At present, there is no common standard used by producers and manufacturers. As a result, customers can't read a Palm e-book on a Microsoft Reader, noted Nick Bogaty, executive director of the IDPF. If companies adopt the new standards, not only will customers be able to read e-books on different devices, but e-books will be cheaper and easier to produce, which should lead to more titles being available, said Bogaty. "We're looking to create the MP3 for e-books," Bogaty said about the goal of attaining file flexibility.
Two working groups have been created to establish the new specifications. The two groups are the Unified OEBPS Container Format Working Group and the OEBPS Working Group
The Container Format working group is set to release a container format to allow publishers to release only a single standard file into their sales and distribution channels instead of the multiple proprietary files that they currently produce. The container format is expected to be submitted to the IDPF for approval in the next several weeks.A draft specification is publicly available here.
In the second specification, the OEBPS Working Group is developing the next generation of OEBPS to improve this XML-based standard as both a production and a final delivery format for digital publications.The effort will focus on detailed control of content rendering, navigation and accessibility, and alignment with other standards efforts. It could be ready by year end.
For readers an ebook standard would make life much easier. If ebook publishers were all use the same ebook software it wouldn't matter which ebook reader or ebook reading device you owned -- you would be able to read any ebook you purchased on any ebook reader. However, software companies are often reluctant to accept a standard. The browser wars and the operating system battles are one of many examples where a software standard is not used. Hopefully, things will be different in the ebook industry. You can read more about ebooks here.