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Old 01-21-2006, 06:02 PM   #1
rsperberg
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A little about the FictionBook 2.0 format

I guess I'm kind of slow, but it was only a couple days ago that I realized that the FictionBook 2.0 authoring format is also the format that the e-readers use for rendering.

Marking up text is similar to putting it into HTML, except the tags are XML, they only overlap html partially, not wholly, and there are very specific ways you need to treat your footnotes. And of course being XML, the order of tags and what can go where is very strictly regimented in the W3C XML schema file (which probably makes things easier to construct an FB2 e-reader).

I won't go into the nature of the FB2 file here -- you can find a pretty complete description at haali.cs.msu.ru/pocketpc/FictionBook_description.html, written by the author of one of the Windows FB2 e-readers (the Haali e-reader), who also is in some part responsible for the FB2 format. The biggest difference is in how much metadata you can/should put into the file, and in the strict fashion that titles are handled.

I had assumed that for an e-book reader, the marked-up text was converted to a binary file -- the way Microsoft .lit, RocketBook .rb, and Plucker .pdb files are, to mention three formats I've worked with. And so I assumed that "conversion tools" meant "conversion to FB2 reading format." Instead they mean "conversion from html or iSilo or Word doc or .lit" formats to FB2 xml format, or the other direction (to rtf instead of .doc, plus to .rb).

Thus most of the burden on rendering a file and creating a linked table of contents is put on the e-readers.

With compiled binary reading formats, you can have many html and image files, and the conversion program puts them all into a single file. With FB2, all the text and metadata must be joined into a single file, and all the images are put there as well, after first being converted to base64 format. So there is only a single file, but it is the author who must put it all together.

To make the file smaller, put it into a zip archive. I haven't tested all the readers, but FBReader on the Nokia 770 (and Linux desktop and Sharp Zaurus) reads the zip file without your needing to extract the e-book. And, of course, if you notice something that has to be changed or corrected (I for one can't let any typo slide by), you simply go in and edit the FB2 file in any text editor.

I've mentioned FBReader (home page: only.mawhrin.net/fbreader/ ) and the platforms it runs on. Haali Reader (home) runs on Windows, WinCE and PocketPC. Athenaeum (home: sourceforge.net/projects/athenaeum runs on Windows 2000 and Windows XP.

I should mention that two pages linking to various tools can be found at haali.cs.msu.ru/pocketpc/scripts.html.en
and at www.fictionbook.org/en/programs/redact.html .
I found a fair amount of information at FictionBook.org and a link there led me to several book repositories, some with English titles..

I'll report further details as I master them.

-- Roger

Last edited by rsperberg; 01-21-2006 at 08:32 PM.
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Old 01-21-2006, 06:18 PM   #2
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That's a warez site you're mentioning there. (fictionbook.ru) You can download all sorts of recent, copyrighted content from it.
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Old 01-21-2006, 06:28 PM   #3
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My first impressions of the Haali reader are quite good. How come it has never been mentioned here on MobileRead?

Might even consider adding Fictionbook support to Sunrise XP. The format seems to be clearly defined XML. Surely it's much easier to support than Plucker.
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Old 01-21-2006, 06:55 PM   #4
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It's been a long time since Haali reader was last updated.

http://haali.cs.msu.ru/pocketpc/
Last version: 2.0b249
Last modified: 2003/12/04 11:43
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Old 01-21-2006, 08:50 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Laurens
That's a warez site you're mentioning there. You can download all sorts of recent, copyrighted content from it.
It would seem so. Certainly titles are there that are still in copyright in the U.S. (and elsewhere). Non-Russian language titles seem to follow different rules in Russia, however, as far as I can tell -- they may not be breaking any criminal laws there. I didn't see any frontlist titles, and books listed all identify their 'maintainers.' Not exactly the equivalent of offering Windows 98 but definitely you don't see books on the NY Times bestseller list, if I may use that comparison to warez sites offering the latest Microsoft or Adobe software.

So, as PG sites say, better check the laws of where you live (and follow those).
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Old 01-21-2006, 09:14 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Laurens
Might even consider adding Fictionbook support to Sunrise XP. The format seems to be clearly defined XML. Surely it's much easier to support than Plucker.
While FictionBook 2.0 has its flaws, at least it uses a structure that actually comes from books rather than web pages. An e-reading program can at least tell what is a title at any level in the book. And by formalizing the structure in an XML schema, FB2 enables e-readers to eliminate a lot of error-handling code to process bad markup.

I'm just now working up a few titles in this format. When I've found the time to finish them up, I'll post them in various public venues and let people know here.

I think it would neat to add this support. For one thing, it would provide a way to read feed-based titles on a Windows laptop, which isn't possible with the Plucker pdb format.

I didn't mention all the metadata that's collected -- you might locate FBTools and look over the dialogs in its FBEditor to see them all; I suspect you'd have to add some similar ones to Sunrise.

And as I think about it while writing this post, I agree with you pretty strongly. The support for FB2 ought to be really straightforward, given its straightforward nature.

Does Sunrise include an XML parser/validator? (I guess I should look in the other forum and ask that question there, shouldn't I? )
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Old 01-22-2006, 06:39 AM   #7
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Only an idea

Fictionbook support is only an idea. I have no actual plans to support it as of yet. It all depends on how many people might actually use it and how good the support for the FB format in the readers actually is. (In other words: if it's actually worth the effort.) For instance, the FBReader page states that there it has no support for styles yet. Does that mean it cannot render boldfaced and italic text? If so, that would be quite a limitation.

I do like the support for PNG and JPEG images and the fact that you can just stream them as base64. I also like the fact that FB supports real links. (You wouldn't want to know how complicated link handling in Plucker is.)
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Old 01-22-2006, 08:12 AM   #8
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I can't say how widespread the usage is yet -- it's a new e-reader and FB2 originated in Russia, so it still needs to set its roots in the West.

But the spread of the Nokia 770 will, I think, bring it to a position of significance. I speak, of course, as an adherent and an optimist. But when you compare its features to those of the Sony Reader, I think it will benefit from Sony's push into the e-reader area. (See for instance pieces I wrote at Teleread, "Nokia 770 compared to dedicated e-readers, http://www.teleread.org/blog/?p=3994, and "Sony's ereader: the good news and the bad news," http://www.teleread.org/blog/?p=4058, and many earlier pieces about FBReader on the 770.)

FBReader has really great support for formatting and styles. Here's a screen capture showing italic within text --



This is from one of two pages full of screen captures showing its features and controls, at http://only.mawhrin.net/fbreader/maemo/screenshots.html and http://only.mawhrin.net/fbreader/maemo/fonts.html
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Old 11-21-2008, 04:10 PM   #9
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Hi....
The information about mobile phones was really useful.....
Thanks.....
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Old 11-25-2008, 09:07 AM   #10
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I only just noticed this thread, so I guess it's basically dead, but I just wanted to say that the Haali Reader and BookDesigner software are basically the reasons I have adopted FB2 as my primary reader format.

Prior to getting an eInk device, I used an Acer n10 PDA running Windows Mobile 2003. I installed the CE version of Haali Reader on that and it was absolutely fantastic. Beat the pants off of Microsoft Reader and MobiReader for Windows Mobile devices. Download page here:

http://haali.cs.msu.ru/pocketpc/

With MS Reader I was constantly getting crashes whilst reading, especially if I wanted to jump back to something I had read earlier. It seems the processing overhead for the poor little ol' MS software was not up to the task - even on a mobile device built for their mobile OS! MobiReader just looked godawful as far as displaying books for reading goes. I guess I could have persevered and tried to adjust the Mobi Reader more, but why bother when FB2 on the Haali Reader was awesome!

And how's this for standardisation - basically the same reader with the same GUI and config options was available for PC (different installer, of course). I used to use Haali on the PC and PPC with FB2 format books.

The Reader has a huge set of options, and you can add your own TT fonts to the PPC and these are then selectable by the reader. You could adjust the display colour schemes, the kind of status information shown when reading, the formatting and hyphenation. You could add bookmarks and there is even a dictionary support function that I never bothered with.

What I liked was the easy to use and edit XML based format, the tools around for converting to/from FB2 (Any2FB2 and BookDesigner, just to name two of the most popular). And so many readers can handle the FB2 format - the FBReader is probably the most universal port, Stanza on the Mac can read it, the Haali Reader on Windows and Windows PPC platforms.

The one disadvantage of FB2 is awareness, or lack of. I came across FB2 because I bought the Acer n10 primarily as a reader in 2004 and was so diappointed with MS Reader and Mobi reader. I searched around for eBook readers and tools and stumbled across the Russian pages. Added to that, my wife is Russian and there are tonnes of Russian language texts available for download and easy conversion to FB2.

I suspect if this was developed in US or Europe, the format would have taken off. As it is, many long-time hardcore e-Readers like myself have been aware of the format for some time, and have used it extensively.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Colin Dunstan View Post
It's been a long time since Haali reader was last updated.

http://haali.cs.msu.ru/pocketpc/
Last version: 2.0b249
Last modified: 2003/12/04 11:43
To be honest, the reader sofware is pretty much fine as it is. There have been a number of minor updates up until 2007 - see the News page:

http://haali.cs.msu.ru/pocketpc/news.html.en

Here's a changelog extract back to Oct 2003:

# 02/04/07 2.0b264 Added an option to search from current position, added Longvo 12 support.
# 07/09/06 2.0b257 Bugfixes.
# 12/01/05 Small fixes in ExportXML word macro.
# 03/11/04 2.0b249 HiRes support.
# 29/09/04 2.0b243 Fixed PDB reader.
# 17/09/04 2.0b242 Small fixes and improvements.
# 04/12/03 2.0b237 Fixed chapter title display in status bar, fixed search in builtin dictionary.
# 22/10/03 2.0b227 Fixed a few small issues.
# 21/10/03 2.0b223 Fixed lingvo call, current chapter title can be shown in progress bar now.

EInk devices are definitely the way to go, for ease of reading, great battery life, paper-like display, etc. But I sometimes miss the Haali Reader on the little PPC - it was a compact easy-to-carry device, and a fantastic reader and format. I will probably take a stroll down amnsesia lane and do comparison of my PPC vs my BeBook, just for fun.
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Old 12-01-2008, 07:34 AM   #11
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My first impressions of the Haali reader are quite good..the information about the mobile phone is very useful...Thanks for the post on linkstar.co.uk advertising also

Last edited by FrederickEarle; 02-13-2009 at 06:52 AM.
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