strategy for providing continued leadership in critical areas like digital rights management (DRM).

At its quarterly Work Summit, held in association with eBook 2000 in Washington, DC, in September and hosted by the National Information Standards Organization (NISO) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the OeBF unveiled a critical component of both of these initiatives. The document, “A Framework for the Epublishing Ecology,” was released for public comment and contains an overview, reference model, and glossary to facilitate ongoing standards work in DRM and other areas of e-publishing. The framework is available from the Open eBook Forum’s Web site at

“We expect these initiatives and our framework to provide measurable standards to lead DRM and other electronic publishing initiatives and solutions to meet the needs of authors, publishers, libraries, end-users, and others invested in the e-book market,” said David Ornstein, president of the Open eBook Forum.

“With this framework, the OeBF has established the baseline of a common vocabulary,” said Bob Bolick, vice president and director of new-business development at McGraw-Hill’s Professional Book Group. “We look forward to using this tool to work toward a digital rights management world in which we can move e-books from author to reader with supreme ease and make e-books a daily feature of our lives.”

A major component of the standards-coordination initiative will be quarterly workshops at which representatives of related standards bodies will meet to coordinate development activities. Early invitees include representatives from the Digital Audio-based Information System (DAISY) initiative, the Electronic Book Exchange (EBX) Working Group, the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) Consortium, NISO, W3C, DocBook, the International Publisher’s Association, MPEG, the U.S. Copyright Office, the Association of American Publishers, the international DOI foundation, EDItEUR, and others.

Multiple, focused, standards-development activities are underway in the e-book and e-publishing world. Further, as e-books move from being text-based to including multimedia elements, such as synchronized audio and video, seemingly unrelated standards-development activities in the multimedia arena become important to e-publishing. The technical coordination workshops will provide a forum for coordination and a liaison between these standards efforts.

“Over the past few months, we’ve been hearing concerns about fragmentation in the e-book standards world,” said Ornstein. “Bringing all the parties together has always been a central goal for the OeBF, and we think that standards coordination and cooperation are critical for the development of the e-book market we all envision. We’re very excited to be able to provide a technically focused, policy-neutral meeting ground with these workshops, and we look forward to broad participation.”

“As the OeBF begins work on the next version of its Publication Structure Specification, coordination with other standards activities will be critical,” said Steve DeRose, North American editor of the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) Consortium. “The next major version of the Publication Structure might draw on the work of the TEI, for instance, in order to ensure that it is aligned with emerging trends in the digital library and academic publishing communities.”

A planning meeting for the coordination workshops was scheduled for this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair in Germany. These workshops will be hosted by the OeBF and held at least quarterly at the OeBF’s Quarterly Work Summits, including Summit2 (scheduled for Denver the week of December 4, 2000) and Summit3 (to be held in Paris in conjunction with the Paris Book Fair on March 16–21, 2001).

At the Work Summit in September, the OeBF also announced that it would continue its DRM efforts by gathering and harmonizing the requirements needed for the successful growth of the e-publishing marketplace. As part of OeBF’s new efforts and working groups, all industry stakeholders (authors, publishers, technology providers, services providers, booksellers, and consumers) will be invited to participate in a unified requirements-gathering process.

“The Electronic Book Exchange (EBX) Working Group sees the OeBF’s initiatives as a positive development for e-publishing. We are pleased to work with the OeBF in these activities to help ensure that our specification is developed to meet the requirements of a broad constituency,” said EBX vice chair Steve Mooney.

“If the publishing industry is to realize the full potential of electronic distribution of information and knowledge, all participants need to be talking the same language,” said Walter Bruce, vice president and publisher for IDG Books Worldwide. “The framework document provides an excellent foundation that I believe will enable us to begin to make real progress toward establishing an industry standard for digital rights management. Over the past year or so our company, a leading print publisher, has been busily transforming itself into a truly media-neutral publisher. Development of industry standards analogous to the widely acclaimed OeB [Open eBook] publication structure specification is critical to the success of the emerging e-publishing industry.”

The Open eBook Forum is an international, nonprofit trade organization with over 100 members. Its mission is to promote the development of a thriving e-book market.

Source: Open eBook Forum, David Ornstein, 415/290-0530; E-mail:;

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