Print replica = absolute representation of the print page in an accessible digital format. Fixed-layout epub (FXL) is a print-replica format with live text. This is commonly achieved using xhtml with an image in the background and absolutely positioned text layered on top. It is possible to make image-only FXL but the lack of live text hinders accessibility and prohibits added functionality like media overlays.
If you are choosing FXL because you want the page to look exactly like print, you might not be ready for digital, might not be serving your content.
If I haven’t talked you out of this format yet, then I guess we can start to talk about how to build these kinds of ebooks.
Comment about the book material that is on the editing room floor.
Portrait, full-screen, using all the real estate it can, lots of type.
Header Viewport Image with text laid on top One HTML file per page
In Adobe’s FXL export, for example, 1inch = 72 pixels. Explain quick and dirty way of using Photoshop on a spread to calculate it.
The top image is from the HTML, the bottom from the CSS.
In the OPF Rendition:layout values can be reflowable or pre-paginated. If not specified, rendering engine assumes reflowable epub Rendition: spread values = auto, both, none Rendition: orientation = landscape, portrait, none Be sure that your choices here serve the content + platform.
This skeuomorphism is unique to iBooks.
Header in the OPF is, of course, different.
When working on content where reflow is absolutely not okay, I put in soft line returns if they aren’t there already
Delete that “break here” header from the HTML post-export.
Some conversion houses prefer to work from Word files. TextWrangler is freeware from BareBones software. Putting each word on it’s own line = searching for a Word space and replacing it with a hard return. RegEx is your FXL best friend.
Mind spaces/hyphens/odd characters in your naming conventions. Talk about the advantages of having one background image in behind the text.
Talk about using a templated OPF and NCX and doing a simple find/replace for ISBN in XHTML file same. Don’t make typos in the metadata!
Explain the percentages, how it is not in the iBooks Asset Guide but that it works everywhere.
Font stack is cut off in screenshot from the CSS
SVG doesn’t highlight in Kobo. Text on a straight line should not be SVG, should be rotated using code in the CSS.
To create SVG: export ID to EPS, export EPS to SVG in Illustrator, open SVG in Dreamweaver, grab code from between &lt;g&gt; tags, insert into ebook.
Mind you don’t have any gaps in the audio; iBooks is forgiving but Kobo is not. **This is where I start to scare you.**
In addition to listing the audio in the &lt;manifest&gt;.
Customize colour, background, shadow
Ambient controls go just inside the &lt;body&gt; tag, before the first &lt;div&gt;.
New option to have “none” as the TOC style so, for example, iBooks will default to thumbnail navigation only. No way to opt out of CSS, only option is to add extra CSS.
Threading is ignored b/c you can’t flow text from one HTML page to the next The width of each word is calculated; the next word starts after the word space. If the rendered word takes up less/more space, there will be overlaps or gaps. No horizontal/vertical scaling, beware of ligatures, no outline or other ID typography enhancements. Tracking will export. You will get a message on export telling you that those things won’t export.
Vertical scaling was applied – because this doesn’t export, extremely funny spacing was the result.
Swap out Postscript fonts before export or your layout will be a mess.
Re-did the drawn lines to paragraph above and below rules to fix the problem. In the first sample, there is an outline on the box around the type, and drawn rules above and below “chapter”. Changing those to paragraph rules above and below solved that problem.
Explain what’s going on in the code – inline styling, positioning.
Talk about getting a hodge podge of file types – including from publishers with really poor layout habits – an how a multitide of sins can be forgiven in this FXL output. But a clean &lt;nav&gt; will only be created from a reasonably clearly structured document. And that it will make all the difference at the other end in your FXL epub.
Hyperlinks out to a URL on an object is the only thing supported at this time.
The z-index property specifies the stack order of an element. An element with greater stack order is always in front of an element with a lower stack order. Note: z-index only works on positioned elements (position:absolute, position:relative, or position:fixed).
Creating Fixed-Layout EPUBs
• Clear understanding of the format
• A good sense of where, when, why
• How to bake your own
• Ideas for how to enhance with grace
• A little about the various tools
• How to best use the new ID FXL export
How FXL ebooks are made
What is Fixed Layout?
• Print-replica format
• Absolutely positioned text overlays on image
• Text size cannot be changed
• Layout holds its shape, with very little device
• Very similar to reflowable
epub – same basic ingredients
• One HTML per page/spread
• CSS contains positioning
• iBooks: iPads and on Desktop
• Kobo iOS and Android
• Google Play
• Kindle KF8*
Metadata in EPUB2
• Viewport definitions are the same
• 3.2 million pixels limit in iBooks
• Double pixel depth of viewport for pinch-and-
• Scaled via the CSS
• Avoid flattening text into the image
• Mind your alt text
• Duplicate the ID file
• Add in covers, endpapers, marketing pages as
• Edit out print-specific material from copyright
• Add a header to
each page, set that
text to “break epub
here”, export to
reflowable to get
one HTML file per
Workflow: Text 2
• Children’s titles that will have MO:
– Text into something like TextWrangler with line breaks
– Mark the end of the line (xxx)
– Put each word on it’s own line
– Number the lines
– Use the following find/replace:
(d+) (.*?)(xxx)*r with
<span id="W1">2</span> 3
Workflow: Text 2 (cont’d)
• Replace xxx with r and you have the shape
• Using an HTML template for your book, create
the pages from your tagged text file
• Delete all the live text boxes
• Output the ID file as a series of JPEGs, sRGB,
• Name in a simple manner: ISBN? Page
• Use PNG only when you require transparency
• List each HTML/image in the <manifest>
• Order them in the <spine>
• Adjust metadata
• Add fonts, media to the <manifest>
• Point container.xml to OPF
• Dupe the ID file one more time
• Delete all artwork, empty frames etc., until
nothing but live text frames are left
• Run Rorohiko’s CSS Geometry script to get the
page <div> CSS for the positioning
• Remembering viewport definitions from
earlier, write the CSS
• Simple, minimal – similar to reflowable CSS in
• iBookstore Asset Guide says to avoid
fractional definitions, to define font size in
pixels not ems
• Fonts must be embedded
• Use sparingly per
Asset Guide and
• For type on a curve
• Include a fallback
• MO highlights may
• Kobo iOS and Android
• Readium (Chrome app)
• Google Play
• Test on device, not just in emulators!
• Syncing chunks of audio to highlight along
with chunks of text
• Need an .m4a
• Use Audacity to
of the soundtrack
• Export tagged chunks
to a txt file
• Number the lines
<par id="par1">r<text src="filename.xhtml#W1”/>r<audio
src="audio/filename.m4a" clipBegin="2s" clipEnd="3s"
• Add a little header text and you have your
SMIL file. Ta da!
Okay, it’s tedious
• Liz Castro’s Read Aloud Miniguide is very
• An automated audio/text synchronization
tool, in beta: https://readbeyond.it/sync/
Your epub2 will no longer pass validation!
• Customize the CSS
on a page-by-page
basis if you want
• Kobo support is varied – no highlight
customizing in Android; use CSS kobo-smil-
highlight for custom colour in iOS
• Read-aloud highlighting can be micro or
macro – at the word, sentence or page level
• Ambient soundtracks are possible in iBooks:
• Controls will automatically appear but
additional start and stop buttons can be made
• Simple animations, small interactivities
• Call it in the HTML header, list it in the
• Good support from iBooks, Kobo iOS, Kobo
But but but
• An hour or so ago, creating an FXL epub got a
• This is big.
• Beautiful, clean,
out of InDesign
Things You Should Know
• Exports word-level positioning controls with
inline styling at <div> and word level.
• The HTML includes inline styling and
Basics of Layout
• Clean layouts still matter (stern look) but,
well, not so much.
• Structure still matters
• Good typography habits matter a lot
• White space via em-, en-, or tabs won’t export
• No sketchy typography practices
• Set up the ID file, deal with layers and
transparencies, and iterate from the file
• Especially for long documents, a clean
navigation file will make your life easier
• At present, cross-references, indexing, and
hyperlinks are not supported.
Beware the z-index
• The z-index property specifies the stack order of an
• An element with greater stack order is always in
front of an element with a lower stack order.
• Note: z-index only works on positioned elements
(position:absolute, position:relative, or
• Conversion to KF8-FXL from this epub export
will be difficult
• Without word-level IDs applied to the <span>,
adding media-overlays will be tricky
• Revision is best achieved by re-running the
entire file – single CSS for the whole