Larry Bonura's Blog

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Enhanced eBooks are as complex as printed books

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Enhanced eBooks and apps aren’t simple, natural extensions of their printed counterparts. They require a great deal of careful planning, due to differences in eReader capabilities and implementations, as well as complexities of the original publication. In today’s “eBook 102: From Print to Enhanced eBooks and Apps” webinar, Digital Book World gave an excellent look at the development and production process from print to enhanced eBooks and apps.

Here’s a summary of what primary speaker Eric Freese, Solutions Architect at Aptara, said:

  •  Myths
    • eBooks are simple extension of books
    • eBooks do not require planning
    • Make it look like a book is sufficient conversion instruction
  • Selecting the material
    • Source material
      • Is it appropriate for eBook?
      • Who is audience?
        • What devices do they use?
        • What are their expectations?
        • Limited by functions of the devices?
      • eBook vs. app?
      • Is there additional content or material or media at your disposal?
      • Longevity? How often it will be updated?
      • Language? What does device handle if in multinational environment?
    • Evaluating enhancement options: how do you handle these?
      • Finding: TOC, index (could be color coded [if device supports in] and should link to content)
      • Navigation: TOC, index, footnotes (inline vs back of book) (enhance index entry to give more information to help decide if they want to go there), using graphics for text (that don’t readjust size) vs. text that readjusts to reader size
      • Appearance: color, flow, layout, fonts (love of the look of the page needs to be relinquished)
      • Additional content: illustrations, audio, visual, external links
      • Interactivity: testing ability within book, hooking to social media, geospatial enhancement
      • Standards: they support items but devices don’t implement the standards
  • Devising eBook/app strategy
    • Ask same design and layout questions as a printed book (reflow and rotate add a whole new dimension)
    • Determine enhancements based on target audiences/devices
    • Establish test plans and parameters: test against targeted devices; consider degradation impact
    • Always plan for accessibility: while eReaders are a boon to sight-impaired, accessibility impacts everyone
    • Can only use one CSS in current ePub standard (future spec to allow more than one?)
    • Ensure workflow includes all departments involved in book process, which should include eBook ideas at same time as print book is being designed
  • Conversions
    • Easiest to convert is XML
    • Application files are next easiest
    • PDF is not as easy depending upon how built
    • Going from paper is hardest
  • Tools that will do “same as ePub”
    • Apple Pages
    • InDesign (CS5)
    • Word (coming?)
    • Google Docs (coming?)
  • Enhancements
    • What will grayscale do to color?
    • Placement of graphics
    • Ability to zoom
    • SVG (resizes along with text)
    • Use ALT attributes on images with meaningful descriptions for accessibility
    • Audio, using MP3
    • Video, using MP4
    • Large TOCS, but can be problematic
    • Always make sure reader can get back to they started on links
    • Indexes need most information possible to help reader decide if they really want to go there, since back button is only way back
    • Some eReaders won’t start MP3
    • Audio and video dramatically increase eBook file size
    • Linked (vs. embedded) audio or visual files are iffy, since they requires internet connection
  • Taking different eReader capabilities into account
    • Graceful degradation:
      • Pros
        • Single file with all info works across multiple devices
        • Reduced configuration management demands
      • Cons
        • Large files
        • Additional complexity
        • Reduced nimbleness
    • Device-specific version
      • Single file works on single device
      • Nimble
      • Reduces file bloat
      • But needs separate ISBNs for all of those versions
      • More complex configuration management
  • Case study: World English Bible
    • Can download variations of full Bible & sample set at:
    • See README for more details about what’s in the directory
    • Files named based on what is enabled, for example:
      WEB-bidiFN-inlinePIX-linkGEO-noHIDDEN-noAUDIO-noVIDEO.epub
    • Files on ftp for about 60 days
  • HTML5
    • Not officially part of current ePub spec
    • ePub Check will flag as error
    • Next version (3) will include?
  • Good practices
    • No hidden text
    • Bidirectional footnotes
    • TOC
    • Some external links
    • Images

You can find the on-demand webinar on the Digital Book World archives.

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Written by Larry S. Bonura

3 November 2010 at 08:34

One Response

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  1. I would suggest ALWAYS converting to XML, and then add a step about keeping a master copy of each book (ie., make a database) as XML files. Then you can write good, clean conversions to whatever output formats are needed,

    karen wester newton

    4 November 2010 at 01:18


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