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At TOC: Bookworm Online EPUB Reader Now Part of O'Reilly Labs

Update: There are now 400+ shiny DRM-free EPUB books from O’Reilly if you want to give Bookworm a test drive. Much of what’s on our complete list with a green “E” next to it is available in EPUB and is Bookworm-friendly (the rest is just PDF for now, but you’ll get the EPUB as a free update when it’s available). (And get an extra 20% off through Feb. 20 with code EBKDSC, which is 40% off the print price.) More about our ebook bundles (free lifetime updates! No DRM! Kindle-compatible!) over here.

Regular readers know we’re big fans of the Bookworm online EPUB reader. With Bookworm, you upload and organize your ebooks, and can read them online as well as a variety of mobile devices (iPhone shown below). It’s open source, and built on top of well-documented and supported frameworks and standards:



You can even pick up where you left off reading as you move across devices.

As more content becomes available in EPUB format, tools like Bookworm encourage standards compliance (by rejecting invalid EPUB), and offer an alternative to proprietary ebook management reading/management systems like Digital Editions or Sony’s eBook Library Software. (There’s also Calibre, an open-source desktop ebook management system, which like Bookworm is built with Python.)

We liked Bookworm so much that we invited principal developer (and TOC speaker) Liza Daly to bring it into O’Reilly Labs, the R&D space that we’re re-launching at this year’s TOC Conference. From her post on the Labs blog:

From the beginning, O’Reilly has been an enthusiastic supporter of the project. Uniting the two under the Labs banner is a natural fit.

What does this mean for Bookworm’s future?

Most importantly, core Bookworm code will remain open-source. If you would like to use Bookworm code, even commercially, you’re encouraged to do so.

As part of the Labs project, we may add some features that won’t be part of the core open-source package. Most other changes will be free and BSD-licensed. We’re just beginning to think about where we can take this project.

I’ll remain as the primary developer of Bookworm, but I hope that the added exposure O’Reilly brings to the project will encourage wider participation, not just of code but of ideas. I’m looking forward to taking ebook innovation to new places in 2009.

In addition to Bookworm, we’ve also opened up an RDF-based view of the public metadata for our books. Nearly all of this data was already available in a scattershot way from our catalog pages, the book’s copyright page, Safari Books Online, and other sources — our new “O’Reilly Product Metadata Interface” brings it all together in a standard, computer-friendly format.

This is just the beginning of a variety of experiments and pilot projects we have planned for the months ahead.

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Comments: 17

  1. I hope this question is not out of line here? Could someone suggest software that will help me convert my pdf files into the ePub format?

    Thank you,

    Leonard Fernandes

  2. that’s an _excellent_ question, leonard.

    i too await an answer from the .epub cheerleaders.

    i myself don’t think you’re gonna have much luck with that,
    not unless you have the source-document which _created_
    the .pdf in the first place, in which case you would use _that_
    to create an .epub file instead. (and good luck with that too.)

    but of course, if these are .pdfs you got from other people,
    you won’t have the source-documents which created them.

    so you’ll be copying the text out of them (providing you can),
    and working from that, in which case you need a lot of luck,
    a lot of elbow-grease, and a lot of time, and patience too…

    now, “buzzword” — a web-service word-processor that is
    actually surprisingly good, and was purchased by adobe —
    will soon create .epub, according to a recent announcement.

    the reason that’s noteworthy here is that — if i do recall —
    .pdf is one of its _input_ formats. so — in theory anyway —
    you’d be able to load in the .pdf and then save out to .epub.

    in theory anyway.

    the problem is likely to be that most people don’t create a .pdf
    that’s “tagged semantically” such that it’d be converted correctly.

    as an obvious example, the headers aren’t tagged as “headers”;
    they’re merely styled as text that’s displayed bigger and bolder.

    these problems aren’t insurmountable. but they _are_ difficult.
    and lately, adobe hasn’t been solving many problems, let alone
    many difficult ones, so i’m curious to see how they’ll do on this.


  3. i went to buzzword to update my experience…

    how sad.

    some 12-18 months ago, when adobe bought it,
    buzzword was a very nice web-word-processor,
    the best one around (except maybe google-docs).

    but ever since then, it seems to have stagnated…

    moreover, i was wrong — it doesn’t import .pdf.
    and further, it doesn’t even _support_ style tags.
    so how it’ll ever export .epub worthy of the name
    (let alone living up to the hype) will be interesting.

    if adobe keeps buying the best technology around,
    and then simply puts it on a shelf, or (even worse)
    corrupts it with its newfound sheer incompetence,
    what the heck is going to happen to any progress?

    even those of us, like myself, who’ve hated adobe,
    in the past, still had to grudgingly admit that they
    did good work, and put their stuff on all platforms.

    nowadays, though, they’ve lost even those qualities…
    their new products are buggy, and even more bloated
    than their old ones used to be, and they’re increasingly
    finding it difficult to port their stuff to new platforms,
    such as the iphone. if any company out there deserves
    to die, put adobe there with microsoft, sun, and yahoo.


  4. I’m playing on the mobile version of Bookworm on my Kindle’s browser right now, and it seems to work pretty well with the test books I downloaded from feedbooks.com.

  5. Hi, I work in a commercial library. In the past we have investigated providing O’Reilly ebooks to our library users with Safari but this has always been cost prohibitive. Bookworm’s open source license allows it to be used commercially. Can you clarify whether the epub books themselves are licensed for commercial use? Would it would be possible for my commercial library to purchase O’Reilly books in epub format and offer them to my library users using Bookworm?


  6. Its great that I can buy ebooks from O’Reilly in EPUB format… but as a Safari subscriber when will I be able to download chapters/books using my tokens in EPUB format (in addition to the PDF format that I can already download).

    Having the fantastic technical content of Safari available in an offline, reflowable format is incredibly important to me, and I think many other techies. Until O’Reilly Safari content is available in this format, eInk devices are a non-starter for me.

  7. @Neil: For now, with Bookworm you upload individual books for your own personal use — they carry whatever license they had when you bought the individual book. Your underlying question/suggestion is a bit too complex to address in a blog comment, so I’ll follow up with you directly via email to discuss.

    @James: We’re working on EPUB downloads from Safari, but unfortunately I don’t have an ETA on that, beyond to say “soon”.

  8. andrew said:
    > Your underlying question/suggestion is
    > a bit too complex to address in a blog comment,
    > so I’ll follow up with you directly via email to discuss.

    please deal with it frontchannel so everyone can know…


  9. Leonard – the Stanza Desktop, available for Mac & Windows, can convert pdfs to epubs


    Import your pdf file into Stanza Desktop, then export it as an Open eBook.

  10. harmon said:
    > the Stanza Desktop, available for Mac & Windows,
    > can convert pdfs to epubs

    oh please.

    let’s decide we will not be totally ridiculous, ok?

    although you “can” do such a “conversion”,
    what you get out is a steaming pile of crap,
    which won’t satisfy leonard or anyone else…

    i mean, _really_…


  11. @Andrew any news on the EPUB download from safari? The last info “soon” is 6 months old already..

  12. @wintamute — Unfortunately I can’t provide a specific date, but it’s definitely still part of a planned release/update of the Safari platform.

  13. just can’t seem to fail forward fast enough, can you, andrew? :+)


  14. @Andrew I’d be happy to get a rough timeframe, no need for a specific date. Reading pdfs downloaded from Safari on a Ebook reader is doable, but no fun. Also having a free ‘sample’ technical book in EPUB format for getting a ‘hands-on’ feel would be great. Doesn’t need to be big or having actual content in it, just sample text, some tables and diagrams, code examples, stuff you find generally in O’Reilly books. If something like that already exists, any pointer would be appreciated.


  15. @wintamute — Last I heard, Safari was shooting for an update within the next 30 days. I’ve sent you a sample EPUB to your email address.

  16. @Andrew Yeah, got it, thanks a lot. I can wait another 30 days, thanks again for the information. That’s why I like O’Reilly, great service.

  17. @Andrew OK, finally got around to actually test the EPUB sample on my reader and I have to admit, it makes a huge difference compared to ordinary PDF files when it comes to TOC, diagrams or code examples. Can’t wait to be able to get EPUB from safari now 🙂

    EPUB completely changes the ebook market for technical books.
    Yes, I’m really excited, I waited a long time for this to become true. Having safari was a great start, but having the possibility to carry lots of documentation with me without the need of internet access in a perfectly usable format is really awesome.