Technology is advancing at a rapid pace that is sometimes hard to follow. First generation of digital books was text only and was good enough for fiction books or books that contained only text. This is similar to websites that in the beginning contained mainly text and few pictures.
Publishers today are looking to put more and more media types in digital books, more images, sound, animation mathematical formulas etc. This created the need to a new standard of digital books. The IDPF that created the EPUB standard published the EPUB3 standard. Although it has many similarities and is somewhat backword compatible to the previous EPUB2 standard, it is a completly new standard.
What is so special about this standard?
- Uses HTML5 with better support for multimedia
- Uses CSS3 for advanced graphical layout and design
- Supports SVG (Scaleable Vector Graphics) to create graphics that can better adapt to different screen sizes.
- Supports MathML for mathematical formulas
- Supports Media Overlay to enable talking books and assistive technology
Better supports for right to left languages such as Hebrew Arabic and Japanese (top to bottom and right to left)
This is only the highlights, the inner structure of the standard is much more advanced then the previous one.
The new standard was approved by the IDPF in October 2011 that means about a year before this article is written. However although the standard is about a year old, most readers, both software only and hardware based reader, still does not fully support the standard.