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IDEAlliance White Paper Addresses New Publishing Ecosystem of Digital Magazines (Commentary by Cary Sherburne)

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Press release from the issuing company

Alexandria, Virginia – IDEAlliance®, a leading industry association for print and digital media, and an active developer of best practices and open specifications, has released an industry white paper, OpenEFT: What It Is and Why It Matters, explaining the IDEAlliance open specification that addresses the publishing ecosystem that typifies today’s digital magazines. The introduction of touch-based smartphones and tablets–combined with the rise of Internet-centric content, and a corresponding decline in print, has disrupted publishing supply chains. With this disruption, the initial costs of operating effective workflows are high, and the potential for revenue is elusive. The 15-page white paper, authored by John Parsons, Principal of IntuIdeas LLC, examines how publishers of all sizes can cope with present technologies and move towards a better, more profitable technology mix. The white paper is available for download, HERE.

“In response to queries from across the industry about OpenEFT, the open specification magazine publishing format posted for industry use in September 2013, IDEAlliance developed this white paper to provide the industry with a knowledgeable perspective on what OpenEFT is and where it fits within the new publishing landscape,” said David Steinhardt, President and CEO of IDEAlliance.

As tablet and smartphone apps have increased in importance, magazine publishers have expressed a desire for a truly open interoperability specification. Magazines are a complex combination of content, design, reader experience, and economic models–none of which can be completely satisfied by a single proprietary format or device. For publishers dealing with the burdens of ever-multiplying and changing mobile devices, open standards offer a greater economic benefit, providing businesses and consumers with much greater freedom of choice.

The white paper, OpenEFT: What It Is and Why It Matters, along with additional instructional and educational resources about the OpenEFT specification, can be found on the IDEAlliance website at www.idealliance.org/specifications/openeft. For more information, contact Dianne Kennedy, Vice President of Digital and Emerging Technologies, IDEAlliance, at dkennedy@idealliance.org or at 630.941.8197. 

Commentary by Cary Sherburne

Publishing Executive magazine published an interesting article on this topic that is worth reading, along with the IDEAlliance white paper which can be downloaded here.

I had the opportunity to speak with both Lynly Schambers, Adobe’s Group Product Marketing Manager for DPS, and Dianne Kennedy, IDEAlliance’s VP of Emerging Technologies, to better understand the genesis of OpenEFT, its relationship if any to Adobe’s .folio, and Adobe’s position on this standard which competes with Adobe’s .folio specification.

Normally, it takes standards bodies quite some time to gain public comment and actually publish a standard, and it was quite surprising how IDEAlliance was able to fast-track this effort for OpenEFT, largely through Kennedy’s diligent efforts.  She indicates that the first of three public comment periods for the specification opened June 5th, 2013, and generated more than 50 comments as well as participation from around the world, with the standard being published in September.

IDEAlliance is also establishing an OpenEFT Partners group for OpenEFT developers with its first meeting scheduled for Paris in May, with a New York meeting scheduled for June.  Implementations are already starting to be shown in the marketplace.

“I have been particularly impressed with Aquafadas,” Kennedy said. “Their full-featured Open EFT visual editor based on Adobe InDesign was demonstrated for our OpenEFT Working Group at the end of last year. Aquafadas, recently acquired by Kobo, is a French technology company that is just starting to break into the U.S. market and well worth keeping an eye on. They already have a significant presence in the eBook market, and they have some of the most advanced off-the-shelf interactive capabilities for mobile that I have seen.  For example, they offer numerous different game types you can use to enhance your mobile publishing app.  They will develop specific game types for clients, and then those end up in the general software release. This sort of community-driven innovation is a key differentiator between what is happening with OpenEFT and Adobe’s .folio for DPS.”

Adobe obviously has a rich history in the printing and publishing industry as a leading technology company, and has always been supportive of and participated in standards bodies. As a member of IDEAlliance, Adobe attended public briefing sessions and had full access to each public draft throughout the development process. That being said, there is no indication that Adobe will be abandoning .folio in favor of OpenEFT anytime soon. Many of the major magazine publishers have adopted DPS as their platform of choice. According to Schambers, “We are making the .folio stack available to anyone who agrees to the .folio specific license which then provides the licensee access to information required to build a viewer that supports .folio. Language in the license requires that any marketplace that accepts the agreement will promote and provide equal purchase access to content or apps built according to the folio file specification within the marketplace.  Specific language within the license agreement is as follows: “in connection with or in relation to a Marketplace and if Adobe supports your Marketplace with its DPS service, then (a) you will provide Content or App generated by or delivered using DPS with equal and non-discriminatory access to such Marketplace and (b) you will not discriminate against any product or content developed using DPS in your acceptance or promotion practices.”  

According to Kennedy, Adobe has also indicated that the company has no issue with developers converting .folio files to other formats, adding, “IDEAlliance is in the process of developing guidelines for these types of conversions.”

In stating Adobe’s position, Schambers says, “As a partner to the industry, we are continuing to evolve the .folio specification.  If there is an organization that owns the specification and continues to enhance it based on feedback from customers, you can be assured that someone is accountable and fully invested in making sure it evolves to what the marketplace needs in the future.”

Schambers also points out that in addition to most of the major magazine publishers, Adobe is seeing significant uptake of DPS in the corporate world for publication of corporate apps contributing to the significant momentum behind the DPS format. Quark, on the other hand, recently acquired App Studio and is also targeting the corporate publications market.

Kennedy has no argument with Adobe’s position, but says, “There are many small to mid-sized publishers who would like to play in the mobile app space but can’t afford DPS.  OpenEFT is an alternative for them.  Many of those publishers and a number of developers were using Woodwing’s Open Format for Interactive Publications (OFIP), and were quite disconcerted when that was pulled from the marketplace due to an agreement between Woodwing and Adobe.  That’s really what generated the need for something like OpenEFT and the desire to get the standard published as quickly as possible.”

It will be quite interesting to watch this potential “battle of the standards” unfold between .folio, OpenEFT and EPUB 3, as well as others that might surface. Our readers will remember that both PostScript and PDF were once controlled by Adobe but eventually made their way into ISO standards.  It is early in the game for digital magazine publishing, but we do expect to see the market evolve quickly, and we will continue to follow it.

Printing companies should be doing the same.  Even if your company is not a “magazine printer,” per se, there are huge opportunities for magazine-like publications, as well as for catalogs and corporate publications of all types, to create interactive digital versions.  If you are not considering adding this capability to your repertoire, you may be missing a huge opportunity.



By David L. Zwang on May 01, 2014

The efforts of Dianne and IDEAlliance in this project has been amazing. And while I hope that this will gain traction in the market place, as a student of history (what happens when you get older...), Adobe still holds most of the cards. It is dejavu all over again as Yogi said...

If we look back on Postscript, Type1 fonts, PDF, we can see and probably anticipate how this may play out. Adobe sees some traction, they start to open their format. If you recall this has already started with .foilo, just as it did with the previous formats. First they release the format documentation with some licensing restrictions, then when they really start to feel the pressure they open it completely. In the interim they are building a creation and distribution infrastructure that will rely on the format, making the competing formats obsolete.

While I hope this isn't the fate of OpenEFT, I think I have seen this movie before...


By Cary Sherburne on May 03, 2014

I was thinking the same thing, David. In this case, if Adobe does feel the pressure and .folio actually becomes the dominant standard rather than a specification, Adobe probably still has more benefit than they did with PostScript and PDF, since there is the whole data analytics infrastructure that goes along with this, and they have a significant head start there. Plus integration with Marketing Cloud. So there is an entire ecosystem there, which was not there in the same way with PDF and PostScript.


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