Using Q tags in ePub documents

Recently I’ve been making great progress on my ePub converter but in the process I’ve come across a few areas that have needed some thought. For this short article I’m going to discuss the XHTML Quote tag.

When looking though the IDPF OPS specs I noticed that <q> tags are allowed within ePub documents. As I mark up all quotes in my master TEI documents with a <q> tag I was really happy to see this. However, when I came to test my files in Adobe Digital Editions none of my quotes showed.

After seaching around the net I also noticed that <q> tags are not supported by all web browsers (i.e. Internet Explorer). Liza Daly has also noted that the HTML 5.0 specs will depreciate Q tags – will a version of XHTML follow suite in the future? Will a future IDPF OPS spec implement that future XHTML spec?

(FYI, Liza mentioned that she is currently working on implementing <q> tags in her Bookworm reader, with a work around for IE.)

This is an area which I believe ePub developers should give some serious thought over. Even if Adobe DE go ahead and implement this feature, other readers may not necessarily follow suite.

For my own project I have decided to convert all my <q> tags into regular “quote” characters. Providing more safety both now and in the long term.

W.H.Smith’s are now selling ePub eBooks!

During the Digital Lunch seminar at this years Frankfurt Book Fair, Michael Vantusko from Overdrive commented that W.H.Smith was one of their eBook customers. As I was updating the epubbooks.com homepage I thought I’d check them out to see if they actually have them online yet. I don’t know the date W.H.Smith went live with their ePub books but they currently have almost 6,500 ePub titles.

As Overdrive also distribute to Waterstones I would imagine that the W.H.Smith eBook collection will grow quite quickly. It’s great to see more stores offering ePub formatted books to the consumers – perhaps this extra competition will result in lower eBook prices sooner rather than later.

There is however quite some way to go before the number of ePub titles reaches the overall eBook numbers. Here’s a quick breakdown of the current eBook titles in the W.H.Smith eBook store;

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epubBooks at Frankfurt Book Fair 2008

I was very lucky this year to be able to attend the Frankfurt Book Fair. As it was only going to be a one day affair for me I choose Thursday, the day of the Digital Lunch: Digital Publishing and the EPUB Standard’ seminar.

Before the session got under way I had a quick look around the ‘Digital Market Place’ Hall and came across the iRex Digital Reader stand where they were showing off their DR1000 model. Along with having a basic reader they also have two models with a Wacom touch screen and one of those with Wi-Fi. All models have a 10.2 inch display (1024×1280 pixels) – so no need to go zooming in on your PDF files now. This looks a great piece of equipment. After checking out the iRex stand I then made my way down to the IDPF session.

There were four speakers at the Digital Lunch, Michael Smith (IDPF Executive Director), Michael Vantusko (Overdrive – unfortunately Steve Potash could not make it), Fionnuala Duggan (Random House Digital Group UK) and Robert Nell (Sony Reader).

Mike Smith got things started with an outline of the IDPF and the ePub format. He discussed the amazing sales figures we’ve been seeing in the eBook world and the uptake of the ePub standard from publishers and conversion houses.

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Creating an ePub document from XHTML

In my last post I talked about the epubBooks Project and how I plan to convert Project Gutenberg .txt eBooks to the ePub format and how I will make these eBooks available for download from ePubBooks.com.

I already have in place a converter to transform the PG .txt files to a TEI Master Format and also an XSLT script to convert these into XHTML. The final task now is to create a converter for TEI to the ePub format.

Before I attempt to write this converter I will need to have a much better understanding on how a book is laid out inside the ePub OEBPS Container Format (OCF) .zip archive. So I set about taking my XHTML output file and breaking it up into the appropriate parts ready to be packaged in to an .epub file.

On the whole this went fairly smoothly, although I did encounter a couple of issues, which I’ll explain at the end of this article.

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Stanza: Read EPUB books on your iPhone

UPDATE: Stanza is no longer maintained so I’d recommend you try out Bluefire Reader. Checkout my iPhone or iPad pages for some more information on reading EPUB books on the iPhone with Blurefire and other apps.

Ready … Set … Read!

This is the headline on the Lexcycle website for their new iPhone eBook reader called Stanza. They’re touting this as the ‘premier electronic book reader for the iPhone and the iPod Touch‘ which more importantly (at least for me) has the ability to read ebooks in the EPUB format.

Stanza is still in beta at the moment so there will be a few bugs hanging around but hopefully lexcycle will go final soon. [UPDATE: Stanza is now considered one of the best free eReaders out there with most bugs fixed, and available for iPhone and iPad].

Stanza Logo

Okay, so now you have your Stanza/iPhone EPUB reader, but where do you get your books from? This is the easy part…

You can download lots of free EPUB ebooks right here on epubBooks.com.

Alternatively, you can use Feedbooks, whose catalogue is available from directly within the Stanza app.

Browsing and downloading books once you’ve installed Stanza is very intuitive, just select Online Catalog and Feedbooks to get books from our service — feedbooks.com

Commercial ebooks are not currently available so all the titles you’ll find are in the public domain, but what’s available from both epubBooks and Feedbooks should keep everyone reading happy for a lifetime.

Right, all I need now is an iPhone…

UPDATE: I now have a full review of the iPod Touch and the Apple iPad – these two reviews have lots of information on adding ebooks to your Apple device as well as what other EPUB eReader apps are available, and all of which can be used on the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.

What image formats are suitable for ePub?

A question posted over on the ePub Community Group was asking what image formats are suitable for use in ePub.

As Jon Noring replied, the OPS 2.0 Specifiaction says that an OPS (ePub) Reading System must support the GIF, PNG, JPEG and SVG image formats.

These are pretty standard formats to be supported so I don’t see any problems with rendering these. But I do have some concerns regarding SVG – these of course stem form having absolutely no clue at all about the format!

Still, I am wondering if there will be any issues when rendering SVG, akin perhaps, to what we had during the browser wars.

Is there anyone out there who understands SVG and can shed some light on this matter?

Harper Collins UK to release titles as EPUB

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.