EPUB3 First Public Draft Released

After many months of hard work, the EPUB Working Group has released the first Public Draft of the new EPUB® 3 specifications for review. This is a substantial update on the current spec and has core changes that include;

  • HTML5 support
  • Rich Media and Interactivity
  • Layout Improvements
  • Global Languages
  • Accessibility Improvements

EPUB is a XML and Web Standards based delivery format for digital books and publications allowing content to be used on many Reading Systems, which include Apple iOS, Android, Desktop computers and dedicated eReaders.

The new EPUB3 is a major revision to the current standard and with a move to HTML5 based content, now provides support for key emerging technologies including video, audio, scripting, interactivity, styling and layout enhancements, vertical writing, improved accessibility and MathML support.

The WG has also made big improvements on how the EPUB 3 spec is structured, now providing 5 documents; EPUB 3 Overview, Publications 3.0, Content Documents 3.0, Open Container Format 3.0 and Media Overlays 3.0. You will also find an, EPUB 3 Changes from EPUB 2.0.1 document, which should help everyone better understand the changes made from the old spec.

It must be noted that this is just the first public draft and the EPUB WG are now open for both IDPF members and general public to comment on.

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Why Amazon Needs to Support the EPUB eBook Format

In a recent ZDNET article, Jason Perlow described his hesitations for buying one of the new Amazon Kindle’s, which was due to its lack of EPUB support. Many responses to the article noted that the “average user” doesn’t care about the format of an eBook, only for the buying experience. I’m not going to argue on that point because in essence, they are right; the average user doesn’t care. Yet there are two real reasons why having one eBook standard is important, and these reasons will certainly impact the end user.

Publishing Infrastructure and Costs

Although most publishers will use a XML Master Format for storing the original book content, they still have to spend a lot of time, effort and costs in producing and maintaining all the different output formats they need to get their books in to the buyer’s hands. There are also no guarantees that all these different output formats will support the same kinds of features, which will mean even more resources (costs) will be needed to support these alternate formats.

Now, if the publishers only had work one eBook standard then they could spend more resources on improving their own tools to produce better output, which will ultimately give the user an even more enjoyable reading experience. Publisher will also have more resources available to give input back to the IDPF on improving the EPUB standard; bringing more and better features to the eBook world. Certainly a win-win situation for consumers and publishers. Without universal support for EPUB though, everyone will be forced to maintain multiple tool sets, which do nothing but increase costs. Continue reading “Why Amazon Needs to Support the EPUB eBook Format”

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.

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Using Q tags in ePub documents

Recently I’ve been making great progress on my ePub converter but in the process I’ve come across a few areas that have needed some thought. For this short article I’m going to discuss the XHTML Quote tag.

When looking though the IDPF OPS specs I noticed that <q> tags are allowed within ePub documents. As I mark up all quotes in my master TEI documents with a <q> tag I was really happy to see this. However, when I came to test my files in Adobe Digital Editions none of my quotes showed.

After seaching around the net I also noticed that <q> tags are not supported by all web browsers (i.e. Internet Explorer). Liza Daly has also noted that the HTML 5.0 specs will depreciate Q tags – will a version of XHTML follow suite in the future? Will a future IDPF OPS spec implement that future XHTML spec?

(FYI, Liza mentioned that she is currently working on implementing <q> tags in her Bookworm reader, with a work around for IE.)

This is an area which I believe ePub developers should give some serious thought over. Even if Adobe DE go ahead and implement this feature, other readers may not necessarily follow suite.

For my own project I have decided to convert all my <q> tags into regular “quote” characters. Providing more safety both now and in the long term.

epubBooks at Frankfurt Book Fair 2008

I was very lucky this year to be able to attend the Frankfurt Book Fair. As it was only going to be a one day affair for me I choose Thursday, the day of the Digital Lunch: Digital Publishing and the EPUB Standard’ seminar.

Before the session got under way I had a quick look around the ‘Digital Market Place’ Hall and came across the iRex Digital Reader stand where they were showing off their DR1000 model. Along with having a basic reader they also have two models with a Wacom touch screen and one of those with Wi-Fi. All models have a 10.2 inch display (1024×1280 pixels) – so no need to go zooming in on your PDF files now. This looks a great piece of equipment. After checking out the iRex stand I then made my way down to the IDPF session.

There were four speakers at the Digital Lunch, Michael Smith (IDPF Executive Director), Michael Vantusko (Overdrive – unfortunately Steve Potash could not make it), Fionnuala Duggan (Random House Digital Group UK) and Robert Nell (Sony Reader).

Mike Smith got things started with an outline of the IDPF and the ePub format. He discussed the amazing sales figures we’ve been seeing in the eBook world and the uptake of the ePub standard from publishers and conversion houses.

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Digital Lunch: IDPF at Frankfurt 2008

Next Monday will mark the start of the 2008 Frankfurt Book Fair. The IDPF will of course be attending, and also presenting a session entitled; Digital Lunch: Digital Publishing and the EPUB Standard.

Mike Smith (IDPF Executive Director), Steve Potash (Overdrive), Fionnuala Duggan (Random House Digital Group UK) and Robert Nell (Sony Reader) will be talking about the “effects on Publishers, Channels and Devices – Market Experience with the Sony Reader and other Software using EPUB”. eBooks is currently the fastest growing segment in the publishing industry and with sites such as Feedbooks.com delivering over 2,000,000 titles in the last few months alone, the ePub book format is set to dominate the eBook world.

If you’re going to be at the Frankfurt Book Fair then I recommend attending this session. This will be taking place at 12:00 o’clock on the Thursday (16th October) in Hall 4C, Alliance Room.

Creating an ePub document from XHTML

In my last post I talked about the epubBooks Project and how I plan to convert Project Gutenberg .txt eBooks to the ePub format and how I will make these eBooks available for download from ePubBooks.com.

I already have in place a converter to transform the PG .txt files to a TEI Master Format and also an XSLT script to convert these into XHTML. The final task now is to create a converter for TEI to the ePub format.

Before I attempt to write this converter I will need to have a much better understanding on how a book is laid out inside the ePub OEBPS Container Format (OCF) .zip archive. So I set about taking my XHTML output file and breaking it up into the appropriate parts ready to be packaged in to an .epub file.

On the whole this went fairly smoothly, although I did encounter a couple of issues, which I’ll explain at the end of this article.

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Digital Book 2008 Review

Two weeks ago the IDPF held their Digital Book 2008 conference at the McGraw-Hill auditorium in Manhattan, New York City. This was a one day conference held as part of the International Digital Publishing Forum’s (IDPF) spring education series, with the main focus being on the emerging global eBook market and adoption of the ePub digital publication standard.

Among the discussions were eBook standards, international digital publishing, the education market and new innovations. Publishers Weekly reported the main theme to come from the day was that the “Customer is King”. The internet has given eBook developers and publishers “unprecedented access to consumer feedback” which they need to listen to in order to grow the eBook market.
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Did you attend DB2008 today?

The one day IDPF Digital Book 2008 Conference is being held today in New York City, which is being sponsored by the likes of Adobe, OverDrive and Resetta.

Alas I did not have the opportunity to go myself but I will be on the lookout for any news or blog posts on the days events. Particularly on the seminars Publisher Experience and Workflow using the new IDPF “EPUB” Standard and eBook Reading Devices and Software.

If there is anyone out there who attended the conference and would like to share their thoughts on the day, for inclusion here on ePub Books, please contact me via the Contact page.