Announcing the Readium Foundation and the Readium EPUB 3 SDK Project

As you may already know, today marks the public announcement of the Readium Foundation and the Readium EPUB 3 SDK project. Bluefire has made a big investment in this initiative, supplying executive leadership, development resources, and funding. We want to share our thoughts on why the work we’re doing as part of the Readium Foundation is so important—both to the future of Bluefire and to the future of digital publishing.

EPUB 3 is the expression of a dream. It embodies the publishing industry’s hopes for rich, interactive books of all kinds that are widely distributed and easily read on a broad range of PCs and mobile devices. But EPUB 3 will remain a dream without a robust, consistent rendering experience that works across a multitude of vendor and device platforms. As Bluefire progressed in its independent development of our EPUB 3 renderer it became clear to us that the EPUB 3 spec is open to a considerable amount of interpretation—and that developing a great EPUB 3 rendering engine would require substantial ongoing investment. So we started talking to and meeting with other interested industry players. What evolved was a small working group and a new dream: a collaborative project focused on the development of a robust, open source EPUB 3 rendering engine that each of us, and others in the industry, could use as the foundation for commercial-grade reading systems. The dream is now on its way to becoming a reality.

Publishers need to know that the books they release look great and function as intended no matter which reading application is being used—a Bluefire-powered application or an app from a developer or retailer from anywhere around the world. It’s clear that critical mass matters in ebook technologies. The challenge for the incredibly diverse range of digital publishers and retailers is achieving critical mass. Working together is a great start. We don’t expect the Readium open source engine to be a silver bullet, and it is unrealistic to think that every ebook platform in the world will utilize this engine. However, we do believe that the use of a common, shared rendering engine across a wide spectrum of large and small companies will be an important step forward—similar to the manner in which Webkit has facilitated consistency in HTML5 rendering across browsers, even in those that don’t utilize Webkit.

Bluefire has worked along-side the other initial founders of the Readium Foundation to bring this initiative to life. We will be working even harder moving forward to bring it to fruition. We will also be integrating the Readium EPUB 3 SDK with the Adobe Reader Mobile SDK so that our publisher, retail and library customers can use Bluefire-powered apps to distribute EPUB 3 content that leverages the industry-standard Adobe Content Server rights management system.

We know that many of you are hungry for details about when we will be rolling out our next generation apps, features, and pricing. We will share this information as the development effort progresses in the months ahead. Today, we’re celebrating: our industry has come together in an unprecedented way to help realize a vision of the future that creates and sustains opportunity for all—especially for readers.

– Micah