View Full Version : EPUB3: Ready or not?


pstjmack
05-29-2013, 02:50 AM
Does anyone else have an opinion on the current Digital Reader/Bill McCoy faceoff on the readiness of EPUB3?

http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/bea/article/57387-bea-2013-the-seven-deadly-myths-of-digital-publishing.html

http://www.the-digital-reader.com/2013/05/28/bill-mccoy-is-wrong-epub3-isnt-ready/#.UaWkwvHLWb4


As a digitally self-published poet struggling with formatting issues, who skipped EPUB because of its unpredictable layouts, I would love to hear your views.

mrmikel
05-29-2013, 07:03 AM
The advocates have a definite ax to grind in pushing epub3. Even if dedicated readers sales are declining, largely because anyone that wanted one has one, they are nearly all epub2 readers. The existing readers are all epub2 readers. So if you want to sell something, it better be useable on these existing readers.

If you are into formatting, the reflowable nature of epubs are going to drive you to distraction. This will not be solved by epub3 so long as it is reflowable. You can hobble it so it is no longer really an epub by keeping it from being reflowed.

In that case, why not just publish it as a pdf, which most of these readers and tablets and computers can all read and can be created on any computer with a pdf printer driver and a publishing or word processing program.

pstjmack
05-29-2013, 07:37 AM
In that case, why not just publish it as a pdf, which most of these readers and tablets and computers can all read and can be created on any computer with a pdf printer driver and a publishing or word processing program.

Kindle/mobi seems to get the balance right in allowing reflow and keeping consistent formatting. And the attraction of both Kindle and EPUB is precisely that they do allow reflowing. I'm wondering what EPUB's problem is this way.

My personal axe to grind is poetry. Some displays just fine in some ebook readers. Other examples don't. Sometimes the same book will look just fine in, for instance, the EPUB reader add-on for Firefox, while losing its verse breaks and turning into single blocks of text in FBReader. Maybe this is an issue in the software's implementation of the EPUB standard rather than the standard itself, but I certainly don't see much sign that it's been addressed by the EPUB community - unless EPUB3 is supposed to be the solution that fixes these issues.

Jellby
05-29-2013, 08:19 AM
while losing its verse breaks and turning into single blocks of text in FBReader.

Last time I checked, FBReader didn't support much of CSS. There's nothing the ePub standard can do if a reader will not support CSS (except making it clear that it's not a compliant ePub reader).

DiapDealer
05-29-2013, 09:51 AM
Kindle/mobi seems to get the balance right in allowing reflow and keeping consistent formatting. And the attraction of both Kindle and EPUB is precisely that they do allow reflowing. I'm wondering what EPUB's problem is this way.
I'm not really seeing much in the way of advantages/disadvantages (regarding formatting/reflow) between Kindle/ePub now that KF8 is full swing. It seems pretty much a wash to me in that department. Could you elaborate?

Unless you're referring to the fact that there's a myriad of ePub reading apps/devices out there all rendering ePub's with slightly different quirks and interpretations of (or outright indifference to) the ePub specs. If that's the case, the same mis-interpretation of (or outright indifference to) the ePub3 specs won't change that at all. As Jellby mentioned... there's nothing The Standard can do about reading apps/devices that choose to ignore the specs (or add their own features).

That's just a classic example of the differences between the evil, largely-undocumented yet fairly consistent "proprietary" standard; and the transparent, well-documented, yet casually ignored and inconsistently-implemented "open" standard. *shrugs*

Doitsu
05-29-2013, 01:58 PM
My personal axe to grind is poetry. Some displays just fine in some ebook readers. Other examples don't. Sometimes the same book will look just fine in, for instance, the EPUB reader add-on for Firefox, while losing its verse breaks and turning into single blocks of text in FBReader.

IMHO, it's next to impossible to create an epub that will display the same on all devices and apps, unless you keep the formatting very simple.
A low-tech solution would be to focus on getting your epub to display correctly in ADE (http://www.adobe.com/de/products/digital-editions.html). You cold then mention in the preface of your book that the epub was optimized for viewing with ADE and that you strongly recommend using ADE as the viewing app. (In spit of its many bugs (http://www.mobileread.com/forums/showthread.php?t=94733), ADE/RMSDK is pretty much the de-facto epub 2 reference implementation, because most ebook reader manufacturers have licensed it for DRM purposes. Adobe also offers free Windows and Mac ADE apps.)
You could also use Jellby's XPGT trick (http://www.mobileread.com/forums/showthread.php?p=744547) to create ADE-only styles and alternative styles for all other readers.

Maybe this is an issue in the software's implementation of the EPUB standard rather than the standard itself, but I certainly don't see much sign that it's been addressed by the EPUB community - unless EPUB3 is supposed to be the solution that fixes these issues.
epub 3 was primarily designed for interactive ebooks with JavaScript code and audio/video files. I.e., even when it is eventually supported by the majority of ebook readers and apps, it most likely won't help you much with your poetry styles.

SBT
05-29-2013, 06:00 PM
Perhaps someone can enlighten me as to the raison d'etre for EPUB3?
The utility of EPUB2 is easy to grasp: define a subset of HTML4 so that books can be displayed on devices with limited features.
With EPUB3, it seems like more or less all of HTML5 is supported, giving the possibility of all-singing, all-dancing e-books. But what is then the point of wrapping another format around HTML5? Why not just keep your document as just an HTML file and have one less standard to comply with?

mrmikel
05-29-2013, 07:05 PM
Your questions are good. The answers probably have nothing to do with merit and everything to do with marketing.

DaleDe
05-30-2013, 01:12 AM
Perhaps someone can enlighten me as to the raison d'etre for EPUB3?
The utility of EPUB2 is easy to grasp: define a subset of HTML4 so that books can be displayed on devices with limited features.
With EPUB3, it seems like more or less all of HTML5 is supported, giving the possibility of all-singing, all-dancing e-books. But what is then the point of wrapping another format around HTML5? Why not just keep your document as just an HTML file and have one less standard to comply with?

The rational was to update ePub 2 to keep up with the technology changes, hence adopting HTML5 instead of 4, MATHML, and several more. A browser does not make a good eBook reader as it scrolls rather than pages, like a book. But they seem to have gotten carried away with features and lost the eBook roots IMHO.

Dale

samhy
05-30-2013, 05:30 AM
Perhaps someone can enlighten me as to the raison d'etre for EPUB3?
The utility of EPUB2 is easy to grasp: define a subset of HTML4 so that books can be displayed on devices with limited features.
With EPUB3, it seems like more or less all of HTML5 is supported, giving the possibility of all-singing, all-dancing e-books. But what is then the point of wrapping another format around HTML5? Why not just keep your document as just an HTML file and have one less standard to comply with?
Epub3 is great for languages with a different alphabet. In Japanese for instance, epub3 allows tateyomi (reading from right to left on vertical lines). Also, I'm currently reading a book with several footnotes. Each time I select one, it appears in a pop-up window. From there I can go to the linked page if there is more than the pop-up can show and easily go back to the page I was reading.
There are several posts around here explaining what the epub3 format has to offer, if you want to know more about it :)

DiapDealer
05-30-2013, 06:05 AM
Popup footnotes sre part of the epub3 spec? Or do some readers just allow scripted popup windows in general?

Jellby
05-30-2013, 06:13 AM
ePub 2 already supports right-to-left writing, since it's implicit in Unicode... yet ADE ignores that, of course.

Doitsu
05-30-2013, 06:22 AM
Epub3 is great for languages with a different alphabet.
That applies mostly to CJK, because most epub 2 implementations support foreign languages with the appropriate embedded fonts.
The only exception are languages with different initial, medial, final and isolated glyphs, RTL languages and some CJK features, e.g. Ruby (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ruby_character) and tate-yomi, and this lack of support was mostly caused by Adobe, because if I understand the epub 2.0.1 specs correctly, nothing would have prevented Adobe from implementing support for those languages in ADE.

I'm currently reading a book with several footnotes. Each time I select one, it appears in a pop-up window. From there I can go to the linked page if there is more than the pop-up can show and easily go back to the page I was reading.
That's pretty much the only epub 3 feature that's actually an improvement over epub 2.01. Unfortunately, Amazon decided not to include it in the KF8 format.

Doitsu
05-30-2013, 06:28 AM
Popup footnotes sre part of the epub3 spec? Or do some readers just allow scripted popup windows in general?

It has been implemented as a special aside epub:type (http://www.idpf.org/accessibility/guidelines/content/xhtml/notes.php) attribute.

pstjmack
05-30-2013, 06:53 AM
even when it is eventually supported by the majority of ebook readers and apps, it most likely won't help you much with your poetry styles.

People, can we clarify here? We are saying that the electronic publishing standard being promoted worldwide as *the* future platform for ebooks cannot handle something as fundamental to all world literature as poetry? The basis of most world literatures in any language whatsoever? What kind of a standard is that?

SBT
05-30-2013, 07:14 AM
Mrmikel's initial reply is correct. To rephrase the succinct points:

Central to EPUB is flowability; the ability of the reader to break lines to fit the text to different screen and text sizes.
Central to poetry is (near) absolute control over placement of text.

Two diametrically opposing aims...:(

EPUB3 does allow fixed layout (i.e. absolute control), but it is not what the format is intended for. For that we have PDF.

AlPe
05-30-2013, 07:32 AM
As a digitally self-published poet struggling with formatting issues, who skipped EPUB because of its unpredictable layouts


Define "formatting issue" and we can talk about them. As mentioned by other, the concept of reflowable eBook implies (sort-of) that the author/publisher/typographer is willing to surrender a certain degree of "power" to the reader.

Side story. Nearly one year ago, I did some consulting for a small but quite famous Italian publisher who lives in a narrow market (prose) niche. They insisted that the "look-and-feel" of their eBooks should be exactly the same of their printed books. After a long, very detailed discussion of what can be done and what not, they kept insisting on it, to the point I suggested them to produce (relatively inexpensive) PDFs --- preferably in various formats: 5", 6" and 9" screens, A4 --- giving up all the "advantages" of reflowable ebooks. AFAIK, they are still making their minds up.

Anyway, w.r.t. to the "is EPUB 3 ready?" question. The DR is right on this: EPUB 3 support is scarce right now. By that, I mean "support for the new features introduced by EPUB 3"; otherwise, pretty much any EPUB 2 reading system is capable of reading what I call "an EPUB 2 ebook in an EPUB 3 container", that is, text + images + toc.ncx.
Even worse, even iBooks --- which is the only market-significant platform capable of render (some) EPUB 3 --- is not fully EPUB 3 compliant: for example, no MediaOverlay support for reflowable eBooks, MathML support is good for basic stuff but not for advanced stuff (surprised?), some rendition options are supported only through Apple-specific extensions (instead of standard declarations), etc.

On the other had, IMHO, the "is EPUB 3 dead on start?" question is more open to debate. There are two big issues here: 1) aside for the FXL craziness, EPUB 3 is mainly incremental w.r.t. EPUB 2 (the semantic vocabulary is ridiculously tiny and it is essentially ignored by reading systems, support for things like parallel texts is not even taken into consideration, not to mention the annotation stuff, etc.); 2) the "commercial dynamics" behind IDPF are clear: a bunch of non-Amazon (and non-Apple) publishers/vendors, who are more into marketing than into technology, with all the problems already mentioned above (everyone implements as much of EPUB 3 as it thinks good for its business, little investments, very little attention for "real eBook" features, etc.).

DiapDealer
05-30-2013, 07:44 AM
Poetry often depends heavily on visual structure where other narrative forms just don't (not as integrally anyway): change the font-size for a straight-forward narrative and the words-per-line just re-adjust to accommodate. Do the same for a poem, and it often visually (and unsatisfactorily) "breaks sh!t." A "Standard" is probably never going to be able to compensate for the fact that all screen- and font-sizes are simply not capable of displaying verse in its optimal visual representation (unless the font is made so tiny as to be virtually unreadable).

The choices are pretty clear: relinquish rigid control over the visual structure of poetry, or accept the fact that structure-dependent poetry is probably not a good candidate for digital conversion -- at least not if the goal is consistency across a range of devices/screen sizes.

AlPe
05-30-2013, 07:53 AM
That's exacly why I asked for the "formatting issues" cited above. In my experience, "classic poetry" can be rendered decently even on 6" eReaders with a reasonable font.

Clearly, if one wants to reproduce exotic typographical effects, she is going to have hard times.

DiapDealer
05-30-2013, 08:11 AM
Yes, that's been my experience as well. Make sure the poetry looks OK on a 6" screen with a midrange font-size, and take some minimal steps so it will degrade gracefully (practically at least, if not aesthetically) on smaller screens/larger fonts ... and move on.

pstjmack
05-30-2013, 08:14 AM
Yes, that's been my experience as well. Make sure the poetry looks OK on a 6" screen with a midrange font-size, and take some minimal steps so it will degrade gracefully (practically at least, if not aesthetically) on smaller screens/larger fonts ... and move on.

Amen to that. And the problem does appear to be more of consistent implementation of the standard in the reader software. Mantano, for instance renders Project Gutenberg's poetry epubs beautifully, while the results in FBReader are dreadful.

DiapDealer
05-30-2013, 08:24 AM
I honestly wouldn't give a second thought as to how FBReader renders anything. The vast majority of your target audience will be using a reader that uses Adobe's RMSDK engine--just like Mantano does.

Jellby
05-30-2013, 10:03 AM
Central to poetry is (near) absolute control over placement of text.

Well, that's only central to some kind of "modern" poetry. Classical poetry does not care so much about layout, just separate lines and stanzas, which is quite feasible (though rather cumbersome) with current ePub.

The only thing I'm missing (for poetry) is the kind of line alignment where long lines are wrapped and have the second part (often just a few words) right-aligned, preferably with a bracket. Well, that and line numbers, maybe.

JSWolf
05-30-2013, 10:32 AM
I'm not really seeing much in the way of advantages/disadvantages (regarding formatting/reflow) between Kindle/ePub now that KF8 is full swing. It seems pretty much a wash to me in that department. Could you elaborate?

I'm seeing a huge disadvantage for KF8. It's the line height. It's too big to be comfortable to read. You cannot lower the line height without changing the metrics of the font used. So unless you have a font that's set to display a decent line height, the reading experience is not going to be all that good.

DiapDealer
05-30-2013, 11:22 AM
I really should have seen you coming a mile away with that one. I must be slipping. :smack:

JSWolf
05-30-2013, 11:34 AM
I really should have seen you coming a mile away with that one. I must be slipping. :smack:

It's something lots of people have been asking Amazon to fix with KF8 and yet Amazon just ignores this.

Most KF8 are just ePub converted to KF8. I've not yet seen a KF8 eBook (or even read about about one) that uses KF8 features that ePub doesn't have.

Doitsu
05-30-2013, 12:48 PM
So unless you have a font that's set to display a decent line height, the reading experience is not going to be all that good.
Says the man who doesn't own a Kindle and seems to have a personal vendetta against Amazon. You keep focusing on minor cosmetic issues and overlook actual shortcomings, for example, no hyphenation support.

I've not yet seen a KF8 eBook (or even read about about one) that uses KF8 features that ePub doesn't have.

That's because many ebook designers are most likely not aware of the HTML5/CSS3 features that KF8 supports. For example, in KF8 files, it's possible to add shadow effects to fonts and to rotate text (http://www.mobileread.com/forums/showthread.php?t=212300) freely, however, it takes a creative designer to do something interesting with these new features. I'm pretty sure that over time we'll see KF8 books that take full advantage of these new features in a creative way.

DaleDe
05-30-2013, 02:19 PM
Actually the fixed format design of KF8 has many capabilities not on any other reader, particularly for children's books. None of those features are in ePub.

Dale

mrmikel
05-30-2013, 02:23 PM
It is easier to change things in either Amazon's or Apple's limited ecosystem.

Standards based formats do have their drawbacks this way.

JSWolf
05-30-2013, 02:27 PM
Says the man who doesn't own a Kindle and seems to have a personal vendetta against Amazon. You keep focusing on minor cosmetic issues and overlook actual shortcomings, for example, no hyphenation support.

I don't have to own a Kindle to know what's not nice. Heck, Kobo has a similar issue with line height except, you can override that in CSS which you cannot do with a Kindle. I've seen my share of Kindle's in person and I used a Kindle Touch to make my modified Charis SIL so it works well with KF8. Charis SIL unmodified is not a good fit for KF8. Actually, most fonts aren't a good fit without modification.


That's because many ebook designers are most likely not aware of the HTML5/CSS3 features that KF8 supports. For example, in KF8 files, it's possible to add shadow effects to fonts and to rotate text (http://www.mobileread.com/forums/showthread.php?t=212300) freely, however, it takes a creative designer to do something interesting with these new features. I'm pretty sure that over time we'll see KF8 books that take full advantage of these new features in a creative way.

Doubtful. It would mean creating yet another eBook which I doubt most publishers will do. It's easier to use the ePub as the source and be done with it.

eping
06-04-2013, 03:35 AM
don't see much sign that it's been addressed by the EPUB community - unless EPUB3 is supposed to be the solution that fixes these issues.

ePub industry is now in chaos, and ePub 3 is ridiculous. My personal opinion.

ePub 3 went a wrong direction. ePub is still far from PDF's perfect result and Mobi's unified implemetation. But ePub 3 cares more about audio & video, when it still can not support many basic features easily such as dropcap, small caps,
It's a book format or multi media format?
Readers don't care if the format is new or advanced, they care the result.

Turtle91
06-04-2013, 03:53 AM
But ePub 3 cares more about audio & video, when it still can not support many basic features easily such as dropcap, small caps.

I was under the impression that most drop cap and small cap issues were due to (lack of) reader support rather than epub3 spec. Pseudo element support (:first-letter/:first-line) is required in the 2.1 spec and font-variant:small-caps is in CSS 1. Is there something else I'm missing here?

Jellby
06-04-2013, 04:17 AM
I was under the impression that most drop cap and small cap issues were due to (lack of) reader support rather than epub3 spec. Pseudo element support (:first-letter/:first-line) is required in the 2.1 spec and font-variant:small-caps is in CSS 1. Is there something else I'm missing here?

If I had to ask for something related to drop-caps, it would be the possibility of referring the drop-cap size to the main line-height (whatever it is).

eping
06-04-2013, 04:58 AM
I was under the impression that most drop cap and small cap issues were due to (lack of) reader support rather than epub3 spec. Pseudo element support (:first-letter/:first-line) is required in the 2.1 spec and font-variant:small-caps is in CSS 1. Is there something else I'm missing here?

Is Audio and Video due to reader support? why ePub 3 specify it?
Those things in CSS is far from enough. How can you guarantee dropcap of three lines when reader change font size or line height?
Is there a basic size unit for font or for layout design(You will find percentage,px,pt,em system none reliable here)

A standard away from reality is meaningless.

Toxaris
06-04-2013, 06:24 AM
What Turtle meant, is that the psuedo elements should be supported according to the specs, but readers are ignoring it. Audio and Video are not in the specs of ePUB2.

DaleDe
06-04-2013, 04:00 PM
Is Audio and Video due to reader support? why ePub 3 specify it?
Those things in CSS is far from enough. How can you guarantee dropcap of three lines when reader change font size or line height?
Is there a basic size unit for font or for layout design(You will find percentage,px,pt,em system none reliable here)

A standard away from reality is meaningless.

ePub 3 is based on HTML5 and HTML5 supports audio and video. The early adopters of ePub 3 so far have been children's books in fixed layout ePub and for this audience audio and video may make a little sense.

But I agree which the detractors that essential features need solutions but are being ignored. Even ePub 1 (Open eBook) had better features (for example headers and footers) in some cases than anything since.

Dale