While all the U.S. publishers/eBook stores remain reluctant to embrace the ePub format, the UK, and Europe in general, is really forging forward with its adoption. The latest to release an eBook store selling ePub books (plus PDF and other popular formats), is the UK academic publisher, Blackwell.
In addition to the 45,000 titles they have launched with (in partnership with the eBook wholesaler Gardners), Blackwell will also be stocking the BeBook eReader, a reader which is becoming quite popular among UK users.
It’s uncertain as to whether they will use any DRM (I can’t imagine they won’t) but at the moment the BeBook does not suopport the Adobe (ePub/PDF) DRM. However, there was a recent annoucment from Endless Ideas, who sell the BeBook, that their new WiFi BeBook reader will be supporting ePub DRM. Perhaps there will soon be a firmware update for the current model.
This last week has proved to be quite a week for the EPUB eBook format with announcements from Google, Sony and Project Gutenberg on their support for the EPUB format.
Project Gutenberg EPUB Books
Over at Project Gutenberg, Marcello Perathoner has been working hard to convert all the Gutenberg titles into the EPUB format. At this time these versions should be considered experimental, but after trying several different titles, they are all more than readable.
The books are converted where possible from the HTML version in the Gutenberg archives and for those titles without a HTML version, Marcello uses the plain .txt book. The plain .txt files at Gutenberg are notoriously inconsistent in their layout so converting these accurately is extremely difficult — I know this myself only too well. Perhaps it’s time Project Gutenberg embraced a Master Format.
What makes this special from the other news (see below) is that all the Gutenberg books go through a proofreading process and so the accuracy is very high. This is why so many other eBook project are based on the Gutenberg archives.
Google and Sony partner to release 500,000 Public Domain EPUB Books
Over the last few years Google has been scanning bo0ks by the million, making them available on their book search, but this is the first time they have any of them available to an eBook reader. All the titles are in the public domain (pre-1923 titles only) and once added to the current Sony Reader catalogue, brings the total available titles to around 600,000, far surpassing Amazon Kindle’s 240,000 catalogue. Amazon still use their own propriety eBook format and do no currently allow EPUB files to be read natively – conversion is needed first – but as the Google EPUB books all come DRM free, there are many tools out there that will allow you access to these on a Kindle or other reading platform.
During 2008 the EPUB eBook format gained huge acceptance and we heard rumours touting that there would be 20,000 available EPUB titles by the end of the year. Waterstones were saying this prior to the release of the Sony Reader in the UK.
As we head into 2009, Waterstones still shows less than 7000 titles in their catalogue, when viewing all available eBook titles. However, I get the feeling that this will change quite soon.
A few days back BooksOnBoard made an announcement on WebWire that they now have 30,000 titles available for the iPhone. After doing a search on their site I found that almost 20,000 of those are in the EPUB format. Great news for ePub fans, but we need more. Still, BooksOnBoard was the first retailer to make commercial ePub formatted books available and their entire online eBook collection consists of almost 300,000 titles. Perhaps they will be the first to reach 100,000 ePub books!
No doubt other online retailers such as Waterstones will be soon following suit – will 2009 be the year of the EPUB format?
Back in September I wrote about my epubBooks development; a project to convert the .TXT ebooks from Project Gutenberg into the IDPF’s EPUB format. After many months of hard work I’e finally finished the conversion tools and I’m now preparing development of the website itself, which will allow anyone to download my EPUB books, and all for free.
Although I’m happy with the current formatting in the EPUB files, I wanted to turn to you, the ebook community and ask for your feedback, in the hope that the improvements you submit will make these EPUB ebooks even better.
EPUB Book Features
- Linked Footnotes – each footnote number is a link, click on this to see the footnote (I’ve actually made them all endnotes). Clicking on the notes number takes you back to the original page.
- Images – Some titles will include images.
- Nicely formatted titles, subtitles, etc.
- Paragraph indents – Except on first paragraph of a chapter/section – as is usual in paper books
- Block Indents – Small left/right indents on block quotes, letters of correspondence, songs, etc.
This is just a small selection for some of the formatting features I’ve implemented.
Please Note: As certain systems enforce their own stlying by defaults, various features will display differently. UPDATE (2011): This isn’t as prolific as it used to be.
Test the EPUB
The title I’m making available as a pre-release download is Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift – this has many features which show off my conversion. As this eBook contains images it is quite large, weighing in at over 5MB.
The test book has now been removed as you can find the final release here;
All comments, on both the frontend formatting (indents, italics, etc) and the underlying code (OPF, NCX, HTML markup) is very much appreciated.
This ebook can be read using Adobe Digital Editions, Stanza (desktop and iPhone version), Sony Reader (PRS-505 and PRS-700), BeBook and the FBReader.
Very early this morning, 12:01 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time to be precise, TeleRead.org broke the news that Sony are officially releasing a firmware update allowing the Sony Reader Digital Book PRS-505 to read the IDPF ePub formatted books – available from their website today.
The ePub standard has seen great interest of late from both professionals and amateurs alike but this is the first time were are going to be able to read ePub formatted books on a dedicated eBook device such as the Sony Reader.
The new firmware allows the Reader to view both DRMed and non-DRMed ePub/PDF files, which also means Sony users can now purchase books from vendors other than Sony itself (Fictionwise, O’Reilly, Penguin UK, etc). A short time ago we had confirmation from several publisher that they will start to provide ePub formatted books – Penguin UK announced they’ll have plenty of ePub books available from September 2008.
Waterstones/SonyStyle to sell Sony Reader in the UK!
For those of us who are UK eBook fans, Sony have partnered with the Waterstones book store in the UK to start selling the Sony Reader, available from 3rd September 2008, they will have over 25,000 titles available when they go live! You can also Pre-Order your Sony Reader UK (PRS-505) from SonyStyle.co.uk. The eBook titles to be made available at Waterstones will be released in the ePub format.
Last month O’Reilly announced that they will be starting an experimental pilot and selling selected titles in an eBook bundle. The bundle includes a PDF, Kindle-compatible Mobipocket and of course an ePub formatted version.
Today, O’Reilly announced the availability of 30 eBook titles! The cost of the bundle is a little lower than the paper version and if you wish to pay a little more you can get the print book with the eBook bundle included!
Here is the full list of those thirty titles;
New eBook Standard Now Available For Mass Market Audience was the title from yesterdays WebWire press release on the ePub book catalogue at BooksOnBoard.com. With almost 200 eBooks in the ePub format this is the first real source for mass market books to be released in the new eBook standard.
It’s a little unclear if the ePub versions have DRM restrictions, but as the site states;
DRM Adobe ebooks can be read only on Adobe Reader 7, Adobe Acrobat 7, or Adobe Digital Editions [...] We recommend Adobe Digital Editions for Adobe format eBooks, both pdf and ePub versions…
We must presume that they have DRM in place.
The market is still waiting for better ePub readers and until we get those it won’t matter how many ePub books they release. Let’s hope that the Sony Reader (PRS-505) receives its Digital Editions firmware update soon and that other dedicated readers, such as the Amazon Kindle and Cybook follow suit.
Yes, we still have a long way to go but it does look like we’re on the right track.
Today over on the O’Reilly TOC, Andrew Savikas made an annoucment that from July 2008, O’Reilly will release a selection of their catalogue as a DRM-Free eBook bundle. This will include a PDF, Kindle-compatible Mobipocket and yes, an ePub format version! Not only are they giving you three for the price of one, but these will also be DRM-Free eBooks (they are considering a form of social DRM.)
Although they are still working on the ePub versions, any PDF eBook you buy now will make you eligible for free access to the ePub version once it is released. For the moment this is only an experiment, but if It works out, they plan to release their whole catalogue in these formats (barring a few with copyright restrictions and some old ones that present at format-conversion challenge.) Continue reading
Hot on the heels of Penguin’s announcement, Harper Collins UK now have plans to release their titles in both print and eBook format this coming September. Thanks to Graeme Neil’s article over at theBookseller.com for uncovering this excellent piece of news.
According to his article, Victoria Barnsley, HC UK C.E.O., says that HC is also looking in to clearing the rights to release their 2,500 title back catalogue, ready for this autumn.
If you’ve any doubts that EPUB will not become the eBook standard then you should take note of these movements within the industry – EPUB is certainly getting some influential backing. It looks to me that the book [and music] industry are finally listening to their customers? Let’s hope the trend continues!
It’s great that publishers are moving over to the EPUB format but perhaps we can also help it along a little more. Why not start converting public domain titles to this eBook format? This will certainly encourage reader applications to be written, and the more eReaders there are, the more people will want EPUB eBooks!
I’m working toward creating conversion scripts to create EPUB files myself, which I’ll talk more about in the future.
Keep your eyes on epubBooks.com as I’ll be trying to bring together more resources and tutorials to help you in creating EPUB documents.