MathML Support in EPUB Reading Systems

  • Sumo

If EPUBs are to serve as textbooks for mathematics and science, or if they are even to convey ideas from these fields, it is important that they can properly display complex mathematic equations and scientific formulas. On Websites and in digital formats, this is best accomplished with the use of MathML. As the W3C page says, “MathML is a low-level specification for describing mathematics as a basis for machine to machine communication which provides a much-needed foundation for the inclusion of mathematical expressions in Web pages. It is also important in publishing workflows for science and technology and wherever mathematics has to be handled by software.”

The EPUB 3 specification includes support for MathML. This will allow any reading system the supports the full EPUB 3 spec to display MathML and equations as a basic function. Unfortunately, systems the currently support MathML are few and far between at the moment.

The BISG EPUB 3 Support Grid includes MathML support as one of the rows. It shows whether MathML is supported on each reading system. As you will see from the current version of the grid, only Apple, Readium, Azardi, Ingram’s VitalSource, and Safari Books Online through some browsers currently support MathML.

MathJax is an open source JavaScript display engine for mathematics that works in all modern browsers. It is also the display engine being used by IDPF for Readium, Infogrid Pacific for the Azardi reader, and Ingram for VitalSource. MathJax’s Table of EPUB Reading Systems that support MathML is also available which shows which version of EPUB a reading system supports, whether the reading system supports MathML and what it uses to render MathML, the platforms on which it is available, and additional information on MathML on that reading system. It is a helpful guide if you are looking specifically for how reading systems are supporting MathML.

Do you have scientific and mathematical formulas in your EPUBs? Are you using MathML as part of your EPUB production work? What is your hope for MathML with EPUB3?


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