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Old 11-02-2013, 09:52 PM   #1
McManly
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epub readers on Android

This requires a bit of background. I have been writing and publishing for 40 years, and as I must turn up my toes one of these days, I am trying to convert all my partly-baked ideas into e-books, so I don't have to waste time persuading nervous publishers. So far, I have created nine books, none released, so this isn't a self-promo.

My method: I use Word 2003 for the ground-work: I am mainly working with Word or text files, created as far back as 1981. These are all in a uniform set of styles, so that's the easy way to go.

I create a table of contents in Word, and use parts of that to seed the files with navigation, and that all translates through into the end-product. Once the navigation is done, I save as HTML, load the HTML into Calibre, and create an epub.

I have worked out that certain edits in the Word file "poison" the navigation links. Don't know how, don't care: I now do final edits in Sigil. I note in passing that Sigil is less than impressed with html that Calibre is able to live with. I just let it "clean" it, and the result looks fine.

My intention, long-term, is to sell epub, pdf and mobi formats through the Australian Society of Authors, but I want to release a number at once, and by waiting, I can see how many ISBNs I need to buy. Each version is supposed to have its own ISBN, and if I need more than 50, it is cheaper to buy a block of 100 ISBNs, rather than blocks of 10.

So, I am giving everything a good shake, using a large beta file to test almost to destruction. Right now, I am looking for an Android epub reader which can do what Calibre and Sigil both do on my desktop machine. All of the features mentioned below are there in the file, because Calibre and Sigil show them, and a pdf created from Calibre has all of the things I want visible.

The job I am working on now is a history of science: currently it is at 180,000 words, and there's lots to go. That demands a reader that can manage illustrations, and not choke on large files. My test piece is an epub of 2.5 meg, but recent pdf files that I have had from print publishers have been up to 70 meg, and a number of free readers could not handle those.

I want something that I can recommend for reading epubs that can:
  • display Greek characters like pi and nu, plus h-bar and other rarities;
  • present tables as they should appear, complete with border and cell margins;
  • display italics, bold, and 9, 10 and 12-point body type;
  • display my navigation in full;
  • display my selected font (Verdana, though I would settle for Arial);
  • offer both landscape and portrait.

Yesterday, I worked my way through a number of readers on my Samsung Tab 1. I already have (and am reasonably happy with) Aldiko, UB Reader and eBook, though eBook has an atrocious font with a very strange cap-J. This is a pity, because it's a neat little display, otherwise. It did have a few conniptions handling images.

Here are my comments for the others that I loaded up yesterday and discarded:

Offline reader: could not render the Greek character for pi.

Slick reader: could not render the Greek character for pi.

Ebook.de reader: could not render the Greek character for pi.

Moon reader free: could not render the Greek character for pi. Also, the table of contents is quite long in the testbed version (I am going down to heading 4), and the app was unable to display all of it, truncating it half-way through.

Perfect reader: could not render the Greek character for pi. Also, the table of contents is quite long in the testbed version (I am going down to heading 4), and the app was unable to display all of it, truncating it half-way through.

Good reader free: could not render the Greek character for pi. Also, the table of contents is quite long in the testbed version (I am going down to heading 4), and the app was unable to display all of it, truncating it half-way through.

Free book e-reader: only does landscape.

eLibrary Basic: could not render the Greek character for pi, very slow, so I gave up.

txtr ebooks: seems to be only there to let you read books they have sold you. I could see no way to read what was on the tablet.

Versent: seems to be only there to let you read books they have sold you. I could see no way to read what was on the tablet.

Book info look-up: I couldn't even get this to start. It may have choked on the large file.

I look forward to suggestions and comments. I have noted several mentions of Mantano and will be looking at that more closely.

peter

Last edited by McManly; 11-02-2013 at 09:55 PM. Reason: sloppy writing fixed. added an "and"
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Old 11-03-2013, 07:40 PM   #2
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Hi,

First things first: I consider Moon+ Reader Pro to be the best EPUB reader on Android. The paid version is greatly superior over the free one, although I couldn't say whether it would resolve your particular issues.

Just a few general comments from me below...

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Originally Posted by McManly View Post
I note in passing that Sigil is less than impressed with html that Calibre is able to live with. I just let it "clean" it, and the result looks fine.
I wouldn't rely on a vague "looks fine". For every EPUB book I produce, I make sure to run its HTML code through w3c.org's validator. Until I get the green light, I won't publish the faulty code. Having 100% valid code would be particularly important for a scientific publication such as yours, I'd say, which requires precision in every respect.

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display Greek characters like pi and nu, plus h-bar and other rarities;
Please note that this is largely dependent on the font (!) the reader activates in his or her e-reader software, and that is something that you cannot (and should not) specify on behalf of the reader.

Greek characters (and other oddities) display just fine in quality e-reader software if your file is properly encoded using UTF-8. Then, all you can do is to alert the reader of your e-book, perhaps in a preface or introductory note, that they should select a fully Unicode-enabled font for viewing your book. That should do it!

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display italics, bold, and 9, 10 and 12-point body type;
Italics, bold (and other such formatting) are a must.

However, specifying exact font sizes is (in my opinion) a misconception. That is not what the EPUB format is about. The EPUB code should only contain relative font specification. Leave the size of the default paragraph text unspecified; and then, you can specify certain passages to be a certain percentage in size compared to the default and unspecified text size (such as 1.25em, 0.8em).

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display my selected font (Verdana, though I would settle for Arial)
Again, a misconception, in my opinion. You cannot enforce your own preferred fonts in EPUB e-readers. EPUB files are not PDF files, thank heavens. All you can do, is recommend certain fonts to your readers as optimal for viewing your particular e-books. You'll never be able to enforce a particular font onto your readers, though. And that's a great thing! (For example, I dislike non-serif fonts and would not read your books in them; the first thing I'd do, even if your book displayed in a non-serif font for me by default, would be to swap your preferred font for my favourite -- and serif -- font. And that's fine, as long as my preferred font is fully Unicode-enabled, so that your content remains intact.)

Last edited by Faterson; 11-03-2013 at 07:50 PM.
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Old 11-04-2013, 02:35 AM   #3
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1. Thanks for the hint re wc3.org. I suspect the problem is that Word 2003 does some awfully kludgey HTML, and that's all that is annoying Sigil, but I will do that.

2. When I spoke of enforcing a font, I was really meaning one appalling font that seems to be the only choice. I will certainly contemplate UTF-8, BUT, I have seen nowhere, in any reader, where the user can load fonts. That may be my fault.

3. A call for dinner has come. I Will Return!
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Old 11-04-2013, 03:01 AM   #4
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I suspect the problem is that Word 2003 does some awfully kludgey HTML
It most definitely does. You can get rid of some or perhaps even most of it by saving your file as "simplified HTML" in Word, but some manual fixing will likely still be needed to make the code 100% valid.

Also, there's a difference between 100% valid and efficient code. Even 100% valid code may be structurally redundant. It will be tough to avoid that whenever using a WYSIWYG editor, and especially Word, to produce EPUB files. From among WYSIWYG editors, I'd still prefer Composer, part of SeaMonkey's suite, over Word.

To me, simplicity rules, and I prefer to hand-code my EPUB files in a plain-text editor. I keep my code as slim as humanly possible; whatever can be excluded from the code, is thrown away. Only meaningful, efficient, and minimalistic CSS, corresponding to Word styles, is allowed to remain.

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I have seen nowhere, in any reader, where the user can load fonts.
Oh, absolutely, every decent EPUB e-reader gives you that option. That's the power and beauty of EPUB as opposed to PDF. Many e-readers come preloaded with a handful, or even a couple of dozen of nice fonts (both serif and non-serif). Moon+ Reader Pro also gives the user the extra option to add any custom font to the software. Your e-books should be formatted so that they display properly regardless of what font the EPUB software user may prefer -- as long as it's a fully Unicode-enabled font, and your file is properly encoded in UTF-8.
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Old 11-05-2013, 02:05 AM   #5
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That dinner lasted a bit longer than expected, sorry--and then I went out to sieve up some very tiny rabbit bones, about 3 mm long, too small to have been picked up in a quick grab that we made last week. Yeah, I have weird hobbies, but this is for an educational display.

Back to my vague "looks fine" for the HTML, what Sigil actually says is that "This EPUB has HTML that are [is??--that's what I noted down] well-formed". It then offers to automatically fix it, so I agree to let it do so.

I am in a bit of a bind, so far as using or not using Word 2003, because as I said, i am getting on, and want to get this stuff out of my files and available for use before I get too old altogether, or cease getting older at all.

The solution is to move blocks of text to Notepad or whatever, clean them up there before transferring them to Sigil or something to format them efficiently. I note the comment about Composer, and will look into that, many thanks there.

Giong off-topic. I notice, Faterson, that you are in Bratislava. I almost made it there five years ago, but we had to abort our trip in Vienna as a family member got ill suddenly. I have had one book translated into your language (do we say Slovak or Slovakian?). It was a small release translation through Eastone Books, 'Zabijacka Fazul'a a Calabaru'--a cheery history of poisons and poisoners.

Back on topic, I mis-stated my concern about fonts. As an old teacher, I know that the general opinion in Australia, is that sanserif is easier to read but I'm not fussed. I am fussed by the default (and apparently only) font in eBook, which is one of my best three readers. Because of my special formatting needs, I will need to recommend a reader or several readers, and I wonder how many potential buyers will shy off if they can't get a free e-reader?

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Old 11-05-2013, 01:23 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by McManly View Post
Back to my vague "looks fine" for the HTML, what Sigil actually says is that "This EPUB has HTML that are [is??--that's what I noted down] well-formed". It then offers to automatically fix it, so I agree to let it do so.
I wouldn't trust Sigil's word or clean-up alone on this. Until my code is approved by w3c.org's validator, I'm not satisfied.

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The solution is to move blocks of text to Notepad or whatever
For what it's worth, I use EditPlus for Windows, a superb Korean plain-text editor offering great colour-coding for creating/fixing faulty HTML, etc.

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I note the comment about Composer, and will look into that, many thanks there.
It's a very basic, free WYSIWYG HTML editor; it's not DreamWeaver by any means; but it never ceases to delight me by the valid code it produces. It's not really optimal for creating books, I'm afraid. But for quick-and-dirty HTML files? Absolutely.

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I have had one book translated into your language (do we say Slovak or Slovakian?).
People familiar with Slovakia say Slovak; others say Slovakian.

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It was a small release translation through Eastone Books, 'Zabijacka Fazul'a a Calabaru'--a cheery history of poisons and poisoners.
Yep, your The Killer Bean of Calabar is still on sale here:

http://www.martinus.sk/?uItem=26626

The user review below praises the book's content, but complains about the Slovak translation, calling it stylistically and terminologically sub-par.

Also, watch out for typos: it's z Calabaru, not a Calabaru. (z = from) Also, bean is fazuľa, not fazul'a. Apostrophes are almost never used in Slovak; that's the letter L with a diacritic sign there. We have three kinds of L in Slovak: L, Ľ and Ĺ. Each of them is pronounced differently.

Don't worry: if you properly encode your e-books using UTF-8, all weird letters like these (Greek, Slovak, Chinese, whatnot...) will be displayed properly for your readers if they use a fully Unicode-enabled font. And you also don't need to worry about free e-readers on Android (or iOS, for that matter): for example, Moon+ Reader, even in its free version, definitely offers Unicode fonts, so if you noticed problems displaying Greek letters in it, my guess would be that, either you were using a non-Unicode font in Moon+ for your test, and/or your e-book wasn't properly encoded in UTF-8. Encoding all texts in UTF-8 is a must in 2013 and beyond.
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