Monday, May 13, 2013

What’s New in EPUB 3 – Part 2

Navigation

This is one of the biggest changes in EPUB 3. What used to be a .ncx file in EPUB 2 is now gone and was replaced by an XHTML document that uses the nav element. The XHTML document also has restrictions in the use of certain HTML tags and uses mostly the ol and li tags. This new feature will require a fallback in case an ereader doesn’t support the new navigation system.

Linking

Basically, linking is as simple as using an a tag in EPUB 2 and this can still be used in EPUB 3. But the IDPF has established a new registry of linking schemes and one in particular (and the only available as of this writing) seems to be complex to implement. They call it, EPUBCFI or the EPUB Canonical Fragment Identifier. The EPUBCFI closely resembles a Regular Expression pattern.

Scripting and Interactivity

Another interesting, albeit optional, development in EPUB 3 is scripting. In EPUB 2 scripting wasn't allowed. JavaScript is the choice for EPUB 3 and EPUB 3 files will need a query method using epubReadingSystem JavaScript object to determine if an ereading device supports scripting.

Styling and Layout

EPUB 3 uses CSS2.1 with added CSS3 features. EPUB 2 used CSS2. The major change is the required embedding of fonts which uses either an OpenType font or a WOFF (Web Open Font Format). The @font-face is used in the CSS for embedding fonts in EPUB. Font-embed also needs a fallback font in case the ereader doesn’t support font-embedding.

Rich Media

EPUB 3 now boasts audio and video. But wait, weren't we able to play audio and video in EPUB 2? Well, actually that depended on the ereader and Apple was ahead of the game by supporting the audio and video tags which are HTML5 tags. The others, like Barnes and Nobles's Nook, only recently implemented them.

The EPUB 3 Specification on audio and video requires devices to support MP3 and MP4 format audio. Codecs H.264 and VP8 are required for video. Rich media needs a fallback mechanism.

Metadata

According to the EPUB 2 Specification, the required metadata for an EPUB file are dc:title, dc:identifier, and dc:language. The rests are optional. EPUB 3 metadata specification is much the same, with an added meta property dcterms:modified which defines when the EPUB file was changed.

Speech

The Text-to-Speech feature was not in EPUB 2, though iBooks seem to have supported it using VoiceOver. With EPUB 3 there is now Pronunciation Lexicons, SSML, and CSS3 Speech Module.

Manifest Fallbacks

When an ereader can't support HTML5 tags such as audio, video, object, and canvass, an EPUB 3 file will need a fallback mechanism to help the reader identify what a certain misrepresented eBook element is all about. Though setting up a fallback mechanism seem tedious, it is required, especially since EPUB 3 is still a young technology and not all ereaders will be able to support most of the features yet.

Containment

There's an issue here as to what the IDPF meant when they said, “There are new restrictions on references to remote resources”. I'll see if I can dig something out of it. The visible change in this part is the extended list of disallowed characters in the OCF file name.

XML and Unicode

IDPF said in EPUB 3, all XML documents must be conformant to XML 1.0. EPUB 2, with the XML declaration <?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?">, is XML 1.0 as far as I know. But the <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.1//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml11/DTD/xhtml11.dtd"> declaration is now replaced by <!DOCTYPE html>. I'll also dig into that a little sooner.

These are all the new and changed functionalities in EPUB 3. I'll tackle them in depth in more coming posts and perhaps make a table form.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

What’s New in EPUB 3 – Part 1

O’Reilly has started to make their eBooks EPUB 3 compliant. With this move, they are pushing the ereader development community to do the same, and if oreilly.com is heading for this direction, we might as well follow suit because eventually, that’s where we’re all heading.

After reading the EPUB 3 Specifications in the IDPF website, I tried to condense most of what I know about EPUB 2, compared them with EPUB 3, and chronicled them in this blog.

The following sections are only summaries of what’s new in EPUB 3. I will go into full detail soon after these summaries.

The Content Documents

EPUB 2–XHTML1.1, EPUB 3–HTML5

According to the EPUB 3 Specification, EPUB 3 is XHTML5 which is a serialization of XML and HTML5. But I don’t know if XML will stay. Rumors are spreading that HTML5 will replace XML (i.e., XHTML1.0, 1.1 and XHTML5) altogether. That always happens when a shiny new toy arrives.

EPUB 3 Supports SVG

The Scalable Vector Graphics has, under its hood, XML codes that describe how the graphics will be displayed, thus SVG is actually a vector graphics. So, referring to what I said earlier, if EPUB 3 will support SVG, how will XML die if SVG itself is XML? Maybe the death of XML was really just a rumor.

EPUB 3 Supports MathML

The EPUB 2 format was more of a novel author’s paradise rather than a technical writer’s. This is mainly due to EPUB 2 not supporting display of equations. To display equations in EPUB 2, developers would just use an image for an equation which is outrageously awful. Also, an equation in image format is not accessible and is unusable for the disabled. MathML, an application for XML, tries to solve this problem. If MathML pushes through for all ereaders, then EPUB 3 will be a great haven for technical eBooks.

The Semantic Inflection

If we want to get into further detail about semantics, which we should do because it is required in EPUB 3, I suggest we read Accessible EPUB 3 by Matt Garrish. It’s free for download in oreilly.com. For a start, semantic inflection is an addition of an epub tag, say epub:type, which will define an HTML tag. So to add definition to a <body> tag, we would write <body epub:type=”backmatter”>. We can read more information about this here.

Content Switching

Honestly, I don’t have much of an idea about content switching. Some examples of this were the switch and case tags in EPUB 2, but I was never able to use them. EPUB 2, from some of the examples in the IDPF website, used them for MathML. But MathML was not fully supported in EPUB 2. Anyway, now that EPUB 3 supports MathML, these elements have made their comeback as epub:switch and epub:case.

I have covered only a tip of a glacier here which is EPUB 3. I will be posting more and will cover in greater detail each and every aspect of this new eBook format.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

How to Add an Affiliate Banner in Blogger

After rummaging the internet again for such a question I could not easily answer myself, I was able to get hold of some good answers from Peter McCartney and he also mentioned a support site from Google.

It took me a great deal of time searching for an answer so to try and help others out, I’m going to enumerate my procedure on how I managed to add an affiliate banner to this blog.

First off, find the “Layout” button link on your Blogger Administrator Panel. I would assume that you already know what I meant with Blogger Administrator Panel.

You will then see the overall layout of your Blogger Template and will notice that you can add gadgets to certain areas. Proceed by clicking “Add a Gadget” on an area where you wish your Affiliate banner to appear.

The pop-up window “Add a Gadget” will then appear.

Scroll down and look for the “HTML/JavaScript” gadget, then press the plus button.

This will take you to a configuration pop-up window. You can choose not to add a title, for me it looks better that way. In the content box, add the HTML tag for the banner that your Affiliate provided.

Now view your blog. If the Affiliate banner doesn’t appear, try placing it in a different area, or you might try changing your template. Some of the free templates don’t seem to display the added gadgets well.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Adobe’s Game – Is It a Win-Win Situation?

A recent news in The Telegraph says that Adobe, Inc. is starting to build its environment in the Cloud. Meaning all Adobe Creative Suite applications will be available only in the Cloud. There last version without the CC will be Adobe CS6.

Indeed this is a bold move for Adobe. The most I could imagine is that, they will have monthly paid subscriptions in the Cloud. Now imagine the number of users that will pay monthly just to float in that Cloud. That’s a lot of money. Can Adobe handle a great load of users when this system is in place? Can they provide security to any copyrighted material? It’s like they’re trying to take control of the whole publishing system.

On the bright side, many companies won’t need to buy new software that only had added features. That’s the way Adobe products seem to be. A new version arrives, with new features and new tools, but the environment is basically the same.

Or so I think it’s a bright side. Thinking again, this is only good for large companies that can afford the Cloud. Small companies that still use, say, Adobe CS3 products, because they can’t afford the price for new Adobe software, are already left behind. And with this system in place, how can they compete in the Cloud? The best they can do is to buy the last version without the Cloud which is CS6 and stick with it forever.

In my holistic opinion, this is a win-win situation for Adobe and large publishing companies. Small publishing businesses will have a hard time running in this race. And when these small publishers go bankrupt, the competition will get narrower, and the prices of printed, or multi, media will skyrocket bringing the larger companies to cloud 9.

What’s your opinion?

Friday, May 3, 2013

An Emerging Philippine Online eBookstore

Flipping through the pages of the internet (actually, surfing is the more appropriate term) I found a Philippine-based online ebookstore some months ago. Only recently have I checked back on it and discovered so many changes in their site. They look more like Amazon or O’Reilly with their new look. This Philippine online ebookstore is flipreads.com, and judging by the way their website has improved in a few months’ time, they seem to be heading for glory. Their lists of Publishers are not few, and most are real big time hotshots.

I’ve checked out some free ePubs and PDFs a moment ago, and the designs are much better than the free ePubs and PDFs I’ve downloaded some months back. They really are improving. Kudos to flipreads.com