Microsoft’s Call for an Open eBook Standard Sees Major Milestone As Draft Specification Is Submitted for Final Approval

NEW YORK, May 25, 1999 — Seven months after Microsoft Corp. proposed the Open eBook standard for the emerging electronic book industry, the Open eBook Authoring Group has presented a draft recommendation of the standard.

The standard, based on the HTML and Extensible Markup Language (XML) specifications that define the World Wide Web, outlines the format for books and other traditionally printed material so that they can be converted from print to digital form. The Open eBook standard version 1.0 was presented Monday by its authors to more than 50 representatives of the broader Open eBook organization. The organization includes major publishers, eBook pioneers, and software and hardware manufacturers, as well as book distributors and retailers.

“With the completion of the Open eBook standard, customers will be able to enjoy even more electronic content,”
said Steve Riggio, vice chairman of Barnes & Noble Inc.
“This is a big win for the eBook industry and, most important, a big win for customers.”

The Open eBook initiative was proposed in October 1998 by Microsoft Vice President for Emerging Technology Dick Brass in his keynote speech at the world’s first eBook conference in Gaithersburg, Md. At the conference, sponsored by the National Institutes of Standards and Technologies (NIST), Brass argued for an open, nonproprietary standard for eBooks.

“It was critical for the success of the electronic book industry to unite and provide publishers and consumers with a common standard to which all eBooks could be formatted,”
Brass said. He proposed that the eBook pioneers put aside their proprietary interests to develop an open specification that would benefit the entire eBook industry and prevent a damaging standards war that would hurt consumers.
“Without a common standard, publishers would have to format eBook titles separately for each electronic device and the number of titles available for any device would be small,”
Brass continued.
“This would be a recipe for disaster.”

After Brass’
“call to action,”
conference attendees gathered in a hotel coffee shop to form the Open eBook group and begin collaboration on the standard. In the months that followed, Microsoft worked with eBook pioneers NuvoMedia Inc. and SoftBook Press to develop an early draft of the specification. At the next meeting of Open eBook members in January 1999, in San Francisco, the direction that had been established by the three companies was approved and an Open eBook Authoring Group was formed to continue developing the specification. The group held weekly conference calls and collaborated through lively e-mail discussions. This effort culminated in a two-day
“writing party”
in San Francisco this month to propel the specification toward a final version.

The meeting yesterday saw a major milestone when the Authoring Group presented a draft recommendation to the Open eBook members gathered in New York City. After a period during which feedback on the specification will be encouraged, members are expected to vote to approve a final version 1.0 standard this summer.

“I am thrilled by the enthusiasm, progress and spirit of cooperation that has brought the Open eBook Authoring Group to this point, and proud of the contribution of many Microsoft employees to this effort,”
Brass said.
“Ultimately, the hard work of the Open eBook Authoring Group and the entire body of Open eBook members will benefit consumers who will enjoy a wide selection of electronic titles.”

Microsoft developer Jerry Dunietz was co-author of the January draft of the specification and an active contributor to subsequent versions. Dunietz, a long-time Microsoft veteran, brought his extensive development experience to the Authoring Group’s consideration of existing standards and of engineering implementation requirements.

“Standards efforts are not easy because there are many competing interests and ideas,”
Dunietz said.
“However, in this case, the various pioneers and participants were able to work together because we could see a common benefit. More important, we could imagine a world of electronic publishing in which books are cheaper and more widely available; in which there are more authors and more literacy; in which books never go out of print; and in which an entire library fits in the palm of your hand.”

Microsoft Group Program Manager Jeff Alger and Microsoft Program Manager Kate Hughes also contributed to both the evolution of the standard and to Authoring Group logistics.
“Jeff and Kate worked well with the various members of the Authoring Group, as well as the entire Open eBook organization,”
Brass said.
“Their efforts were both helpful and diplomatic, allowing everyone in the Open eBook effort to work together.”

Microsoft Marketing Manager Anne Schott created the Open eBook Web site, which serves as a central and up-to-date source of information on the initiative and its status.
“With so much interest generated by the Open eBook effort – both in the United States and around the world – it was important to have an easily accessible location for the organization’s status and contact information,”
Schott said.

Those interested in learning more about the Open eBook initiative or viewing the specification should visit the Open eBook Web site at .

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