What’s Next for the ePUB Format?

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With the recent unanimous vote to elevate by the IDPF membership elevate EPUB 3.0 to a final IDPF Recommended Specification, the ePUB 3.0 specificationis now final (or as final as it can get before HTML5 is final). This means that in the coming months we are going to see a transition by different platforms and eBook vendors to ePUB 3.0. As this change takes effect, our hope is to document everything you need to know.
Reading official specs can sometimes be daunting, so to help you get up to speed on ePUB3, O’Reilly Media is offering an eBook download of What Is ePUB 3?: An Introduction to the EPUB Specification for Multimedia Publishing. It is being offered FREE as of this writing, so make sure you follow the link and download the eBook today. And since ePUB3 is based on HTML5, you might as well download a free digital edition of HTML5 for Publishers while you’re at the O’Reilly site.

iBooks has already implemented some aspects of the ePUB3 spec for iPad, and it looks like Kobo will implement the full spec on at least one of their readers in three to six months according to CEO Michael Serbinis. With iPad and the launch of all the Android tablet/readers—Kobo’s Vox, Barnes & Noble’s Nook Tablet, Sony’s Tablet S, and yes, Amazon’s Kindle Fire (which may one day at least run an app that will read ePUB)—each of the major eBook retailers has a device that should have no trouble supporting ePUB3. The big question is how soon this support will be live on the devices and apps, and how long it will take publishers and their ePUB creators to produce ePUB3 files.

So what should you do to prepare for ePUB3? My suggestion is start learning HTML5, Webkit, JavaScript, video editing, audio editing, and how to create and handle SVG images. You are going to need these tools to build robust ePUB files in the next six months.

What are you doing to prepare for the transition to ePUB3? What additional resources do you need?


4 Responses to “What’s Next for the ePUB Format?”

  1. David B. says:

    I’ve heard that it is technically possible to run epub on the Fire, but I don’t know exactly how yet. Perhaps the Mantano app?

  2. matthew says:

    Reports are that you can read ePUBs on the Fire. I have to give credit to @jane_l for the walk through. Here’s what she said on Twitter: “I was able to install Nook, Kobo, Sony Reader, Google Books, and Aldiko on the Kindle Fire with no rooting. Install a file browser via the Amazon App Store, then use the Web browser to Google for the .apk files [ed.: those are Android application package files]. Download the appropriate .apk files and they will install upon request. I was not able to locate a Bluefire .apk.” And in case you were wondering she added this: “You can install the Android Market but you can’t access it.” I do not have a Kindle Fire to test this on nor have I read the Kindle Fire user agreement or guide, so I am neither encouraging you to follow these directions nor endorsing this method. Don’t do anything that would violate the terms and conditions of the Kindle Fire usage or your warranty, and only download software from a site you trust.

  3. Sue Campbell says:

    I’m so glad to have discovered this blog. I’ve been doing the plain vanilla variety of ebooks for a while now, using CS5.5. I’m excited about the possibilities for ebpub3, but the thought of learning html5, java, css3, etc. really just makes me want to slit my wrists. Is there any chance Adobe will be embracing the idea of exporting USEABLE epub3 directly from InDesign? My publishers are clamoring for enhanced ebooks, but they absolutely will not pay for the time it takes. (They don’t even pay for the time it takes to do the regular “ugly” ones. And I know I am not the only designer having to do these at a loss.)

    I absolutely blame Amazon for this. There is just no way that the economics of the situation work for any of us. When an ebook sells for $1 to $6, and the AVERAGE ebook sells a few hundred copies (or even a few thousand) where’s the money for development in addition to: design, additional content such as illustration, audio or video, editing, a teeny bit of overhead, royalties, and promotion? So if the plain vanilla book doesn’t pay for itself—how will the even more expensive to produce enhanced book?

    Now add to that Adobe’s ridiculous pricing structure for their DPS program for producing enhanced book apps—well that might work for Conde Nast and Wired mag, but it sure isn’t a possibility for a small publisher of BOOKs.

    Our only hope then is that we’ll be able to do this all ourselves and have these enhanced products available on the iBookstore, (as ebooks not apps!) and hopefully on Android devices, and maybe someday Kindles.

    But for those of us (many formerly only print designers and not web mavens) who are already stretched to the limit doing it ALL and for less money than ever—we need the push button application! We are designers—and that’s where our time is better spent—but we don’t have the resources to hire out the geek labor. Nor do our publishers.

    Bottom line — HELP!

    PS: Could you spend a post or two discussing Apple’s Fixed Layout format and how that fits into this whole equation? Is it something we should try to master? Or will it become irrelevant when epub3 is widely adopted?

  4. Matthew says:

    Sue, don’t panic. Better tools should be coming soon. Be sure to check out what Vook (http://vook.com/index.html), PressBooks (http://pressbooks.com/wp-signup.php), CircularFLO (http://www.circularsoftware.com/?gclid=COCCkt2uw60CFRECQAodm1mZCQ) are doing to make ePUB creation easier. Also, don’t count Adobe out. After the improvements they made to CS5.5 that create better ePUBs, I think they will want to make ePUB3 creation tools available as soon as possible.
    I’ll try to get to posts on fixed layout soon. In the meantime, I suggest you buy a copy of Liz Castro’s miniguide Fixed Layout ePUBs for iPad and iPhone here: http://store.kagi.com/cgi-bin/store.cgi?storeID=6FHNX_LIVE&lang=en&view=detail&productID=260504514963&output=html&page=CompleteEPUB
    Liz provides a great walkthrough to creating fixed layout ePUBs.