While all the U.S. publishers/eBook stores remain reluctant to embrace the ePub format, the UK, and Europe in general, is really forging forward with its adoption. The latest to release an eBook store selling ePub books (plus PDF and other popular formats), is the UK academic publisher, Blackwell.
In addition to the 45,000 titles they have launched with (in partnership with the eBook wholesaler Gardners), Blackwell will also be stocking the BeBook eReader, a reader which is becoming quite popular among UK users.
It’s uncertain as to whether they will use any DRM (I can’t imagine they won’t) but at the moment the BeBook does not suopport the Adobe (ePub/PDF) DRM. However, there was a recent annoucment from Endless Ideas, who sell the BeBook, that their new WiFi BeBook reader will be supporting ePub DRM. Perhaps there will soon be a firmware update for the current model.
In a press release on thebookseller.com, Borders UK have announced the release of their own ePub eBook reader, in an effort to compete with the Waterstones/Sony partnership.
According to the article this reader has been specially developed for Borders, although it gives no details on exactly what the specifications are. All I know is that it is an E-Ink device that readers EPUB and “Adobe formats” (presumably PDF). As it has been released to work with the 45,000+ titles available at borders.co.uk, it must also be able to read the Adobe DRM protection.
At the moment it seems exclusively for in-store release as there is no mention at all on their website.
It’s great to see some comptetition for the Sony and of course more choice for the consumer. If I find out anything else about it I’ll let you know.
This last week has proved to be quite a week for the EPUB eBook format with announcements from Google, Sony and Project Gutenberg on their support for the EPUB format.
Project Gutenberg EPUB Books
Over at Project Gutenberg, Marcello Perathoner has been working hard to convert all the Gutenberg titles into the EPUB format. At this time these versions should be considered experimental, but after trying several different titles, they are all more than readable.
The books are converted where possible from the HTML version in the Gutenberg archives and for those titles without a HTML version, Marcello uses the plain .txt book. The plain .txt files at Gutenberg are notoriously inconsistent in their layout so converting these accurately is extremely difficult — I know this myself only too well. Perhaps it’s time Project Gutenberg embraced a Master Format.
What makes this special from the other news (see below) is that all the Gutenberg books go through a proofreading process and so the accuracy is very high. This is why so many other eBook project are based on the Gutenberg archives.
Google and Sony partner to release 500,000 Public Domain EPUB Books
Over the last few years Google has been scanning bo0ks by the million, making them available on their book search, but this is the first time they have any of them available to an eBook reader. All the titles are in the public domain (pre-1923 titles only) and once added to the current Sony Reader catalogue, brings the total available titles to around 600,000, far surpassing Amazon Kindle’s 240,000 catalogue. Amazon still use their own propriety eBook format and do no currently allow EPUB files to be read natively – conversion is needed first – but as the Google EPUB books all come DRM free, there are many tools out there that will allow you access to these on a Kindle or other reading platform.
Continue reading “Google + Sony + Project Gutenberg = EPUB bliss!”
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.
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.
Not so long ago Liza Daly released Bookworm to the public, an ePub web application for reading .epub formatted eBooks.
Another alternative is now being developed by Opera Software for their popular web browser in the form of a widget. Jon Noring has been advising Haakon Lie over at Opera to develop the browser plug-in, which is currently at a beta stage of development.
Please note: to use the widget you will need to download a version of Opera with File I/O support from Opera Labs.
Continue reading “An Opera ePub book reading widget is being developed”
Very early this morning, 12:01 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time to be precise, TeleRead.org broke the news that Sony are officially releasing a firmware update allowing the Sony Reader Digital Book PRS-505 to read the IDPF ePub formatted books – available from their website today.
The ePub standard has seen great interest of late from both professionals and amateurs alike but this is the first time were are going to be able to read ePub formatted books on a dedicated eBook device such as the Sony Reader.
The new firmware allows the Reader to view both DRMed and non-DRMed ePub/PDF files, which also means Sony users can now purchase books from vendors other than Sony itself (Fictionwise, O’Reilly, Penguin UK, etc). A short time ago we had confirmation from several publisher that they will start to provide ePub formatted books – Penguin UK announced they’ll have plenty of ePub books available from September 2008.
Waterstones/SonyStyle to sell Sony Reader in the UK!
For those of us who are UK eBook fans, Sony have partnered with the Waterstones book store in the UK to start selling the Sony Reader, available from 3rd September 2008, they will have over 25,000 titles available when they go live! You can also Pre-Order your Sony Reader UK (PRS-505) from SonyStyle.co.uk. The eBook titles to be made available at Waterstones will be released in the ePub format.
Continue reading “Sony Reader now reads ePub books!”
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.
Continue reading “Use the web-based Bookworm reader to read your ePub books”
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.
New eBook Standard Now Available For Mass Market Audience was the title from yesterdays WebWire press release on the ePub book catalogue at BooksOnBoard.com. With almost 200 eBooks in the ePub format this is the first real source for mass market books to be released in the new eBook standard.
It’s a little unclear if the ePub versions have DRM restrictions, but as the site states;
DRM Adobe ebooks can be read only on Adobe Reader 7, Adobe Acrobat 7, or Adobe Digital Editions […] We recommend Adobe Digital Editions for Adobe format eBooks, both pdf and ePub versions…
We must presume that they have DRM in place.
The market is still waiting for better ePub readers and until we get those it won’t matter how many ePub books they release. Let’s hope that the Sony Reader (PRS-505) receives its Digital Editions firmware update soon and that other dedicated readers, such as the Amazon Kindle and Cybook follow suit.
Yes, we still have a long way to go but it does look like we’re on the right track.