It’s the weekend! Links!

#eprdctn hour: An open roundtable

There was no set topic this week, so almost anything and everything about ebooks was discussed.

 Harry Potter: Another edition

Pottermore has released new, iBooks-Author created versions of the series (available only on iBooks, naturally). They have some annotations from J.K. Rowling and some animations scattered around. I bought one volume; it crashed iBooks twice when scrolling through.

The animations were fun, but limited. Also, as a sad example of a lack of attention to detail, paragraphs are indented and there’s a line space between each paragraph. Why?


Updated from Pagina: EPUB-Checker 2, including epubcheck 4

This handy EPUB validation tool is ready to download here:

New Nook!

From Samsung. Digital Reader runs down some specs. I wonder how it renders an ebook.

Adobe MAX

Here are several links with videos, news, and analysis of this week’s extravaganza in Los Angeles:


Links for the weekend

#eprdctn hour: XML Workflow

Fact-filled hour with discussions of the hows and whys of the XML workflow, including how to get authors and editors on-board, how to edit XML-based InDesign files, MSWord considerations, and more.


EpubCheck 4 was recently released. You can download it here:


SIGIL: Is it ready for EPUB3?

The Digital Reader brings us news that Sigil is closer to EPUB3 support. Sigil is a tool for creating and editing EPUBs, but it lacks built-in support for EPUB3. According to this post, an updated beta is available that is moving towards the current standard (and it is still in beta, so be on your toes when using).

Here’s the announcement direct from the Sigil developers:

Responsive ebook design, media queries, and the future

Sanders Kleinfeld, Director of Publishing Technology at O’Reilly Media, wrote this back in January, but I think it’s worth a revisit.

Have ebooks stopped evolving?

Craig Mod has written an impassioned essay on why he feels let down by the current ebook ecosystem. Walled gardens, limited design, loss of a personal connection to a particular volume: all valid points.

But I wonder if there’s an apples-to-oranges thing going on here. On the business side, he has good points. Amazon owns your books; you don’t. If Amazon disappears, or changes their model, chances are your books will become inaccessible, all your notes lost.

But on the design and functionality side, I think he falls short. He compares beautiful, complicated, expensive-to-produce print books with what sounds like the Kindle equivalent of commercial paperback genre fiction. I wish he had found some digital books that have had the same lavish attention paid in their design and production. Read for yourself:


Trojan epub:type

Remember the Trojan Horse? The Greek army hides in a huge horse, and the horse is presented to the citizens of Troy as a gift. They bring the horse inside the city gates, the soldiers spill out, and the rest is history.
Well, instead of filling a container with an army, Laura Brady (@laurab7) of Brady Type uses an empty object in InDesign to assign epub:type properties to book elements. Here’s how she does it.

One of my main focusses is to squeeze the life out of InDesign to get the best ebooks possible from its EPUB export, so I have spent a lot of time exploring ways to level up the EPUB 3 functionality, functionality that I don’t have to fiddle with post-export.

A great feature that was added to the CC10.0 version of InDesign is a full collection of epub:type properties. Assigning an epub:type tag adds fuller semantic structure to any content, giving your ebook what I like to call “good bones.” (The full epub:type vocabulary is here.)

As rich navigation is the sexiest EPUB enhancement that I can think of, I try to set the epub:type from the InDesign file – both because then it’s part of that archived assets, and because it requires less post-export intervention.

I run an ebook conversion house and, as such, have little control over the source files that I receive. When the publisher’s workflow is InDesign-centered, I get files that run the full gamut of what InDesign can do. Since the epub:type attributes only hold when applied at the object level, and will only work when applied to the first item of threaded content, I had to find a workaround for client-supplied long documents that are threaded from page i though page 576.

I stumbled on a great solution the other day: a trojan epub:type. At the spot where I want the epub:type language added at the <div> level, I anchored an empty box with the attributes applied. So simple! In this picture, the empty frame is anchored to the start of the chapter title with the epub:types of bodymatter and prologue set up.

Screen Shot 2015-09-24 at 3.00.57 PM

When exported to EPUB3, the markup looks this:


As you can see, you get a little bit of <div>-itis, which I clean up to look more like this:


This is a pretty simple hack/workaround that adds another layer of navigational depth and semantic meaning to your content.

This weeks links

#eprdctn hour

India Amos (@Indiamos), Senior Content Producer, ePubs, at Amplify Education, led this week’s discussion on documenting workflow. Read the Storify edition here:

EPUB hyphenation

Following a spirited discussion on Twitter over how to hyphenate long names and words that don’t appear in dictionaries (so that they don’t run off the screen), a couple of solutions were proposed.

The first, from Colleen Cunningham Wnek (@bookdesigngirl), involves inserting soft hyphens (&#173;) where breaks are allowed:

It’s been tested thoroughly, although not for a couple of years.

Then, this post was circulated:

It’s been tested thoroughly in browsers; what remains is for someone to dig into EPUB/MOBI use and see how it flies.

Cover images: image size and CSS sizing

Joshua Tallent is back with a post for DBW on cover images in EPUBs. He includes markup, CSS, and best practices for EPUB2 and EPUB3. It’s a valuable read:

New Kindle format: KFX?

Aaron Shepard posted about a new rendering system from Amazon: KFX. He’s been examining the new formatting features, and has discovered at least one unpleasant item: the introduction of a line space between indented paragraphs. If this holds true for all Amazon books, it’s a terrible development.

This feature set is applied by Amazon after a book is uploaded, so developers have no way to manage the situation. Here’s the post, dated September 21:



Weekend linkages

Here are valuable and interesting links.

The first two, from Tina Henderson, is all about Working with a Typesetter. Tina is a gifted book designer and compositor, with a great deal of good advice and insight. Enjoy:

And this, an almost-hour-long slideshare from a recent ebook production tools and workflow webinar, is from Joshua Tallent of Firebrand Technologies. Joshua outdoes himself here with the clarity and depth of information. Wherever you are on the spectrum of ebook development, you’ll find something new to grab onto and use right away.


Dumb Questions!

Well, there really wasn’t a dumb question among them. Lots of discussion about getting clean export from InDesign; image zoom on devices; page-list construction within InDesign; dealing with an InDesign book for EPUB export; spec’ing color in CSS.

Here’s the link:

Lots of ideas, humor, insight, frustration, and SOLUTIONS!

QuarkXPress 2015: New eBook options

InDesign might be the application of choice for a large segment of print production and ebook development, but QuarkXpress is used worldwide to do the same tasks. 

Sérgio Teixeira, a designer and ebook developer working in Porto, Portugal, shows us some features of the QuarkXpress 2015 interface and its export-to-EPUB (and KF8!) process.

Stay tuned for a follow-up post about the markup and code that Quark generates.

The new QuarkXPress 2015 (launched in late April of 2015) now supports export to the Fixed-layout eBook format (both EPUB3 and Amazon’s KF8). The eBook reflowable format creation has been enhanced, too. The previous version (QuarkXPress 10) had some limitations for eBook producers. But now this new version has become much better.

The Fixed-Layout EPUB: this format has become a popular choice for eBooks with colorful, complex layouts, like children’s, picture/photograph, and school and academic products, as well as eBooks with interactivity.

Here are some of the new things that QuarkXPress 2015 offers:

1. The new Layout Space for eBook creation adds support for designing Fixed-layout eBooks based on the EPUB 3.0 standard. When we create a new project from the New Project dialog, we can pick eBook as an option, and select target devices, like iPad or Kindle Fire, or even a custom size. We can reuse the same settings later on by selecting from new project dialog.

NOTE: to create a fixed-layout EPUB, you must begin your project as an eBook. It is not possible to export a file aimed at print to fixed-layout EPUB or KF8. So, this means a parallel workflow. (Quark does export a print layout to Reflow EPUB, though. Read on for more information.)


2. There is support for East-Asian story direction and page flow from right to left.


3. Now you can use the same rich design capabilities that are available for print layouts. For example you can use style sheets from print or create unlimited new ones. (QuarkXPress 10 had a limited number of styles to choose from.)


4. Like Print Layout, now you can use the “Advanced Image Control” palette to handle images in Fixed-layout EPUBs.


5. Quark includes HTML5 support with options to add interactivity: Video, Audio, Slideshows, Animations, Images, and Buttons.


6. Unlike InDesign, Quark exports to KF8. Just browse to the location of KindleGen (provided by Amazon) on your computer. If you don’t have KindleGen, the dialog box provides a link to download it. (Note that if you want to implement KF8 regional magnification [pop up boxes], you’ll need to add the markup after export. More to come on that in a follow-up post.)


7. We can use the Lists dialog box to generate table of contents (TOC) for Fixed-layout and Reflowable EPUBs (Quark uses the term Reflow instead of Reflowable).


8. The new Export dialog box allows you to select from Reflow and Fixed-layout options.


9. Unfortunately you cannot export a project that was created for print to Fixed-layout. When we try to export to EPUB from a print layout the option for Fixed is not enabled:


Let’s hope this will be available in a future version or update.

If you do have a print layout you can always export as reflowable EPUB. But, if you prefer to export to Fixed-layout it is better to create a new document based on a Layout type for eBooks, then copy and paste elements from the print layout and rearrange them to fit in a Fixed-layout eBook format.

10.  You can also add Metadata by going to menu: Layout > eBook Metadata…


Here is an example of a Fixed-layout EPUB made on QuarkXPress:


After export, as with a project created in InDesign, you may still have to open the EPUB file in a text editor to work on the code. As noted above, you’ll absolutely need to edit the file to add regional magnification.

Final Note: This version of QuarkXPress sure is not perfect yet when compared to InDesign CC, but it is a great start. For many of us who have to work with QuarkXPress, this version has something to say on eBook Production.

Sérgio Teixeira (@srgtei) is based in Porto, Portugal. He is the founder of the blog, about graphic design and eBook stuff, too. Sérgio is a freelance Graphic Specialist working on print books and, more recently, on eBooks for both book publishers and some design agencies. He also does photo editing for magazines and advertisements. Sérgio is a frequent participant on Twitter’s #eprdctn conversation.

Indexes in ebooks: Part 3


Steve Ingle of WordCo completes his deep dive into indexing for ebooks. Steve will take part in #eprdctn hour on Twitter next Wednesday, September 9, 2015, at 11AM (EST). If you miss it, see the Resources page for the Storify compilation.

Why don’t all digital nonfiction books have hyperlinked indexes? If publishers are serious about asking readers to transition to digital books, shouldn’t there be indexes, and shouldn’t they be at least as good as, if not BETTER than, their print-book equivalent? If you don’t think the answer is “YES!!!,” you can stop reading right now.

Let’s look at three indisputable facts that I have addressed in earlier blog posts:

  1. We live in a world where nonfiction books often coexist in print and ebook formats. We’re going to live with this duality for the foreseeable future, at least until the next “game-changer” comes along.
  2. The digital version of a nonfiction book, to its detriment, often lacks an index, or includes a simple (non-hyperlinked) reproduction of the print index. The reason for this is often ignorance (“ebook users don’t need indexes because they can just search”), or perceived or actual constraints (“it’s going to cost too much to add hyperlinks” or “it’s just going to take too long”).
  3. Creating an index is a very labor-intensive and convoluted process, especially for longer, complex publications. Anyone who has tried to index a book knows that what at first appears to be a simple process (hey, I’m just choosing words and putting them in alphabetical order) quickly bogs down into a soupy mess. It takes real skill and a lot of work to create a good index. Asking indexers to insert tags on top of what they already do is likely to drive them over the proverbial edge.

Based on these facts, it is fair to conclude that if we want to have consistently good quality indexes in digital nonfiction books, we need a way to include a hyperlinked index that’s not going to take the indexer appreciably longer to create than it takes to create the print-book index alone.

The key is to eliminate tagging by the indexer (we’re not taggers, we’re INDEXERS, dammit!), and replace it with an enhanced version of what the indexer already does when print-book indexing. Remember, physical tagging may not be too bad for a fairly short non-fiction trade book, but quickly becomes overwhelming with a highly detailed textbook or professional book where there is a massive amount of content on every page.

Here’s one potential solution

Suppose the document being indexed has unique numbers (IDs) assigned to each element (heading, paragraph, bullet point, etc.). The level of granularity could be predetermined (e.g., it can be specified that any paragraph over 100 words will include IDs). Now suppose the indexer does her indexing using her normal method, but she also adds the unique IDs into the indexing software along with the page locator. Because most indexing software will automatically complete the page reference information from the previous record, the indexer does not have to re-key the entire ID.

The indexer is still indexing the book ONCE, along with adding some additional information (the element ID) to each index record within the indexing software.

What’s so great about this? Well, we now have a database file (the index with its various headings, subheadings, and page references), that can be linked to the ePub (or other) file that contains the unique IDs. With a few simple scripts, we will have an index that can be added to the book file(s) and hyperlinks to specific locations within the digital book.

Now even this process, while much easier than tagging, still takes some getting used to for the indexer. We at WordCo have learned through our mistakes. But this process can mesh with publishers’ existing workflows and produce outstanding results.

Solving the problem of getting quality hyperlinked indexes into nonfiction ebooks in a way that meshes with publishers’ workflows AND puts realistic demands on indexers is Goal #1.

This is just the first step in how indexes can encourage the migration of users from print to digital.

It’s useful to remember that when Gutenberg invented the printing press in the mid 1400s, his goal was to come up with a more efficient way of copying pages from the Bible. The resulting spread of literacy, leading to the Reformation and growth of democracy, was certainly not Gutenberg’s immediate aim−he was just trying to solve a problem. But his invention was indeed revolutionary.

Are ebooks truly revolutionary?

I’m not sure, but envisaging digital books as simply a digital version of the print book (and nothing more) does a disservice to their potential.

The purpose of nonfiction books is learning, whether we’re talking about a “light” business book on sales techniques, or a “heavy” textbook on differential equations.

Anything that facilitates learning has the potential to create a more rewarding experience for users, especially if it does so in the digital format in a way the print book can’t do, or do well. The index can be an integral part of this.

Going outside of the box

Here’s one example of how the above-described technique for creating hyperlinked indexes might be used to enhance the learning process for users of digital nonfiction books.

Suppose, as the indexer of a business book on leadership, I decide to apply unique labels (which I can easily do with my indexing software) to various categories of index entries (for example, people, companies, strategies).

Since I have an index file linked to the text via unique IDs, it would be fairly simple to use scripts to add tags that include this additional information. If my reading platform could utilize this information, perhaps the end-user could instruct the index to display all people’s names in red, all companies in blue, and all strategies in green.

Of course current platforms don’t yet do this. But if it’s feasible, and the need could be demonstrated, why not?


Finally, what about ePub3 and its indexing specification? While ePub3 does address indexes and indexing, its spec attempts to create “standards” for digital book indexes without really addressing workflow concerns. As they sometimes say in New England,

You can’t get there from here.

In other words, it all sounds great, but how do we indexers honor the specs and still make a buck? Besides, I wouldn’t bet cash that ePub3 will be the standard 20 or even 10 years from now; it could be HTML5 or something completely different.

The real, long-term challenge, beyond solving existing production concerns, is to create innovative prototypes of what digital indexes and digital “books” could look like. Why remain stuck in the back-of-the-book model of the alphabetical, static, but perhaps hyperlinked, index? I believe the game-changer is out there, if only in someone’s imagination.

I hope that these three blogs posts have stirred things up. I hope they will encourage a fruitful dialogue on indexes in ebooks, and the role of indexes in general. Indexers, compositors, designers, editors, software developers, even the budget and marketing people: we all have a role to play in coming up with solutions. Let’s work as a team and keep the conversation going!

Stephen Ingle is the president and CEO of WordCo Indexing Services (, located in Norwich, Connecticut.  He created his first index (8 lines) at the age of 10. After graduating from Yale University with a degree in German literature, he went on to earn master’s degrees in German and Russian Area Studies.  In 1988, Steve began freelance indexing part time while also working at the Modern Language Association (MLA) in New York.  He began indexing full time in 1991. Steve has served on the national board of the American Society for Indexing. His company now employs a team of indexers and completes about 500 projects annually for a diverse group of clients.  His interests include indexing as a business and indexes for digital publications.


Receiving and making client changes

Keith Snyder (@noteon), author of recent epubsecrets post The Portuguese Case, hosted today’s #eprdctn hour.

If you’re an ebook developer, check out this Storify summary of the session (assembled by @BookDesignGirl; thanks, Colleen Cunningham). There are lots of good ideas for tracking and billing for client-requested changes, along with discussions of how to bill for them.

If you are planning to hire an ebook developer, read it to see how some pros like to work with their clients.

And, there’s a video! Here’s the session:

Don’t forget, #eprdctn hour is every Wednesday at 11AM (EDT). Next week, September 2: Laura Brady (@LauraB7) and Damian Gibbs (@damiangct) will talk about Design for ebooks – time to rethink “book” concepts? What about UI and UX?  This is going to be fascinating.

Sign up here to lead or suggest other topics for this valuable weekly event.