Tips on how to Get Free eBooks

With the recent changes to epubBooks I removed the option to search the popular ebook stores for free EPUB books – titles now found on epubBooks are still free, but are direct downloads only.

Lots of people are now wanting to know how to get free ebooks from those popular sites like Kobo, eBooks.com, Diesel-eBooks, etc. To help with that, I’ve now created a special page with tips on how to navigate those sites to find all their free ebooks.

So, head over to my epubBooks Free eBooks tips page … and happy searching!

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...]

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.

An EPUB Experience

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. [Read more...]

Free EPUB books at epubBooks.com

After several months of development my new epubBooks.com website is live. The new site has been developed to give access to free EPUB book downloads and I’ve designed it with simplicity of use in mind – hopefully it’s visually pleasing too.

All the current downloads have been produced from public domain titles using my own automation tools (with a little help from Liza Daly). These tools have been developed to give features which are often only found in commercial eBooks, and even then, many of the classics available don’t have such features.

All footnotes are fully linkable (as endnotes at the back of the book) both to the note itself and then back to the page it was linked from. Illustrations are included for books where they were available. Many other advanced layout and formatting features have been included, which are often only available with handmade books.

At present the library of books is quite small, but from now I will be concentrating on converting new books and improving the speed at which I can convert them.

Over the last year or so I’ve seen forums and blogs asking why there are not that many books which have illustrations, and so this was one area I wanted to concentrate on. It should be noted that illustrated ebooks are quite tricky to convert automatically, so the numbers of new titles being added is going to be limited, however, I’ll work to try and improve in this area.

If you have comments on the new website or the EPUB ebooks that I provide, then please do contact me. I’d love to hear from you.

While developing the new site I’ve neglected the Blog terribly so I am going to make much more of an effort to update this with any EPUB relevant news on a more regular basis.

I hope you enjoy the new website — Mike.

EPUB books can now be borrowed from the library

I Twittered (@epub) about the Cleveland Public Library press release when it was first announced, and David from TeleRead has also written a post on this. “This” being that the Cleveland library is the first library to offer up eBook downloads in the EPUB format! Naturally this is great news for the EPUB fans, but more importantly it’s great for the general public at large.

OverDrive are providing them and another 8,500 libraries access to EPUB books for borrowing. We must also presume that as OverDrive increase their number of EPUB titles , all these libraries will be offered them too.

As TeleRead mentions, it would be great if they could also offer their books via popular iPhone readers such as Stanza which could then encourage younger readers to get back to books.

I expect 8,500 libraries is a good coverage across the U.S. but as an European I hope our libraries can strike a similiar deal. If both sides of the big pond can offer up these services then there’s potential for more countries to follow suit, which would be particularly useful for those where moving a ton of paper books around can be quite difficult and expensive.

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.
[Read more...]

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...]

Can we hope for an Amazon and ePub union?

EPUB formatted books as an industry wide standard is what I, and many others want. But can we achieve this without Amazon’s adoption — at least with ePub support on their Kindle eBook reader.

It will certainly be a lot easier to have a standard eBook format if Amazon joined the ePub party. I’m reluctant to say it but all current indications show that Amazon will not adopt the ePub format in the near future – but perhaps there is hope.

Recently we have seen a flurry of publishers and eBook projects (including yours truly) adopting the ePub format and a number of these are pushing their titles onto the iPhone/iPod Touch platform via the Stanza eBook reader. Feedbooks, Project Gutenberg are the two big projects but we now have Pan Macmillan offering commercial Tasters and in the last few days BookGlutton announced that they have joined forces with Stanza. Interesting times ahead for sure.

With all this recent iPhone/eBook activity I am asking myself, where is Amazon? The Kindle is certainly making waves with big sale numbers but this is probably nothing compared to iPhone sales. This makes me wonder if Amazon will start making their titles available on this platform and if so, what format will they use. If they use their own eBook format (AZW), they would need to release a dedicated ‘Amazon eBook Reader’ — how many different iPhone reader applications will people accept?

Everyone around here knows that having one standard eBook format will better serve everyone. If Amazon opens their Kindle to the ePub format and strikes a deal with a company such as Lexcycle (Stanza) they could kill two birds with one stone. Hmm, perhaps an Amazon/Stranza union is a little too much wishful thinking.

Providing direct purchase and download would make Amazon a serious option for any iPhone or iPod Touch user, and vise versa.

So, can Amazon leverage the iPhone to further dominate the eBook market and can they continue to resist the ePub eBook format?

Disclaimer: The Amazon/ePub logo I created is intended just for fun.