New Countries Supported: UK & AU

Since epubBooks had its first major facelift back in May we’ve received a great deal of positive feedback. However, the one question that’s continually asked was when our ebook search features would be made available to countries other than the U.S.

I’m pleased to announce that now supports ebook catalogues for two additional countries; United Kingdom and Australia.

Most people will be automatically directed to the appropriate pages but just in case this doesn’t work for you, then you should scroll to the bottom of the homepage, click the “Change region” button and select your country. Visitors from Great Britain will now have all the prices displayed in GBP, and like-wise Australia will have AUD.
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Reading Free EPUB books on the Nook

A few weeks back Barnes & Noble released their hugely successful Nook eReader in the UK. To help them promote their reader to the Brits they’ve partnered with a large number of existing retailers, which will mean you’ll be able to buy the Nook from over 2,500 locations throughout the UK including; Argos, Asda, Blackwell’s, Dixon’s, Foyles and Sainsbury’s.

One of the big advantages with the Nook, as with Amazon’s Kindle, is that you can buy books directly from the device itself. However, and unfortunately for us, B&N charge for many of their classics (as much as 3.99!), but not to fear. Here on we have all the most popular classics and all of which are free to download and read. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

New epubBooks Now Live!

Many long-standing visitors to epubBooks will certainly have noticed that I’d released an update to the site a few months back which added plenty of new functionality, along with a nice update to the styling. Although a new design, it was only a Beta and so was released with little fanfare.

Today’s update has fixed a large number of bugs from that release, added some more design tweaks, and a whole bunch of improvements to the search algorithms.

The original (live since 2008) was merely a simple catalog for browsing the free EPUB Classics that were (and still are) available for download. It served its purpose well, but demand for more modern titles and better search features led me to re-think not only the design, but the core purpose of the site. Limited time and resources have made it difficult to achieve all that I’d like but I think the site now has some interesting features. Continue reading

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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EPUB3 Books & eReaders

Even though the specification for EPUB v3.0 was finalised last October, we’ve yet to see any production ready EPUB3 books out in the wild. The likely reason for this is that EPUB3 compatible eReaders have only come on the scene recently and without an eReader, there’s no way to test how the ebooks look – a bit of a catch-22.

Version 3.0 ebooks may seem non-existent at the moment but this will no doubt change before the end of the year, so now is a really good time to look at how we’re going to transform our Masters to EPUB3 – you do have your books in a master format right?

This last week I decided to convert one of the titles from to EPUB3 and set to work on Gulliver’s Travels (download link below). I’ve only found two ways to view my newly generated EPUB3 ebook; Azardi and iBooks. Continue reading

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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jetBook K12 Colour E-Ink Reader

A couple of weeks back Ectaco announced their new 9.7 inch E-Ink eReader (WiFi and Touch Screen), nothing special in that, but the big news about this is that it will be the first colour E-Ink device to be available for purchase!

The jetBook Color EDU.12 has been in development since earlier this year in Russia and will be made available in the States during Q4 2011. The new eReader is actually being pushed as a K-12 device, or as Ectaco put it, “Educational eTextbook tablet with Test System, Home Assignments, Remote Tutoring and eBook studies”.

Anyone outside of the education system us unlikely to get their hands on one, or want to for that matter, as the it seems to be tied heavily to the “Teacher’s Console” and purchasing looks to be only possible via the Ectaco website; so you’ll probably need appropriate credentials. Continue reading

Amazon Kindle/EPUB Rumour…true?

Rumours are abound right now that Amazon is on the verge of providing support for EPUB ebooks on their Kindle eReader. What’s getting peoples tongues wagging is a post from an eReader blog* stating that Amazon is telling publishers to start providing them with titles in the EPUB format.

As vague as the details are from that post, there is some substance in the concept that Amazon are preparing to add EPUB support.

Back in April Amazon announced the introduction of their new Library Lending Program in co-operation with OverDrive, who [currently at least] deliver their ebook titles as EPUB files. The OverDrive blog also states, “[y]our existing collection of downloadable eBooks will be available to Kindle customers”. We also know that the Kindle Previewer software (for ebook developers) will import EPUB files, which internally converts them to MOBI.

Liz Castro, well-known ebook developer and author of EPUB: Straight to the Point, has her own thoughts on how the Kindle will support EPUB, believing that Amazon will just convert titles to their proprietary MOBI format for use on the older Kindles.

In my opinion, Amazon can do better than just convert the EPUB’s. Continue reading