I’m pleased to announce the brand new, ground-up rebuild of epubBooks! For this release I wanted to create a design with an emphasis on mobile users, which will give a much improved experience to those with tablets and smartphones.
Over the last coupe of years the type of visitor coming to epubBooks.com has been more and more mobile based, with almost 60% using the site on a smartphone or tablet — the old design didn’t work too well on any device with a screen resolution less than 1024 px, which meant anyone viewing the site on an iPhone, Windows Phone, or any other small screened device had a difficult time reading the text and navigation the site. Even those of you on 7 inch tablets, like the Google Nexus, spent a lot of time zooming in and out.
The new site uses what’s called a responsive layout, which means that the page sections move to best fit whatever screen size you’re on; text and some images will resize, especially for those smartphones with screens of just 480px. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
Apple have just released an updated iTunes 9.1 to make ready for iPad syncing and EPUB support for when the users receive their iPad and can access the iBooks store.
We here in Europe can’t even pre-order an iPad yet so I won’t be able to do a full test for some time yet but I thought I’d see what happens when a DRM-Free EPUB file is added to iTunes….which turns out to be not a lot.
As you can see from the screenshot below, the EPUB book does get recognised as a Book with the title and author details being taken from the file’s meta data. One thing that concerns me is with the book Info dialogue and how the book’s meta details are presented as though it is a song; Artist, Composer, Track Number, etc. Let’s hope this gets fixed soon to show an appropriate information page. Continue reading
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.
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.
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.
Andrew Savikas over on the O’Reilly TOC has written a nice tutorial on how to read your O’Reilly ePub formatted books on the iPhone using Stanza.
One thing to note about this is that he was only successful in doing so when using his MacBook Pro, he was unable to say the same about the process using Windows.
After reading his article, I have to say the whole thing seems really easy!
Andrew did bring up one of Stanza’s failings, “A lot of the formatting isn’t (yet) supported by Stanza, including lists and tables. The text appears, but without bullets or clear indentation.” Perhaps it’s understandable about tables but I am surprised that lists are not yet supported. However, the app is still in beta and we know that Lexcycle are working hard on improving it.
One thing Andrew noted in his post was that O’Reilly are also looking into releasing their titles as individual iPhone Apps. I’m not convinced by this approach myself, but hey, for you iPhone users it will if nothing else give the proper formatting that O’Reilly intended
Okay, there’s a long way to go before ePub is a format that all devices can read properly, however it’s great to see that the industry is still moving forward.
If you are looking for a web-based ePub book reader then look no further than Bookworm. Developed by Liza Daly (see also tei2epub Converter), the Bookworm ePub reader will allow you to read ePub books directly from your web browser, there is also a “mobile web-optimized” version for those of you with an iPhone.
The reader is currently in an open-beta status, so as always, expect some bugs and of course many improvements over the coming weeks and months.
To use the reader you will need to create an account on the Bookworm site, all your books will need to be uploaded there. At the moment there is no way to organise your books so if you upload more than a couple dozen, navigation may be a little cumbersome. Liza is working to improve this.
Unlike most other ePub readers, Bookworm allows for full use of stylesheets and images, which is especially critical for technical books which include HTML tables and code samples.
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].
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.