EPUB 2 or EPUB 3? That Is Not a Question
The word on the street is that the majority of ebooks submitted to various retailers are still native EPUB 2. Ben Dugas of Kobo reports that EPUB 2 makes up about 70% of incoming content.
Let’s dissect this a little bit. It could be because developers are accustomed to their tools and are reluctant to change. As someone who learned how to make ebooks when there weren’t a lot of resources about how, I can empathize. It is a steep learning curve for someone who doesn’t come at this from a technical field like, say, web development. The old tools stills work, and the ebooks they produce aren’t rejected so why change?
It could be because developers are accustomed to their tools and are reluctant to change.
It could be that large companies can’t change very quickly. Or it might be that a well-established workflow is just too tricky to change when the benefits feel ethereal and unclear.
It could be that mostly self-publishers using cheap-to-free and out-of-date converters make up the bulk of these EPUB 2 producers.
I produce a trio of ebooks for Publisher’s Weekly several times a year which get distributed via Ingram to Netgalley, major retailers, Overdrive, and Edelweiss. For technical reasons we were required to stick to EPUB 2 until early 2016. But we have, thankfully, moved on to EPUB 3. I am happy to report that I haven’t personally touched EPUB 2 for eighteen months.
It could be that I am missing something big. What are the fundamental reasons to stick with EPUB 2? I would love to hear from these developers.
Some technical reasons to move on
Let’s crowd source a great big list of reasons to ditch EPUB 2 and upgrade your ebooks to EPUB 3. Please ping me on Twitter (@LauraB7) or suggest additions in the comments. I will update this article with your suggestions. I’ll start.
Let’s crowd source a great big list of reasons to ditch EPUB 2 and upgrade your ebooks to EPUB 3.
One of the main reasons to embrace EPUB 3 is it’s navigational capabilities. There is the traditional EPUB navigation – derived from the
NCX in the bad old days – from the
toc.xhtml. But you can add additional ways to navigate the ebook which can add layers of richness, especially for complex content. Lists of tables, figures, illustrations, maps – the possibilities are endless. You can also develop a print-corollary page-list so that print and digital consumers of an ebooks can literally be on the same page.
With this kind of rich navigation, your readers have a multitude of ways to get into your content.
In EPUB 3, you can embed schema.org metadata into the ebook’s
OPF. By describing the accessibility modes, hazards (or lack thereof), and features, you can make your content more discoverable to people with specific reading needs.
Including audio and video content hasn’t really caught on widely in ebooks, partly because of the bulk they add to ebooks, partly because of a/v content no working broadly on the device spectrum, but if you want to include the odd video snippet or chunk of audio, you are much better served by EPUB 3.
For accessibility purposes, upgrading image descriptions to
aria-describedby allows producers to create richer image descriptions to attach descriptive information to one or more elements through the use of an id reference. This is a web standard ported to ebooks bringing EPUB more inline with the accessibility best practices.
Creating MOBI files
Creating well-structured EPUB 3 files means that the process of converting to MOBI/KF8 is easier. The EPUB 3 standard is referred to no fewer than five times in Amazon’s Kindle Publishing Guidelines. Those guidelines as much as say that following the navigation requirements of the EPUB 3 specification will lead to a better reading experience in Kindle products. You don’t want to hobble your MOBI files, do you?