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. [Read more...]

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. [Read more...]

EPUB3 First Public Draft Released

After many months of hard work, the EPUB Working Group has released the first Public Draft of the new EPUB® 3 specifications for review. This is a substantial update on the current spec and has core changes that include;

  • HTML5 support
  • Rich Media and Interactivity
  • Layout Improvements
  • Global Languages
  • Accessibility Improvements

EPUB is a XML and Web Standards based delivery format for digital books and publications allowing content to be used on many Reading Systems, which include Apple iOS, Android, Desktop computers and dedicated eReaders.

The new EPUB3 is a major revision to the current standard and with a move to HTML5 based content, now provides support for key emerging technologies including video, audio, scripting, interactivity, styling and layout enhancements, vertical writing, improved accessibility and MathML support.

The WG has also made big improvements on how the EPUB 3 spec is structured, now providing 5 documents; EPUB 3 Overview, Publications 3.0, Content Documents 3.0, Open Container Format 3.0 and Media Overlays 3.0. You will also find an, EPUB 3 Changes from EPUB 2.0.1 document, which should help everyone better understand the changes made from the old spec.

It must be noted that this is just the first public draft and the EPUB WG are now open for both IDPF members and general public to comment on.

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eBooks in the Cloud – Own or Just Renting?

Booki.sh have just announced they’ll be launching an ebook store in Australia, where the books are not downloaded but streamed from the cloud.

With the implication that we’re only renting/licensing our purchases, this news has caused quite a bit of a stir with some people denouncing it as, the worst thing to happen to publishing. Of course, some people would say that DRM has already killed off any possibility of actually owning our ebooks, including Booki.sh themselves.

This “ebooks-in-the-cloud” scenario isn’t new. I’ve been mulling it over for a while and my conclusion is that it’s not such a bad idea – but only if the book industry change the way we pay for them.

If all our books are stored in the cloud – meaning that we can’t download them to external storage – then we really are only renting them. I don’t find this such a big deal because if I actually wanted to own a book, I’d probably go out and buy a paper version anyway (wow, did I just say that).

(Ok, so that’s no completely true, but most of the ebooks I do buy are DRM-free professional books, from O’Reilly, A Book Apart, etc., so I do actually own them.)

It’s only recently that I’ve come to realise (or is that admitted to myself) that I mostly only read books (novels) once and if I ever read them again, it’s likely years after the first time, so I don’t mind having one-off/temporary access to them. But, if these cloud books imply that we’re only renting them, then I’d expect the price to be reflected in that.

The business model for ‘ebook Rental’ could be something similar to what we have with DVD rentals, where you can get pay-per-view movies streamed over the internet for anything from 25% – 50% of the purchase price. If I take a monthly subscription package then I could get them even cheaper.

So publishers, are you going to let me rent my ebooks – will you let me read Stieg Larsson for $2.00?

…no, I didn’t think so.

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...]

Why Amazon Needs to Support the EPUB eBook Format

In a recent ZDNET article, Jason Perlow described his hesitations for buying one of the new Amazon Kindle’s, which was due to its lack of EPUB support. Many responses to the article noted that the “average user” doesn’t care about the format of an eBook, only for the buying experience. I’m not going to argue on that point because in essence, they are right; the average user doesn’t care. Yet there are two real reasons why having one eBook standard is important, and these reasons will certainly impact the end user.

Publishing Infrastructure and Costs

Although most publishers will use a XML Master Format for storing the original book content, they still have to spend a lot of time, effort and costs in producing and maintaining all the different output formats they need to get their books in to the buyer’s hands. There are also no guarantees that all these different output formats will support the same kinds of features, which will mean even more resources (costs) will be needed to support these alternate formats.

Now, if the publishers only had work one eBook standard then they could spend more resources on improving their own tools to produce better output, which will ultimately give the user an even more enjoyable reading experience. Publisher will also have more resources available to give input back to the IDPF on improving the EPUB standard; bringing more and better features to the eBook world. Certainly a win-win situation for consumers and publishers. Without universal support for EPUB though, everyone will be forced to maintain multiple tool sets, which do nothing but increase costs. [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...]