View Full Version : ePub limitations, good practices and safe bets.


nuno.pinto
02-08-2013, 09:50 AM
Hello everyone,

I work for a publisher of educational content, press and multimedia.

We were considering moving some of our press content to ePub, and with that end in mind, we've searched for software to convert/adapt our contents and external companies to do that for us.

We've experimented with Sigil and it seems to be a great piece of software for creating eBooks. We've also studied the ePub format, and made some experiments, to find its limitations, allways using the less advanced hardware/software. What I found was that we can't really rely on css and ANIMATED gifs due to most readers only meeting the minimum ePub requirements. There's no problem in that, we'll just have to work around those issues.

BUT, some of the companies we contacted promissed to publish the ePubs with some interactive elements (exercises, animations, etc). I know ePub 3 supports Javascript, but not all readers. How can a company promisse such feats? Is there something I'm not considering.

Thanks for any reply,
Regards,
NP

Jellby
02-08-2013, 10:17 AM
BUT, some of the companies we contacted promissed to publish the ePubs with some interactive elements (exercises, animations, etc). I know ePub 3 supports Javascript, but not all readers. How can a company promisse such feats? Is there something I'm not considering.

Simple. They'll just create an ebook that works on some readers (single one) and probably not even care about standards compliance.

nuno.pinto
02-08-2013, 10:22 AM
Simple. They'll just create an ebook that works on some readers (single one) and probably not even care about standards compliance.

So, they're basically trying to rip-off with promises that might don't work.

Also, is that common practice?

The solution I'm thinking of proposing is:
- Make our eBooks ePub2 compatible, no interactivity, basically digital School Books;
- Take some exercises and make an app that chooses a random question from a repository of questions, multiple choice.


One would be a school Manual, while the other would be an extra for test preparation.

Turtle91
02-08-2013, 01:22 PM
Well...I assume the ePub 3 will work...but only on devices/apps that support ePub3. The problem is that there are very few devices/apps that support it...right now. Developers ARE working on it, but we are definitely in the beginning stages of adoption. I wouldn't say they are trying to "rip you off" unless they are trying to tell you that it will work on "all devices".

It is possible to create an ePub 2+3, which is a hybrid that can be used on any device. Devices that do not support the advanced features of ePub3 (video, audio, etc) would only show the ePub2. Devices that do support ePub3 would display all of the advanced features.
[disclaimer] I have not created or worked with ePub 2-3, but you can see examples of them at the Azardi website (http://azardi.infogridpacific.com/resources.html).

JSWolf
02-08-2013, 01:42 PM
Well...I assume the ePub 3 will work...but only on devices/apps that support ePub3. The problem is that there are very few devices/apps that support it...right now. Developers ARE working on it, but we are definitely in the beginning stages of adoption. I wouldn't say they are trying to "rip you off" unless they are trying to tell you that it will work on "all devices".

It is possible to create an ePub 2+3, which is a hybrid that can be used on any device. Devices that do not support the advanced features of ePub3 (video, audio, etc) would only show the ePub2. Devices that do support ePub3 would display all of the advanced features.
[disclaimer] I have not created or worked with ePub 2-3, but you can see examples of them at the Azardi website (http://azardi.infogridpacific.com/resources.html).

A lot of the ePub 2 software would probably have issues with the ePub 3 parts of the code.

Most 99% of the ePub compatible reading software out there doesn't handle ePub 3. So to pay to have an ePub 3 made is a waste of money. It won't work on most eInk Readers and most iOS/Android apps won't handle it. Also, when it gets validated, it will fail. Stores won't sell it and customers won't buy it even if the stores sold it.

The best thing to do is train people who can do the conversion to ePub in-house and not worry about external companies who do a poor conversion. There's a thread on issues with eBooks.

http://www.mobileread.com/forums/showthread.php?t=204925

Turtle91
02-08-2013, 02:58 PM
A lot of the ePub 2 software would probably have issues with the ePub 3 parts of the code.

Most 99% of the ePub compatible reading software out there doesn't handle ePub 3. So to pay to have an ePub 3 made is a waste of money. It won't work on most eInk Readers and most iOS/Android apps won't handle it. Also, when it gets validated, it will fail. Stores won't sell it and customers won't buy it even if the stores sold it.
http://www.mobileread.com/forums/showthread.php?t=204925

Have you tested one of the ePub 2+3 books on your device?? I know you don't like the ePub 3 spec, but it would be interesting to know if it actually doesn't work (like Azardi says it does) or if you are just guessing.

JSWolf
02-08-2013, 05:28 PM
Have you tested one of the ePub 2+3 books on your device?? I know you don't like the ePub 3 spec, but it would be interesting to know if it actually doesn't work (like Azardi says it does) or if you are just guessing.

Find me an ePub 2+3 eBook and I'll test it.

Turtle91
02-09-2013, 12:26 AM
Check the link I provided...several there.

mzmm
02-11-2013, 10:54 AM
... I know ePub 3 supports Javascript, but not all readers.

Javascript was actually supported (although its use was discouraged) in epub2, so it's really always been up to the device to be able to handle it properly.

what's epub 2+3? epub 3 with an ncx? on the few devices i've tested epub3s on that don't officially support them i've had no problems opening and reading them. Liz Castro wrote something up about this not long ago.

http://www.pigsgourdsandwikis.com/2012/07/epub-3-has-finally-arrived.html

johnpublish
02-13-2013, 12:55 AM
Apple iBooks supports ePub 3, and I believe the Fire does also. Why wouldn't other companies jump on board? With all the multimedia support...it seems like a no brainer.

A lot of the ePub 2 software would probably have issues with the ePub 3 parts of the code.

Most 99% of the ePub compatible reading software out there doesn't handle ePub 3. So to pay to have an ePub 3 made is a waste of money. It won't work on most eInk Readers and most iOS/Android apps won't handle it. Also, when it gets validated, it will fail. Stores won't sell it and customers won't buy it even if the stores sold it.

The best thing to do is train people who can do the conversion to ePub in-house and not worry about external companies who do a poor conversion. There's a thread on issues with eBooks.

http://www.mobileread.com/forums/showthread.php?t=204925

Toxaris
02-13-2013, 03:06 AM
Javascript was actually supported (although its use was discouraged) in epub2, so it's really always been up to the device to be able to handle it properly.


Ehh, what? If you look at the specifications, it is stated that 'Reading Systems must not render the textual content of the script element, and should not execute the script itself.' (emphasis not mine).

So what you state is not correct. The fact that some readers (or rather reading applications) do support it, is because they used a web renderer like webkit instead of developing a ePUB renderer.

Toxaris
02-13-2013, 03:10 AM
Apple iBooks supports ePub 3, and I believe the Fire does also. Why wouldn't other companies jump on board? With all the multimedia support...it seems like a no brainer.

Quite simple, almost all e-ink readers cannot handle multimedia because of the screen and other elements (battery). I am actually glad they don't. I want to read a book, not be bothered by audio/video. I do see some merits of multimedia with specific types of books (childrens/cooking/academic (perhaps), etc) but not for the majority. I would have much rather have them fix other issues with the format first, as good support for footnotes, just to mention one.
The 'solutions' in ePUB3 for footnotes that I have seen so far do not impress me. A pop-up balloon? No, thanks.

Also, iBooks do not really support ePUB3, but their variant of it. In order to get things to work you need iBooks/web-kit specific things which will most probably not work on other ePUB3 readers. The same goes for their fixed-layout format. Also iBooks specific.

JSWolf
02-13-2013, 09:25 AM
And the Kindle fire is not ePub 3 compliant. It's Amazon's variation which is not the same.

mzmm
02-13-2013, 09:41 AM
Ehh, what? If you look at the specifications, it is stated that 'Reading Systems must not render the textual content of the script element, and should not execute the script itself.' (emphasis not mine).

So what you state is not correct. The fact that some readers (or rather reading applications) do support it, is because they used a web renderer like webkit instead of developing a ePUB renderer.

i've read in an entry by Liza Daly on the Threepress Blog (http://blog.threepress.org/2010/06/02/interactivity-in-epub-using-javascript-html5-and-css3-beaidpf-video-posted/) and in the epub3 specs (http://idpf.org/epub/30/spec/epub30-changes.html#sec-new-changed-scrp) that scripting in epub2 was not prohibited because both mention that "EPUB 3 Reading Systems may optionally support scripting, which was explicitly discouraged in EPUB 2" (3.0 specs) and that "The script element is specifically discouraged (though not disallowed) in EPUB 2.0.1" (Liza Daly)

but yes, looking again at the 2.0.1 specs does seem to make it pretty explicit. not sure how the idpf went from "must not" to "explicitly discouraged", though.

JSWolf
02-13-2013, 04:01 PM
Given that most (if not all) reading systems won't handle scripting, it's a waste of time and effort to put scripts in ePub 2 eBooks.

Turtle91
02-14-2013, 08:00 AM
Given that most (if not all) reading systems won't handle scripting, it's a waste of time and effort to put scripts in ePub 2 eBooks.

So much for my idea of making a "Choose Your Own Adventure" type book, but having the book actually be rewritten based on toggle button selections....:angry:


:D:D

Ryn
02-14-2013, 03:50 PM
Nothing wrong with creating an epub3 book for a client, just as long as they know that the spec is not universally supported and they would be marketing their book to clients using a specific device.

Same goes for books that work with scripting solutions supported by one vendor only.

Is this situation perfect? Surely not, but Toxaris' perpetual frowny conservatism also helps no-one.

To me, there is nothing inherently wrong with the epub3 standard, such as it is. In fact, the possibilities are tantalisingly close. Now we just have to brave the cross-currents of the standards battle and all of us ebook makers will be just fine. Know what's possible, and to what extent; then advise your client to the best of your knowledge.

Toxaris
02-14-2013, 04:51 PM
I think you are mistaken my view with someone else. It is true that I see faults in the format.

I don't mind people making books specifically for iBooks, just don't call them ePUB, since they are not. I also have no objection to ePUB3 books, as I stated before I do see some usage in them for specific types of books.

However, what I do object about that instead of looking to the problems there were with the old version and fix those, they listened too closely to Apple and Co and were too eager to put in all kind of stuff with regards to multimedia. There were already enough possibilities for those (called apps...).
The addition of Javascript sounds nice on the surface, but if you think about it. Remember the time when javascript was just new for websites? Remember how it looked then?
The format itself is definitly not perfect and will create a lot of problems, especially with the interpretation of it. I am far from conservative, but I do object to progress in the name of progress. It must add something useful and in my book audio/video/scripting is not.

JSWolf
02-14-2013, 07:10 PM
I have to agree that we don't need all the scripting/audio/video. It is going to bloat the heck out of eBooks and that is not good.

Before any soft of multimedia is added, I feel we need to get the book parts actually correct.

dgatwood
02-15-2013, 01:49 AM
Before any soft of multimedia is added, I feel we need to get the book parts actually correct.

Ah, but you see, that's not how the technology industry works. You see, they never get the core parts right. They just keep coming up with cool new features so that people don't notice that the core functionality doesn't work.... :D

AlPe
02-15-2013, 12:22 PM
I jumped into this thread very late, so please forgive if I do not quote/reply. I just list my thoughts on the arguments raised.

1) Is it a common practice to say "we do a lot of wonderful eBooks with animations and such"? Unfortunately yes. I say "unfortunately" because they usually do not explain to their clients that those features will work only in iBooks on the iPad. While technicly true that they are creating valid (say) EPUB 3 eBooks, they are not behaving according to professional ethics.

[ Example: my company is producing the first Audio-eBooks in EPUB 3 format, with Media Overlay support ("dynamic highlighting") for reflowable eBooks (not FXL). We clearly stated to our client the limits of the current support, etc. They still decided to accept the fallbacks and bet on future better support. --- You can download some of these EPUB 2+3 from my company website, see the link below ]

2) Putting Javascript inside EPUB 2: absolutely a waste of time.

3) Putting Javascript inside EPUB 3: maybe. Again, if the client really wants an iPad-only stuff, it might be ok.

4) iBooks is not officially supporting EPUB 3 spec, because they are lacking support for some mandatory parts of the spec, like full MathML (iBooks supports a subset of it), and Media Overlays in reflowable eBooks.

5) Multimedia in eBooks. We need to define "multimedia" and "eBook" here. A decent mechanism of fallbacks might be acceptable on some contexts (say, when video/audio is NOT essential to the rest of the "experience"), while it might be unacceptable in other circumstances (e.g., an Audio-eBook).

6) EPUB 2+3: again, we should define it. If by that you mean "EPUB 3 + NCX", then I have not found a reader yet that refuses to open such a thing. Of course, the "EPUB 3" part should be "EPUB 2 with the syntax of EPUB 3" (i.e., cosmetic differences in the markup --- stuff like <section> should be interpreted like <div>, etc.). --- You can download some of these EPUB 2+3 from my company website, see the link below.

7) I agree EPUB 3 is not the definitive answer to the "eBook industry" needs. And the support to "semantic niceties" is simply non-existing (or very buggy, like in Readium).

AlPe
02-15-2013, 12:26 PM
I feel we need to get the book parts actually correct.

I totally agree.