View Full Version : the metaphysics of Epub


Nate the great
06-25-2009, 09:28 PM
I'm beginning to question why Epub should be adopted over the other formats. I have a question that I hope someone can answer.

What is it about Epub that makes it better than all the other formats, and which can't be done with a web browser?

Or, here is another question: how is Epub greater than the sum of its parts?

Jellby
06-26-2009, 04:41 AM
Because it is designed as a standard. There is a specification of what must be supported by ePUB.

You could probably get the same (or more) features if you just create an HTML file with CSS, and a text file with metadata, and package everything in a RAR file, but then you'll have to find a reader that can deal with that, and other people might use a different format (different metadata, TeX instead of HTML, tar.bz2 instead of RAR...). Having something standardized is a good thing.

It is better than the sum of its part, because it is not only the sum of its parts, but the interaction between them and the security of the main format being fixed.

An important reason (in my view) to prefer ePUB over other formats is that ePUB books can very easily be edited and modifed without altering the rest of the book or degrading it in any way. At least DRM-free ePUBs.

Valloric
06-26-2009, 12:30 PM
What Jellby said.

brewt
06-26-2009, 01:11 PM
Font embedding. If it only weren't so bloody hard.

Theoretically, if the hardware providers would provide us with a way to address the players, music could be embedded into it as well. All those boring music history texts could come to (whatever) life (they could possibly have). Maybe in the 2.0 spec.

If a reader could be built to actually view true docx files, or archives of docx files, these things could also be had. I know, I know, evil. Can't resist yet another opportunity to bring up evil.

Electronic musical instrument developers went through the same growing pains 25 years ago when they developed MIDI. And that spec has nevr really gone onto further development - there's still vast doves of things one could do with mdi if one only had the wherewithal to connect all the dots. Er, notes....


The tools for building epubs still ain't great - when the manufacture of complex epubs gets more ubiquitous, the "why-vs-why-not" debates will become less important - 'cause if it's easy, etc etc.

-bjc

netseeker
06-26-2009, 04:38 PM
What is it about Epub that makes it better than all the other formats

because with ePub i can create an ebook just with a text editor and a zip tool without depending on special software tools
the spec is open, no non-disclosure agreements or reverse engineering required
ePub offers a very good balance between complexity and supported features
One solution (to rule them all ;)): content, meta data, publication packaging (container)

and which can't be done with a web browser?
All the rendering stuff could be done with a web browser. With some effort a browser could support publication packaging, navigation, font embedding and enhanced meta data too.
From my point of view a ePub reading system *is* already a enhanced (and simultaneously also a crippled) web browser.

Nate the great
06-26-2009, 06:39 PM
Font embedding. If it only weren't so bloody hard.



Mobipocket does it the easy way. It supports the font tag, and uses fonts from your devices fonts folder.

JSWolf
06-26-2009, 07:55 PM
Font embedding. If it only weren't so bloody hard.
Actually, I find ePub's font embedding to be very very easy.

JSWolf
06-26-2009, 07:56 PM
Mobipocket does it the easy way. It supports the font tag, and uses fonts from your devices fonts folder.
And if you jump forward and miss the font tag, your font won't be displayed. Mobipocket is rather buggy in this regard.

JSWolf
06-26-2009, 07:56 PM
The biggest reason to support ePub is that it has nothing whatsoever to do with Amazon.

netseeker
06-26-2009, 08:10 PM
Actually, I find ePub's font embedding to be very very easy.
Me too.

JSWolf
06-27-2009, 08:27 AM
Font embedding in ePub is easier then any other eBook format.

Jellby
06-27-2009, 09:01 AM
Indeed, font embedding is almost trivial, one need only include the font files in the package and add the @font-face CSS instructions.

Now, whether automatic ePUB creation programs and ePUB readers support font embedding, that's another matter.

JSWolf
06-27-2009, 09:04 AM
Indeed, font embedding is almost trivial, one need only include the font files in the package and add the @font-face CSS instructions.

Now, whether automatic ePUB creation programs and ePUB readers support font embedding, that's another matter.
And then in the appropriate place, specify the font-family and line-height (if needed).

Speaking of line-height... when using Fontin as the base font, if I specify a line-height of 110%, it fixes the problem is the first line with a drop cap having too much space.

Jellby
06-27-2009, 09:57 AM
And then in the appropriate place, specify the font-family and line-height (if needed).

Yes, but that's the usual stuff for non-embedded fonts (although it shouldn't be used with non-embedded fonts in ePUB).

JSWolf
06-27-2009, 10:36 AM
Yes, but that's the usual stuff for non-embedded fonts (although it shouldn't be used with non-embedded fonts in ePUB).
Why not? Can't you use font-family to specify serif vs sans-serif vs mono?

Jellby
06-27-2009, 11:05 AM
Why not? Can't you use font-family to specify serif vs sans-serif vs mono?

You got me!

I was thinking of that while I was writing my message, but decided it was not worth mentioning it :D

Yes, specifying generic font families is fine, nothing wrong with that (do current ePUB readers provide a complete set of these families, anyway?). My point was that a particular font face should not be used if it's not embedded, because there's no guarantee the readers will have that font, or even the possibility of installing it (or at least, the creator should assume that many readers will not see the intended font).

P.S. I've been often told that I always want to have the last word, so I apologize it if looks like I'm arguing for the sake of argument, it seem's it's just my way :o

DaleDe
06-27-2009, 04:46 PM
You got me!

I was thinking of that while I was writing my message, but decided it was not worth mentioning it :D

Yes, specifying generic font families is fine, nothing wrong with that (do current ePUB readers provide a complete set of these families, anyway?). My point was that a particular font face should not be used if it's not embedded, because there's no guarantee the readers will have that font, or even the possibility of installing it (or at least, the creator should assume that many readers will not see the intended font).

P.S. I've been often told that I always want to have the last word, so I apologize it if looks like I'm arguing for the sake of argument, it seem's it's just my way :o

You should be able to list several fonts in the font CSS entry. A generic font should always be listed as the last choice so that something will be found. Of course some implementations ignore a list and default to their own default.

Dale

JSWolf
06-28-2009, 09:38 AM
You got me!

I was thinking of that while I was writing my message, but decided it was not worth mentioning it :D

Yes, specifying generic font families is fine, nothing wrong with that (do current ePUB readers provide a complete set of these families, anyway?). My point was that a particular font face should not be used if it's not embedded, because there's no guarantee the readers will have that font, or even the possibility of installing it (or at least, the creator should assume that many readers will not see the intended font).

When I use CSS code to specify specific fonts, I do this for my own use and do not have to add he font files to the ePub.. If I am going to embed for others, I will embed in the ePub file itself.

I did take a recently converted ePub and specify that the headers should use the default sans-serif font and it worked perfectly.

brewt
06-28-2009, 10:26 PM
Indeed, font embedding is almost trivial, one need only include the font files in the package and add the @font-face CSS instructions.

Now, whether automatic ePUB creation programs and ePUB readers support font embedding, that's another matter.

Must be my sense of lazy that makes it so hard. Indesign'll embed JaneAusten.ttf as part of the package, and that's still about all it does "easily". Check the embed fonts box, and they are there in the resultant epub. Maybe I'm just inept, but I can't get mobicreator to do that.

I've been holding my breath for Calibre to do that, 'cause I just hate handbuilding the epub, 'cause then I have to be intelligent, thoughtful, and responsible. Yuck.

-bjc

Nate the great
06-28-2009, 10:46 PM
Must be my sense of lazy that makes it so hard. Indesign'll embed JaneAusten.ttf as part of the package, and that's still about all it does "easily". Check the embed fonts box, and they are there in the resultant epub. Maybe I'm just inept, but I can't get mobicreator to do that.

I've been holding my breath for Calibre to do that, 'cause I just hate handbuilding the epub, 'cause then I have to be intelligent, thoughtful, and responsible. Yuck.

-bjc

I don't think you can embed fonts in a Mobipocket file. So far as I can tell, it uses the ones in the /fonts folder.

brewt
06-28-2009, 11:23 PM
I don't think you can embed fonts in a Mobipocket file. So far as I can tell, it uses the ones in the /fonts folder.

My experience as well - if the font is there, I can call it. But if it's not on the device, well, that's too bad.

Hence, the epub advantage. So many pretty things, so little.......

-bjc

ondabeach
06-28-2009, 11:28 PM
You can embed music and video files in an ePUB. The reader just needs to support it, and that's easy.

netseeker
06-29-2009, 06:24 AM
You can embed music and video files in an ePUB. The reader just needs to support it, and that's easy.
Yes and additionally there is another important point: The ePub specification allows the usage of DTBook (http://wiki.mobileread.com/wiki/DTBook) which was designed explicitly with visually impaired, physically handicapped, learning-disabled or otherwise print-disabled readers in mind. It's up to the manufacturers of ePub-reading systems to support that in a useable manner. Imho most current devices offer most (if not all) necessary features but most ePub-reading systems don't use it.

Gaurav
06-29-2009, 06:41 AM
I think ePub has everything which makes it a leader in ebook formats. The making and navigating an epub file is simple as compared to other formats. Also it become a standard for ebook formats. Below are some features which makes epub standout from other formats:
- Linked Footnotes – each footnote number is a link, click on this to see the footnote. Click on the same number to go back to your original page.
- Nicely formatted titles, subtitles, etc.
- Paragraph indents – Except on first paragraph of a chapter/section (more paper book like)
- Block Indents – Small left/right indents on block quotes, letters of correspondence, songs, etc.

Nate the great
06-29-2009, 08:01 AM
I think ePub has everything which makes it a leader in ebook formats. The making and navigating an epub file is simple as compared to other formats. Also it become a standard for ebook formats. Below are some features which makes epub standout from other formats:
- Linked Footnotes each footnote number is a link, click on this to see the footnote. Click on the same number to go back to your original page.
- Nicely formatted titles, subtitles, etc.
- Paragraph indents Except on first paragraph of a chapter/section (more paper book like)
- Block Indents Small left/right indents on block quotes, letters of correspondence, songs, etc.

But you can do all those thins in Mobipocket.

DaleDe
06-29-2009, 11:59 AM
But you can do all those thins in Mobipocket.

Are you sure? Linked footnotes that link back automatically?, indents on all but the first paragraph of a chapter?

Dale

Jellby
06-29-2009, 12:22 PM
Are you sure? Linked footnotes that link back automatically?, indents on all but the first paragraph of a chapter?

Just as well as with ePUB. At least I do them basically the same way.

Footnotes (in mobipocket HTML):
Blah, <a name="note1b"/>blah blah<a href="#note1">[1]</a>. Blah
...
...
<a name="note1"/>
<p>[1] This is a footnote</p>
<a href="#note1b">(Back)</a>

Indents (in mobipocket HTML):
<h1>Chapter 1</h1>
<p width="0em">The first pararagraph.</p>
<p>The second paragraph.</p>
<p>The third, etc.</p>

PS. Note that not having indent in the first paragraph of a chapter or section is not the custom in all languages, so I'm glad ebook formats don't are too MS-paperclip-smart ;)

pepak
06-29-2009, 12:40 PM
Are you sure? Linked footnotes that link back automatically?,
That doesn't exist in EPUB either. There is no such tag.

indents on all but the first paragraph of a chapter?
Sure.

---

My main gripe with EPUB is that it, just like many of its predecessors, tries to provide an universal format - something that would satisfy all possible needs, work on all possible devices etc. In my opinion, that's a sure way to fail - the needs (and the devices) are so variable that one format can't possibly satisfy them all (e.g. with EPUB, we can talk fonts - I can either choose to use device-default fonts or one particular embedded font, but I can't choose to use a device-font on one device AND an embedded-font on another). I am still convinced that the proper way is to provide one "storage format" and then convert it to device-dependent form before use.

JSWolf
06-29-2009, 05:36 PM
One thing that makes ePub a winner is the ability to edit the book without having to decompile. Every other format is a binary format and you cannot edit without first converting, making the changes and then recompiling.

brewt
06-30-2009, 12:27 PM
Attached are some things to demonstrate footnotes/endnotes and hanging indents in both mobi & epub.
Epub & mobi made from Calibre
prc made from mobicreator
zipped source html made with nothing short of Pure Unadulterated Evil.
Epub made with Indesign.

Making those things work depend on what you use to write the source file (Go Evil!), the creator software and the reading software you use to look at it. ZuluReader, for example, doesn't do the hyperlinking, and still seems to be stripping out most formatting (at least, the ones I know how to use).
Seems to read ok in ADE and Mobi and Calibre readers.

The Indesign-created file is problematic. The hyperlinks created in Word are stripped. Not to mention some of the cool style tricks (like forcing a page at the chapter) and lines go away, etc. And I haven't sorted out hyperlinking in IDcs4v603 yet, seems hard. Fonts are embedded ok.

-bjc