What is the Open eBook Forum (OEBF)?

The OEBF is a non-profit organization whose goal is to further creation and use of electronic books. To that end, it creates technical standards for eBook content and develops marketing campaigns and business development opportunities aimed at eBook promotion. Its members include reader manufacturers, publishers, government organizations, librarians, computer hardware and software specialists, and text markup specialists.

OEBF membership is open to individuals and all types of organizations, though individuals are barred from Principal Membership. Annual dues are $1000 per year for Associate Members and $5000 per year for Principal Members; various sponsorship packages are available also. The OEBF website describes membership benefits.

What is the Open eBook Publication Structure (OEBPS)?

The Open eBook Publication Structure provides a set of rules for coding eBook data, and for making reading systems that present coded eBook data appropriately to human readers. The specification is maintained by the Publication Structure Working Group, part of the Open eBook Forum. It is not owned, written, or controlled by any one person or company, and is open to anyone’s use.

The OEBPS currently consists of two XML DTDs (one for Basic OEBPS Documents, and one for the OEBPS package file), a list of allowed Cascading Stylesheet Specification (CSS) mechanisms, a list of character entities representing special characters that readers must display correctly in order to be OEBPS-conformant, and an explanation of coding practice and conformance requirements.

Where do I find the OEBPS?

The OEBPS is available for download in several different formats from the Open eBook Forum’s website.

What doesn’t the OEBPS do? Is the OEBF addressing these issues?

Just as with print, electronic publication consists of many complex and interrelated processes and problems. The OEBPS addresses one part of the picture, but by no means all of it.

Fortunately, the Open eBook Forum has started several working groups and other initiatives in areas the OEBPS does not address. These areas include:

Some other perceived omissions from the OEBPS are in fact quite intentional. For example, the OEBPS says nothing about how an OEBPS Publication is to be delivered to the human reader. This essential task can be accomplished in many equally functional and useful ways. Demanding one delivery mode would eliminate the other possibilities. Worse, if the delivery mode chosen became outdated or proved not to be the best solution, the entire OEBPS-based eBook industry would suffer.

Another perceived missing element in the OEBPS is a binary file format for delivery. See the section on OEBPS reading systems for why the OEBPS does not specify such a format.

In short, the OEBF has to be careful about the extent of its standards efforts. Over-standardization can be as much a danger to a flourishing industry as having no standards at all.