A few days ago I had the pleasure of being invited up to Stockholm to sit with a bunch of like minded people and talk about eBooks – specifically the ePub format. This was a very eye-opening experience indeed.
I was invited to Sweden by Publit, a company who have set themselves the task of making all the Swedish out-of-print books available as PoD (Print on Demand) titles. Considering that 95% of all Swedish books ever in existence are now out of print, this is a very worthy project, if perhaps somewhat daunting. Although Publit’s main business is PoD, they are making use of this opportunity to also provide these titles as ePub eBooks.
During my time in Sweden we discussed the many different areas of the eBook world, including DRM (of course), the processes involved in going from scanned document (TIFF/PDF/DOC) to an eBook Master format and onto ePub creation itself.
Now, the people at Publit are a group of very talented individuals with plenty of technical knowledge, yet there were aspects of ePub which has left them somewhat perplexed. There were two main points which I found interesting and have heard before around the web so I thought I would share them here.
“What flavours of ePub exist?” There is only one flavour of ePub, although it does currently support two different core formats; XHTML and DTBook (Daisy Talking Book). I won’t go further into what makes an ePub here as Jon Noring has already written an excellent article over at Teleread.org; ePub Demystified.
They were also asking if I thought “the next release of ePub would have more advanced features?” (meaning video and Flash media). The answer to this question is that video and Flash, along with audio, are already possible.
The ePub standard (OPS) can already use these types of media because the standard is built upon XHTML, a standard that already supports advanced media. The problem arises not from ePub but from the reading systems’ ability to render these advanced features.
ePub can do more than most people think; the main restriction is the reading system not the format.
I guess the question should be, when will the reading systems allow us to use more advanced media.
We also had a number of discussions on Master Formats (TEI, DTBook, DocBook, etc.) and which is the best to go for. That’s a difficult question but one thing that ties in with my recent thoughts is the question as to whether we can use the native DTBook format not only as the end user ePub format, but also as the eBook master. I will be looking into this further myself but if anyone has any thoughts on the use of DTBook then please share.