Books in Browsers 2014

I’ll be speaking at Books in Browsers this year. Books in Browsers was one of the first book-focused conferences that really grabbed my attention, and I’m delighted to be speaking. This year is actually the first time the focus is truly on browsers and how we can make them better for books. I’m loosely meeting the requirements with my topic:

This talk isn’t about how to make better books for the web, it’s about how to use the web to make better books (for all book formats). It’s about tools and processes publishers can use today, and things we could make tomorrow with the current web infrastructure to improve the quality of digital books almost overnight.

While the EPUB spec has improved dramatically in a few short years, it still lags behind the knowledge and tools available to modern web developers. In this talk, parallels will be drawn between current modern web projects and how to use these ideas to alter how digital books are made. Tools and ideas like GitHub, http://www.caniuse.com, pattern libraries, Responsive Web Design, Create-Once-Publish-Everywhere CMSes, and testing/performance suites have obvious benefits to book publishers with only small tweaks. As a book designer turned web developer turned book designer/developer, I’ll show a few projects I’m involved in, and propose a few more that I hope others in the digital publishing community will adopt.

ePubSecrets frequent contributor Laura Brady will also be speaking, so its looking like a couple days of great talks.

Books in Browsers 2014 is in San Francisco on October 23rd and 24th. Tickets are available on the Books in Browsers website. I hope to see some of you there. If you can’t make it to San Francisco, the past few years have been live-streamed—I’ll add a note once I have more information about that.

I have a couple more talks coming up over the next few months. I’ll post them once I have more details.

File Testing with Dropbox, Part 1: iOS

One of my favorite tricks to testing files across a lot of devices is using Dropbox, a common app that syncs files across multiple devices and computers. Today starts a little series on using Dropbox to make file testing less painful.

Can we all agree that one of the biggest pains in EPUB creation is testing across multiple devices and apps? Not only are there ~5or 6 major e-ink readers you need to keep an eye on, but with the explosion in iOS and Android devices there’s also tablets, phones, and all the e-reader apps for each one.

Here’s a quick way to make file checking a bit easier with Dropbox. It won’t solve the need for e-ink file side-loading, but it will make your tablet and app testing a lot easier.

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Sign Up for the ADE4 Beta

Adobe has announced it is working on a new version of the Adobe Digital Editions app. The big news is that they are now working hard to support EPUB3 in the latest version (and fixing bugs in the previous EPUB2 rendering system). They are asking for beta testers to run the app through its paces.

In order to get into the beta, email ebooks@adobe.com with your request.

If you’ve ever tried to create a beautifully designed book in ADE, you know how important this is. I’ve been on the beta for about a week now and the Adobe team has been very responsive about feedback. It’s an excellent sign of things to come.

Kobo’s New Public-facing Documentation

As any EPUB creator knows, the minefield of retailer support and requirements is a harrowing one. Kindle expects images of one size, iBooks another, and Nook yet another still. To add to that confusion is the fact that many of these retailers either don’t explicitly spell these issues out for you, or have documentation that is obviously out of date (looking at you, B&N).
Kobo, up until this week, was guilty of being pretty quiet about their requirements. But in one fell swoop they have moved from being one of the most opaque retailers to one of the most transparent. The Kobo development team has created a great document and posted it to Github. This documentation includes not just requirements, but also support guides for many of their devices, and recommendations to generate files that work across all of their devices.
A couple of highlights:
Hats off to the development team at Kobo for taking a huge leap forward in making EPUB file creation that much easier for us. Hopefully other device makers and retailers will take their lead and do the same.

Vertically Centered Text in iBooks

At WWDC this week, Apple announced a new programming language called Swift. To coincide with its release, they included an iBooks title that documents the language. The opening page looks like this:

Screenshot 2014-06-03 22.35.05

Of course, many ebook clients want to know how to vertically center text in an EPUB file. Seeing this I thought that maybe the iBooks team had solved it. But I was disappointed by the results.

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