ENTRIES TAGGED "EPUB"

Neutralizing Amazon

Open platforms and services will lead to ebook marketplace disruption

What would you think of a start-up who offers the following?:

    • Selling ebooks in a model where one simple transaction gives you access to all formats (e.g., PDF, mobi and EPUB).
    • All those ebooks are available in a completely DRM-free manner. There’s no social DRM applied either.
    • Every ebook can be quickly and easily side-loaded to the device of your choice. Got a Kindle? No problem. All purchases will be sent right to it. Same goes for Nooks, Kobos, etc. No more awkward installations with USB cables.
    • No restrictions on reselling your content or loaning it to someone else. Are you finished with that ebook and have no plans to ever open it again? Why not resell it or pass it along to a friend like you’d do with a print book?
    • Enabling and, more importantly, encouraging publishers to have a direct relationship with their customers through this retailing platform.

Sounds too good to be true? I don’t think so. Here’s why…

One of the benefits of working at O’Reilly and being chair of our TOC conference is that I cross paths with countless industry start-ups throughout the year. I’m seeing evidence that many of today’s publishing industry challenges, particularly the closed, proprietary systems that are forming all around us will soon be met with some very cool and disruptive open alternatives.

What would that mean for a platform like the Kindle? Nobody’s knocking Amazon off the mountaintop anytime soon but these open-minded start-ups are going to make things very interesting. I wouldn’t be surprised if all the elements of the start-up outlined above are in place before the end of 2013. Then it’s just a question of tying them all together.

P.S. — If you’re attending TOC Frankfurt on October 9 you’ll get a first-hand look at some of this. I can’t share the details just yet but in a few short weeks you’ll see what I’m talking about. If you haven’t registered yet do so now with this code and you’ll save 20%: TOCPartner20TSpeaker

What’s new with EPUB?

EPUB3 is a big step forward but we haven't seen all the benefits it has to offer

This month’s TOC theme is “formats.” Even though our customers still tend to favor PDF it’s clear that mobi and EPUB are the formats with all the momentum. In order to get the scoop on EPUB I decided to go right to the source. The IDPF is the organization that develops and maintains the EPUB standard and Bill McCoy is the IDPF’s Executive Director. Bill was kind enough to sit down and talk with me about the current state of EPUB and where it’s heading.

Key points from the full audio interview (below) include:

  • HTML5’s impact — EPUB3 is based on HTML5 and brings with it all the rich functionality that HTML5 has to offer. Global language support and accessibility are two very important improvements in EPUB3.
  • Why do we need both EPUB3 and HTML5? — Bill points out that EPUB is a “reliable container” within which HTML5 content can be distributed. EPUB also allows you to step back from HTML5 coding and focus more on the structure of the document itself.
  • Fixed layout — PDF is designed with fixed layout in mind whereas EPUB not only supports fixed layout but it also offers the reflowable option as well as a hybrid solution for those situations where both fixed and reflowable are needed in the same product.
  • 12 years in the making — I’m puzzled over why it’s taking so long for EPUB3 support to show up on devices and in apps. Bill reminds me it was a pretty significant jump from EPUB2 to EPUB3 but that we’re already seeing signs of significant progress.
  • Beyond today’s EPUB3 — Bill prefers to focus on EPUB3 but I did manage to pry a few details from him about what we can expect in the future: Advanced fixed layout (e.g., Manga), adaptive layout (page templates), dictionaries, indexes and annotations.

For more information be sure to download a copy of our free ebook, co-published with the IDPF, What Is EPUB3? If you’re attending the Frankfurt Book Fair you’ll also want to register for TOC Frankfurt to hear Bill and I debate the pros and cons of DRM. (Are there really any DRM pros?!)

You can listen the entire interview in the audio player below.

Ask the Ebook Experts: Text alignment in Fixed-Layout EPUB for iBooks

How to mimic flowing text in a non-reflowable format

Q: In a traditional printed book, if a paragraph has not finished when the end of the page is reached, the entire paragraph will be justified. However the [CSS] command ‘text align last’ does not seem to be honoured in the last paragraph of the page in fixed layout for the iPad…What seems to happen is that in [InDesign CS6] it ‘looks’ justified but it doesn’t make it through to the epub version and there is a small gap at the end of the line. If you add text it goes on to a new line. I tried adding whitespace but that didn’t seem to be accepted…Is the problem with ibooks? Is there any workaround?

Andrew Rafferty

Fixed-layout paragraph with incorrectly justified last line

Fixed-layout paragraph in iBooks with incorrectly justified last line
Image: Andrew Rafferty; The Stones Remain

A: When you load a standard EPUB file into iBooks, the application automatically paginates the HTML content based on screen size and settings set by the user (font and font size). Content flows from page to page, and if a paragraph spans a page break, text alignment will be consistent on both pages.

Fixed-layout EPUBs differ from standard EPUBs in that it is the ebook designer who sets the pagination of the book, not the iBooks application. Each XHTML document in a fixed-layout EPUB file corresponds to a distinct page in the book, and no content is flowed from one page to the next.

If you want to mimic a text flow from page to page in a fixed-layout EPUB, you’ll need to split the text between two separate HTML documents. This poses a challenge if you want your text to be justified, because the text-align: justify CSS property does not stretch the final line of a paragraph to the full text-column width.

The good news is that CSS3 offers a solution to this very problem: the text-align-last property, which allows you to indicate how the final line of a text block is aligned. text-align-last: justify specifies that the final line should be fully justified, and span the full text column width.

The bad news about this good news is that text-align-last is not yet fully honored across all major Web browsers. It is supported in Mozilla-based browsers (Firefox), but is not supported in the Webkit engine, which powers Safari, Chrome, and—sadly—the iBooks ereader. Neither text-align-last nor the WebKit-specific -webkit-text-align-last, nor the EPUB3-specific -epub-text-align-last will produce the desired effect in the iBooks reader.

But some more good news for the intrepid and patient is there’s a hack-y HTML/CSS workaround that can achieve the effect of text-align-last: justify in iBooks (your mileage may vary on other ereader platforms).

Tweak word spacing using CSS

The old-school (dating all the way back to CSS1) word-spacing property allows you to designate a specific amount of space to place in between words. The following example uses word-spacing: 7px to specify that the last seven words on the page should have seven pixels of whitespace between them:

<p>Everywhere there are mysteries. And the most ancient man-made wonders
of all are the stone monuments erected by our Neolithic and Early 
bronze Age ancestors between 4000 and 1500BC - or, if it is less difficult 
to visualize in this way, between 140 and 240 generations ago. Little 
England (and smaller Scotland and Wales) are rich in these megalithic 
structures. Archaeologists tell us that more than a thousand chambered 
tombs and some 700 stone circles have resisted the 
smoothing iron of wind and rain, the teeth of the plough, the 
<span style="word-spacing: 7px">grasping hands of wave 
upon wave of</span></p>

And here’s a screenshot illustrating how this text renders in iBooks.

Last line correctly justified with word-spacing property

Last line correctly justified in iBooks with word-spacing property
Image: Andrew Rafferty; The Stones Remain

The main benefit of this approach is that it gives you fine-grained control over the whitespace in a paragraph. The downside is that it can require a fair amount of trial and error to determine the proper word-spacing values to achieve the desired justification effect. If you do decide to use this method, and have a paid iTunes Connect ebooks account, I highly recommend using Apple’s Book Proofer tool, as it eliminates much of the hassle involved in syncing EPUB files between your computer and your iPad/iPhone/iPod.

O’Reilly’s Ebook Experts want to help you solve your tough digital-publishing problems. Send questions to ebook_experts@oreilly.com, and we will publish submissions and responses on the TOC blog in future editions of “Ask the Ebook Experts”
HTML5 is the way forward

HTML5 is the way forward

HTML5 solves today's single-source file, compatibility and rendering problems

Play

Our TOC theme for August was platforms and we transition to the theme of formats in September. In a couple of earlier interviews we talked about the future of iOS and Android as publishing platforms. I also wrote a piece about how the ultimate winner isn’t actually a platform at all. It’s time to bring in an expert and tell us whether HTML5 really is the future of publishing, both as a platform and a format.

I picked one of the smartest people I know for the job. His name is Sanders Kleinfeld and he’s a publishing technology engineer here at O’Reilly. That’s a fancy way of saying he knows digital publishing inside out. Sanders has worked extensively with HTML5 and is the author of our free ebook, HTML5 for Publishers.

Read more…

Responsive eBook Content

Responsive design isn't just for margins and font size; here's one way to rethink content display for multiple reading devices

Joe’s post about graceful ebook degradation inspired me to share an example of responsive content that I thought of while brainstorming with my ebook dev colleagues here at O’Reilly.

Much of the way authors present content is based on what they know is possible with the printed page. But the page has changed—it’s no longer the rigid, rectangular object it once was. It’s important to think about how best to present your content given these new boundaries—one of the key aspects being that these boundaries change. The same reader might look at your content on a large monitor at work, and then switch to her mobile phone on the train home.

Read more…

Portable Documents for the Open Web (Part 3)

EPUB 3: The future of digital publications

The first two parts of this three-part series covered the enduring need for portable documents and why PDF’s fundamental architecture is too dated and too limited to fill this need. In this final part, we’ll take a look at EPUB, the format that has rapidly emerged as the open standard for eBooks. It’s my contention that EPUB, not PDF, represents the future of portable documents in our increasingly Web-based world. Why? In short, EPUB addresses all the key limitations of PDF. EPUB is reflowable, accessible, modular (with packaging and content cleanly separated), and based on HTML5 and related Web Standards. It’s a truly open format, developed in a collaborative process to meet global requirements rather than by a single vendor to support its proprietary products. Let’s take a harder look at these points.

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Portable Documents for the Open Web (Part 2)

Why PDF is not the future of portable documents

Part 1 of this three-part series argued that there will be an enduring need for portable documents even in a world that’s evolving towards cloud-based content distribution and storage. OK fine, but we have PDF: aren’t we done? The blog post from from Jani Patokallio that inspired this series suggested that “for your regular linear fiction novel, or even readable tomes of non-fiction, a no-frills PDF does the job just fine”. In this second part I take a hard look at PDF’s shortcomings as a generalized portable document format. These limitations inspired EPUB in the first place and are in my opinion fatal handicaps in the post-paper era. Is it crazy to imagine that a format as widely-adopted as PDF could be relegated to legacy status? Read on and let me know what you think.

Read more…

Portable Documents for the Open Web (Part 1)

What role does EPUB play in the cloud-centric world?

Having been involved for over two decades with the intersection of technology and publishing, I’m looking forward to being an occasional writer for the TOC blog. At Joe Wikert’s invitation, I’m starting out with my personal vision for the future of portable documents and the Web, including the relationship between EPUB 3, HTML5 and PDF. This post is the first in a three-part series. Part two can be found here and part three here.

What’s up with HTML5 and EPUB 3? (and, is EPUB even important in an increasingly cloud-centric world?)

EPUB is the well-known open standard XML-based format for eBooks and other digital publications, based on HTML and CSS. EPUB is the primary distribution format for B&N Nook, Kobo, Apple iBooks, Sony Reader, and many other eBook platforms, and is supported by Amazon as an ingestion format for Kindle (whose distribution format is proprietary).

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The anchor on ebook prices is gone. Now we'll see where they float

The anchor on ebook prices is gone. Now we'll see where they float

Don Linn on the DOJ's lawsuit and the shifting ebook landscape.

Don Linn, president at Firebrand Associates, shares insights into the DOJ lawsuit and offers his take on what lies ahead for publishers and readers.

The art of marrying content with mobile apps

The art of marrying content with mobile apps

Gurvinder Batra on KiwiTech's publishing-specific approach.

In this TOC Podcast, KiwiTech founder and CTO Gurvinder Batra talks about how his company masters the challenges of developing apps for the publishing industry. He also says native apps are a better option than EPUB.