Another EPUB Win?

The eBook format wars seem to have lost a major player when Sharp announced it was discontinuing its Galapagos tablet, which used their homegrown XMDF format. This reversal has caused at least one writer to speculate it will drive Japanese publishers and device makers toward EPUB3.

The historical blocker for EPUB in Japan was its anemic support of Japanese typesetting standards, including arcane character sets and vertical type. Sharp built XMDF to address those issues. But now, according to Hiroki Kamata, writing in the Ebook 2.0 Forum:

EPUB3 now adequately supports Japanese typesetting rules (much of the work accomplished by a team of Japanese engineers) and is also usable with web browsers supporting HTML5, as well as the Japanese typesetting extension already implemented by Appleā€™s Safari.

While the Japanese market is a tough one to crack by any measure, the prospect that EPUB will become viable in yet another market helps streamline the global eBook conversion process. More importantly, it can help stave off platform fragmentation. We can live with two eBook formats. Three is one road too many, even for a unique market like Japan.