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. Continue reading
Over the last few weeks several people have emailed asking if epubBooks.com has been abandoned – the answer is a resounding No! Okay, I know I’ve not been very active recently so please accept my apologies for that.
The reason for such limited activity is that I am working very hard on developing the new site for epubbooks.com – yes, the blog and current resources will still be accessible. The new site will allow you to download all kinds of different EPUB books, including many from the Project Gutenberg archives.
If you don’t know what my ePub Books Project is, here is a short summary.
The project was started to provide free downloads of nicely formatted EPUB files, the majority of which will be taken from the Project Gutenberg archives. These will not just be plain TEXT files enclosed in an EPUB container, but fully converted to XML (of a TEI flavour) which are themselves converted using XSLT into professional quality EPUB files. Here are some of the features;
- Properly formatted and displayed Chapter Titles/Subtitles.
- Footnotes which are Linkable (forward and backward) for instant access
- Books with Illustrations will also be available.
- Text Formatting (italics, etc.)
- Nice indents for block quotes, letters of correspondence, epigraphs, etc.
- …and many more features
The new web application is the biggest project I’ve developed to date and so is naturally a challenge to my programming skills, which is why it’s taking some time to complete, however things are going very well.
The basic skeleton of the site up and running and I am now working on programming for usability. Of course it’s these less obvious items which are some of the hardest things to programme, so at this time can’t give an accurate launch date. Rest assured it will be sooner rather than later.
Thanks for your patience and understanding and do keep checking back regularly for any new updates.
In October 2007 the IDPF elevated OPS 2.0 to an official standard and it was from this point I realised that we might well see the ePub format adopted worldwide as an eBook standard.
Planning started on how I would go about converting my TEI eBooks to the ePub format. After plenty of research I decided the best solution would be to utilise XSLT.
Okay, so I’d never actually used XSLT before, but how hard could it be?
TEI to XTHML Conversion using XSLT
In June 2008 I set to work on teaching myself this new language, XSLT, getting thoroughly confused in the process. So after a few weeks I decided I needed help and while on a trip to London, I popped into Waterstones and bought the book XSLT 2.0 and XPath 2.0 by Michael Kay – only the paper edition though ;-)
This gave a big boost to my skills and from this point on I made quick progress…well, quick by my standards.
My first suspicions that eBooks were going to be the future was way back in the day when all those CD’s were coming out and taking over our beloved Vinyl LP, but the real light-bulb moment was when I first discovered Project Gutenberg sometime at the end of the 1990’s.
If memory serves me correctly, I even considered trying to set up an eBook site back then. I believe what stopped me was that there were just not yet any decent reading devices available – reading from a computer monitor was, and still is, the most uncomfortable experience ever.
And so the years rolled by…
Then in 2004/05 I heard about the Sony Librie and immediately knew that the eBooks’ time was coming…and soon!
We are seeing more and more tools for creating ePub files being developed and the latest to join the throng is the tei2epub converter from threepress.org. This one however is aimed more for developers than the end user, unlike the BookGlutton ePub API.
tei2epub is being developed by Liza Daly and is written in XSLT, although it does utilise a little Python. I know nothing about Python but from what I can make out this is mainly for creating the actual files and final .epub container (which is actually just a renamed .zip file).
This converter really interests me as I already have my own converter (pg2tei) for creating TEI documents from plain text files, as found on Project Gutenberg. I recently started teaching myself XSLT so will follow the development of this for sure!
I don’t have a Python processor installed so haven’t ran any files through this, though I have taken a quick look at the source code and it looks quite straight forward. I believe this uses the official stylesheets written by TEI, so the tei2epub converter should be quite simple to follow, even for those of us whose XSLT skills are not yet well developed.
If you’re interested in both TEI and ePub then this is certainly going to be useful to add to your toolkit.