Maps and More: Visual Annotation of EPUB books

My recent reading list included several books which shared the same feature: there was a lot of historical geography inside. Not that the historical geography was the subject of any of them, but the series of unfamiliar and half-familiar place-names were long enough to get lost in. Still, though all of them were in this or that electronic format, the situation was no better than with paper books: either there were a few pictures with maps inserted as usual illustrations or, in worse cases, there were no maps at all. So, I want to talk about that a bit.

I will not discuss here the cases where a big and complex and detailed map is needed, such as in J.R.R.Tolkien’s books; It’s a serious matter as well, but it’s a different matter.

Maybe sooner or later a dedicated solution will appear in EPUB for custom maps. Sure, maps can be tolerably implemented using images, especially vector images; but so can formulas, and still we have MathML; history books (which need custom maps more often then not) are no worse then maths books after all. [Read more...]

Formatting a Tail for EPUB: Concrete Poetry and Varying Screen Width

Let us format a mouse’s tail.

There’s a good reason for it: Wikipedia says, and I see no reason to disbelieve, that exactly 150 years ago (July 4th, 1862) Lewis Carroll told the daughters of his colleague the first version of the story which we now know, in written form, as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. And this is, obviously, a good occasion for some formatting. There is an especially attractive piece in the named book: The Mouse’s Tale, shaped like a mouse’s tail. In my earlier article on formatting poetry for small screens, I mentioned this as an example of a poem too specific to be discussed in a general-purpose tutorial. Let me now repent and discuss it. Maybe the solution presented here will inspire some good ideas for other cases; or maybe it will just entertain someone, which isn’t so bad either.

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Formatting a Bilingual Poetry Collection in EPUB

One EPUB formatting question which I recently got interested in was: how to create a bilingual poetry book? That is, if you want to have a book of poetry in one language with line-by-line translation to another language (to aid a reader who knows the language of the original not too well), how do you do that? In a paper book, a good and well-tried solution is to have the texts in two languages placed on the left and the right page, facing each other. For an e-book, unfortunately, that approach cannot be reused; in particular because with an e-book you usually have only one page visible at a time. Splitting the page into two columns may be acceptable for short citations, but to format a whole poetic collection in this way would be inconvenient, for the columns are somewhat too narrow in this case even on bigger devices.

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Formatting Poetry for EPUB and Small Devices

What we are going to discuss here is how to format poetry in XHTML format (which underlies EPUB) so that it looks nice on smartphone screens – that is, when many or even all of the lines do not fit the screen width. In other words, our concern is how to break poetry lines nicely.

We do not discuss the poems which use non-standard formatting (Lewis Carrol’s Fury said to a mouse, shaped like a twisting tail, is a good example of what we are not talking about here); each poem of this sort is a separate formatting problem of artistic rather then technical nature. What we are going to consider are poetry pieces which use some sort of conventional formatting. The examples used further in this tutorial are from Shakespeare, from Horace, and, for a more specific formatting convention, from Beowulf.

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Creating EPUB ebooks with InDesign CS5: Training Course

During some research on using Adobe’s InDesign to create EPUB documents I came across this UK training course entitled, “Creating ePubs with InDesign”, which is being run by Highlander, one of the UK’s oldest and most successful training providers for the creative, web and marketing sectors.

They have two 1 Day sessions available in March and April (London, UK) and the course will cover everything from an introduction to EPUB documents, to setting up paragraph and character styles, to setting up metadata, to covering the processes involved in converting the exported EPUB files to other ebook formats – I presume the Amazon Kindle will be covered, but there is no mention of it on their website.

You’ll need to have previous experience with Adobe’s InDesign CS5 software and it’ll also be useful if you have some previous knowledge of HTML and CSS, although it’s not a requirement.

Here’s a (shortened) outline of the course details; [Read more...]

Library Books & eReaders

Now firmly placed as a mainstream item, ebooks have grown in popularity enough for many libraries to have started making digital versions from their catalogue available for lending.

The only thing you’ll need, except your eReader and an appropriate library card, is an Adobe ID (see below).

Most libraries that do provide ebooks are using the Adobe DRM protection system, which also means that most dedicated eReaders (Sony, Kobo, etc) and several eReader apps (Bluefire, OverDrive) can be used to read these DRM protected library ebooks.

I’m going to write three very short tutorials on how to get your library ebook onto your eReader/App. One of these three options should give you enough information even if yours is not actually covered here. [Read more...]

EPUB Creation: When Subject Matters

Whether you call them categories, subjects or genres, how you label your book is vitally important, perhaps especially so in these times of the digital marketplace. Being placed correctly in ebook stores and libraries can help in both regular searches and with discovery techniques such as “Similar Titles”.

The EPUB format has been developed to allow your work to be properly tagged with as many subjects as is necessary to describe the title correctly, allowing any ebook reading system to categorise your books appropriately.

If you’re creating your EPUB files manually then you’ll need to open the .OPF in your favourite text editor. Then inside the metadata tags you can add your subject tags.

Here are some example entries;

<dc:subject>Fiction</dc:subject>
<dc:subject>Comedy</dc:subject>
<dc:subject>Satire</dc:subject>

You can add as many subjects as you like, though it’s probably best to keep things focused–adding 50 tags will be just as bad as adding none.

The arbitrary keyword or phrase used inside the subject tag hasn’t been standardised by the IDPF, but I’d recommend using the BISAC, LoC (Library of Congress) or other standardised system.

At this point you probably think there’s nothing more to be said on the topic, however… [Read more...]

Experiment: Advancing EPUB with HTML5 Video’s

There are a number of people in the eBook world who really know their ePub format – luckily for us they enjoy sharing this knowledge among the community. One of these such people is Bookworm developer, Liza Daly.

There’s a lot of a misconception around the ePub format with the belief that it is not a very advance format to work with, this is certainly not the case. Being based on several web standards, ePub can do pretty much whatever those standards can do themselves.

In a recent blog post, Liza conducted an experiment to include a HTML5 <video> in an ePub file, which she accomplished by using out-of-island XML mark-up. Okay, so this is something of a hack, and very few ePub readers will render the content (although Bookworm does), but this just goes to show there’s some power in the ePub standard.

All you ePub developers out there might want to keep an eye on Lizas blog as she will be sharing lots of ePub tips throughout this month.

Marking Up Page Numbers in the EPUB NCX

Below is an example <pageList> markup (that is valid per the NCX DTD) which can be used to mark up page numbers within ePub documents.

Note that <pageList> must be placed right after the required <navMap>, and must occur before the first optional <navList>. There may be one and only one <pageList> (but there can be any number of <navList> — of course, there can only be one <navMap>).

<pageList id="page-mapping">

  <navLabel><text>Paper Edition Page Mapping</text></navLabel>

  <pageTarget id="page-iii" value="3" type="front" playOrder="82">
    <navLabel><text>Page iii</text></navLabel>
    <content src="frontmatter.html#pageiii"/>
  </pageTarget>

  <!-- ... -->

  <pageTarget id="page-105" value="105" type="normal" playOrder="192">
    <navLabel><text>Page 105</text></navLabel>
    <content src="chap5.html#page105"/>
  </pageTarget>

</pageList>

Notes:

1. Currently there is an error in epubcheck 1.0.3 which says <pageList> must include both the id and class attributes, while they should be optional. Hopefully that bug will get fixed. The above markup includes the optional id (generally a good idea), but not the class so it will not validate to 1.0.3.
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epubcheck and Adobe’s page-map

A couple of weeks back we had a new release of the epub validation tool as the old one was not validating documents properly. epubcheck-1.0.3 was released to fix the XMLParser as it was not allowing multiple validators to be added.

The error was first realised by Jon Noring who noticed that Adobe’s “page-map” attribute extension, which is used in the NCX , was being validated incorrectly. This extended markup can be used for mapping page numbers (to align with those in the paper book edition).

Jon Noring has posted to several communities about the page-map issue. Here’s a short extract (slightly edited); [Read more...]