Frankfurt 2009 & the rise of Digital

I’ve had a crazy old time since I returned home from the Frankfurt Book Fair last week so this is the first chance I’ve had to sit down and write a little about my time there, and an interesting time it was.

I again had the pleasure of having lunch with IDPF Executive Director, Michael Smith. There was no real agenda, it was just a chance for us to have a good chin-wag about ePub, how things are moving for the format and such other things. This year the IDPF held three sessions but due to my day job duties in London I only managed to attend one of his sessions; missing what I’m sure was an extremely interesting ‘EPUB Update and Tweaks and Tricks for EPUB on Devices’ session presented by Keith Fahlgren from O’Reilly – I’m wholey dissapointed about that.

Still, I did manage to attend the ‘New and Updated eBook Reading Devices’ which was rather interesting.

For this session there were four speakers; Michaël Dahan (Bookeen), Neelan Choksi (Lexcycle Stanza), Willem Endhoven (iRex Technologies) and finally Richard Siegersma (ECO Reader). All the speakers had some interesting things to say but a couple of points stuck out.

[Read more…]

Gulliver’s Travels EPUB eBook

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;

Gulliver’s Travels (Final)

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.

Enjoy!

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.

TOC tutorial on how to read O’Reilly ePub books on your iPhone

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.

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.