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The new flexibility in metadata for EPUB 3 is a strength. Instead of locking down the set of permitted metadata schemes and schemas (like EPUB), it allows us to use a range of definitions. While this flexibility comes with some dangers (see the discussion in the comments here about what to do when there isn’t yet a good external definition), I’m generally not worried about giving the masses power tools (most folks are smarter than you think).

In particular, I’ve always been annoyed that in EPUB’s metadata I could not give proper, specific credit to the many people that make a contribution to a title, even if they are not on the cover. Here’s the cover of Responsive Web Design:

cover of Responsive Web Design

but here’s the set of contributors in the EPUB’s metadata:

<dc:creator opf:file-as="Marcotte, Ethan">Ethan Marcotte</dc:creator>
<dc:contributor opf:file-as="Zeldman, Jeffrey" 
                opf:role="pbl">Jeffrey Zeldman</dc:contributor>    
<dc:contributor opf:file-as="Santa Maria, Jason" 
                opf:role="bkd">Jason Santa Maria</dc:contributor>        
<dc:contributor opf:file-as="Brown, Mandy" 
                opf:role="edt">Mandy Brown</dc:contributor>
<dc:contributor opf:file-as="Cederholm, Dan" 
                opf:role="edt">Dan Cederholm</dc:contributor>
<dc:contributor opf:file-as="Stevens, Krista" 
                opf:role="edt">Krista Stevens</dc:contributor>
<dc:contributor opf:file-as="Egan, Neil" 
                opf:role="cmt">Neil Egan</dc:contributor>
<dc:contributor opf:role="mrk">Threepress Consulting Inc.</dc:contributor>

As you can see, there are a lot of people credited in the metadata, and we’ve credited each one as a Dublin Core contributor with a reference to a MARC Relator code. Specifying these contributors using these external definitions (both of which have huge amounts of both consensus and uptake behind them) means that a lot of software can understand it mechanically (including software and people outside of the US or English-speaking world, with some limitations). However, consensus sometimes leaves us impoverished: in this case there are three people all labeled as Editor, but the copyright page from the book itself shows us their true roles:

Publisher: Jeffrey Zeldman
Designer: Jason Santa Maria
Editor: Mandy Brown
Technical Editor: Dan Cederholm
Copyeditor: Krista Stevens
Compositor: Neil Egan

With the ability in EPUB 3 to reference a different source for these editor definitions, we can actually differentiate Dan Cederholm’s role as Technical Editor and Krista Stevens’ as Copy Editor:

<meta property="dcterms:contributor" 
      id="technicaleditor">Dan Cederholm</meta>
<meta about="#technicaleditor" 
      property="file-as">Cederholm, Dan</meta> 
<meta about="#technicaleditor" 
      property="role" 
      id="technicaleditor-role">technicaleditor</meta>
<meta about="#technicaleditor-role" 
      property="scheme" 
      datatype="xsd:anyURI">http://www.docbook.org/xml/5.0/rng/docbook.rng</meta>

<meta property="dcterms:contributor" 
      id="copyeditor">Krista Stevens</meta>
<meta about="#copyeditor" 
      property="file-as">Stevens, Krista</meta> 
<meta about="#copyeditor" 
      property="role" 
      id="copyeditor-role">copyeditor</meta>
<meta about="#copyeditor-role" 
      property="scheme" 
      datatype="xsd:anyURI">http://www.docbook.org/xml/5.0/rng/docbook.rng</meta>

In the above example, we’ve described a few different things about these folks using the new EPUB 3 metadata syntax. First, we’ve referred to them as a contributor:

<meta property="dcterms:contributor" 
      id="technicaleditor">Dan Cederholm</meta>

Next, we’ve specified how to sort their names with a file-as property:

<meta about="#technicaleditor" 
      property="file-as">Cederholm, Dan</meta> 

Finally, we’ve accomplished our goal of saying that Dan Cederholm’s contribution role was as a Technical Editor, as defined by DocBook 5.0:

<meta about="#technicaleditor" 
      property="role" 
      id="technicaleditor-role">technicaleditor</meta>
<meta about="#technicaleditor-role" 
      property="scheme" 
      datatype="xsd:anyURI">http://www.docbook.org/xml/5.0/rng/docbook.rng</meta>

For some reason, Copy Editors and Technical Editors have long been defined by DocBook, but are omitted from the ONIX Contributor codes, the MARC Relator codes, the PRISM codes, the Z39.86-201x Structural Semantics Vocabulary and every other metadata standard I could find.


Note/Warning: If you were going to make an EPUB 3 title today, you’d probably include both the “old” style EPUB metadata for these contributors AND the new EPUB 3 metadata (with the prefer attribute for each set). This would give you the benefit of both backward-compatibility with existing EPUB reading systems and better metadata for the future when EPUB 3 reading systems are more commonplace. Eventually you may just need the EPUB 3 version, and that’s the world I’m talking about here (partially as a small attempt to get us there faster).

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4 Responses to “Copy Editors in EPUB 3”

  1. bowerbird

    keith, i’m terribly confused by your “explanation”.

    i could ask a bunch of questions that might help me
    — and a whole bunch of other people — understand
    what you are saying a lot better, _if_ you would be
    interested in providing us with some clear answers.

    so let me ask that question first: are you interested?

    if so, great.

    if not, fine, as i’m sure i can ignore this, since there is
    little evidence from recent history that any of the big
    reader-programs will be supporting .epub3 for years.

    none of them is particularly good at epub2, even now,
    and — as far as i can tell — adobe’s digital editions app
    (as one exemplar) hasn’t been updated in over a year.

  2. Waldo Jaquith

    Very helpful, Keith—this is one more bit of the new spec that I won’t have to study up on myself. :) I appreciate it!

    • Keith Fahlgren

      @Warren: The scheme property is either some text (xsd:string) or a URL to an external definition (xsd:anyURI). Specifically, the scheme:

      identifies the formal system used to express the value of the associated property, or the code list or other identification system from which it is drawn.

      That means that you could potentially reference any external “system” to define a specific role. In practice, the MARC Relators provide most of the common values: