Bande dessinée • Comics • Manga • Graphic novel • Webtoons • Turbomedia • Motion comics • Parallax strip • Blog BD ANTHOLOGY • Webcomics • Cartoon • Strip • Digital Fanzine • Graphzine • Fumetti • Animated comics • Still Motion art • Visual narrative • …

Value proposition

An artistic experience results from a tension between the expressivity of a publishing format and the capabilities of authoring and reading systems.

We are facing a chicken and egg problem: for next-gen BD / comics / manga to exist in the publishing industry, it is necessary for reading systems to support such content. But for a reading engine to be developed, content is needed and to develop such content without high development costs for publishers, authoring tools are needed. In France and Belgium, authors have experimented for a long time (turbomedia was born in France) without being able to live from their digital activity. Meanwhile, the US digital comics market is dominated by a proprietary format and webtoons, one of the main markets for digital natives, is completely out of the EPUB ecosystem.
The only solution is a progressive and simultaneous move of all players in the chain!

The contributions of the WG will therefore cover several fields:

  • Offer to authors/artists/publishers the largest artistic control of user experience, when creating digital visual narratives.
  • Prototype ideas and test the market using the Readium-2 open-source reading engine.
  • Propose new functionalities for Web Publications and EPUB 4, currently under study by the W3C Publishing WG.
  • Create documents / videos for a non technical audience (authors/publishers), a marketing effort needed to foster implementations and market success.

Main Objectives

The number of subjects may be reduced as work progresses, but here are the facets of the problem that need to be addressed:

In scope

  • Test evolutions to EPUB and Readium, which offer both a rich visual experience and keep the reader in the strict linearity of the work.
  • Solve the issue of on-going stories , i.e. enable completing a publication by downloading additional chapters / episodes / renditions; open the market to new kinds of commercial offers.
  • Reconsider the « multiple renditions » specification and check it versus concrete use cases (multilingual manga, responsive comics panel, artist’s work steps, etc.).

Out of scope

  • Interactivity (hyperlinking, animations, in-page user interactions …) is of course a vector of artistic expression but has already been addressed in EPUB 3.
  • Typesetting is also a point of great attention for authors / illustrators / book designers but this has to be solved on a lower technical level (i.e. CSS and browsers).

Description of the effort

A. Enabling a visually rich experience in the linearity of reading

To read a book is to follow the thoughts/story of an author and interactivity, hyperlinking and multimedia (animation, sound, video, image) tend to distract the reader from the path proposed by the author, unless these are constrained.

The objective proposed here is to offer to readers a rich experience in the strict linearity of the work. User actions mostly allow for a progression in the narrative; examples are:

  • Scrolling and parallax/animation in scroll.
  • Transition/animation between pages to control a sequential artistic expression.
  • New rules for audio addition to ebooks and especially visual narratives.
  • Enriched guided navigation in a page.

The use of a programming language (e.g. javascript) should be avoided as much as possible and the expression should therefore be mostly declarative.

Some effects will be constrained by the ergonomic capabilities of the reading system: it is therefore necessary to describe how certain effects will behave in a degraded context.
(e-Ink device with no scrolling capabilities, tactic animation…)

B. Allowing on-going stories

The on-going stories use case (soap, webtoons, blog BD…) fits fully into the evolution of EPUB 4 and Readium 2, where the frontier between download and streaming is fading. An on-going story based on EPUB relies on a reading engine able to retrieve a new chapter / episode when it is online and a new resource is available.

A very important work needs to be done on the metadata side. Since on-going stories and associated economic models are very diverse, it is advisable to gather a maximum number of use cases from all over the world (especially on the BD / Comics / Manga side in Korea, Japan, US, Italy and France) and take into account the economic models attached to such practice (e.g. free download, pay to download).

C. Improving multiple renditions

Alternative content (e.g. reflow + fxl, color + b&w, multilingual content) are use cases that are expressed in the current specification but which may receive improvements before becoming really usable.

An important work needs to be done on the metadata side. The current model may be simplified, to see a broader adoption.

D. Other small contributions

In the case of illustrated e-books, a need regularly emerges from authors, which is to propose an alternative « creative summary » to the list of chapters.

Also in the spirit of controlling the visual experience, a work on listing resources and metadata that can be exploited optionally by the reading system must be established. It includes, but is not limited to, background / logo titles / chapters images…

Interoperability & Accessibility

Because controlling the artistic experience is the most important consideration, it can have an impact on interoperability and accessibility. The WG will:

Work on the metadata (and icons) required to describe the type of publication, interoperability and accessibility levels, and measure their impact on the distribution of the publication.

Study improvements to be made in terms of alternative text associated with complex images and to study how to make the notion of transition, scroll… also accessible.

Study enhancements to the EPUB Test Suite, a set of ‘ACID type’ tests which will encourage reading system developers to make their solution compatible with the new specification.

Who is invited to the working group?

Members of EDRLab are invited to join the Working Group and work on proposals for the W3C and Readium. Non-members may be invited to help on gathering requirements and use-cases, or authoring prototype content.

The focus of this working group is on solving “artistic first” considerations: authors and BD / Comics / Manga publishers are warmly encouraged to participate despite some technical phases of work. Developing content as proof of concept is essential here!

Leading or independent companies working on authoring tools, developers of reading systems are logically concerned by the working group.

Due to the work on metadata, distributors, bibliographic databases, booksellers and public libraries are also invited to participate. The issue of on-going stories will not be solved without them.

And of course we’re open to any initiative we’ve not seen: please contact us at contact@edrlab.org

Authors:
Samuel Petit (Actialuna), WG chair
Laurent Le Meur, CTO EDRLab

1 Comment
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