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EPUB for Website Producers

on Oct 25, 2010

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My presentation from the Internet Archive's Books in Browsers conference.

My presentation from the Internet Archive's Books in Browsers conference.

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• * Waldo Jaquith * website developer since 1993 * worked for UVA’s Virginia Quarterly Review for five years * left a month ago, now at the Miller Center
• Here to talk about EPUB. We’ll take a quick look at the format, look at the parallels to website development, talk about how website developers are particularly well-equipped to develop EPUBs, and look at what that means for the development process.
• The two best-known hardware EPUB readers are the iPad (and iPhone, and iPod Touch), and...
• Let’s look through the structure of an EPUB. This is a free, out of copyright text I downloaded—“Dracula’s Guest.” Note that there’s very little about this that’s required, in terms of how files are structured.
• This is important, but it just has to exist—we don’t need to worry about it.
• This is just standard XHTML. Nothing fancy required.
• Ditto for the CSS. You call it from your HTML, you can load multiple stylesheets, etc. Again, just like a website.
• Just what it says on the tin.
• The NCX and OPF files. These two XML files are the bit that make an EPUB an EPUB. Let’s look at each of these more closely.
• This is the Navigation Control XML, or NCX file. You can’t read this, but it’s pretty straightforward XML. Let’s look at the two interesting bits.
• This small portion tells us a bit about the EPUB generally.
• We’ve got the title and the author here.
• The important part of this file is the bottom two thirds—the navigation control that’s the point of the NCX file—one entry for each chapter.
• So here’s one navigation point—that is, one “chapter.”
• We specify that this chapter is titled “Cover Page,” that its contents consist of cover.html, and that it is the first chapter in this EPUB.
• And that it—those are the meaty bits of the Navigation Control XML, or NCX file.
• This is the OPF. It holds most of the book metadata, the file manifest, and a listing of the chapters (much like the NCX file). Let’s just look broadly at the two most important sections of this.
• The manifest—the listing of every file that’s to be found in the EPUB. [explain]
• As with the NCX file, you can see this is pretty straightforward.
• So those two files comprise the XML. As you can see, it’s simple and straightforward.
• An EPUB is just a website with some XML to describe it—kind of like meta tags mashed up with sitemap.xml. It’s a book in a browser. Perfect for website developers.
• This implies these three important things: website developers are good to go with EPUBs, EPUBs can—when appropriate—be an end-of-pipe solution, and CMSs can be used to produce EPUBs automagically. Let’s look at each of these.
• Website developers can pick this stuff up in a few hours. [explain how I did] They can use CVS, SVN, BitKeeper, Git, or whatever for revision control.
• [explain VQR vs. Miller Center workflow, InDesign] If your HTML is well-formed and semantically rich, there’s no reason why it can’t go directly into an EPUB.
• If an EPUB is just a website, it follows that CMSs can produce them. There’s no reason why not. There are already two plugins for WordPress that do just that.
• A few catches. 1. There’s nothing about being a website developer that prepares me to design books. 2. Print layouts can’t be handed off to programers to be “translated.”
• 1. Establishes standards for your HTML, use a base stylesheet—gets you 90% of the way there. Let  developers finalize it nicely. 2. Keith @ Threepress’s idea for filesystem mounting.

EPUB for Website ProducersPresentation Transcript

• EPUB for Website Producers
• Waldo Jaquith
• Miller Center of Public Affairs
• University of Virginia
• Hi!
•
•
•
• EPUB File Structure
• XHTML 1.0 Files
• CSS
• Images
• XML
• Open Packaging Format
• Open Packaging Format
• Open Packaging Format
• Open Packaging Format
• Open Packaging Format
• XML
• EPUB == Website
• HTML + CSS + images + XML = website
• an EPUB is a book in a browser
• we can reuse existing design patterns
• we can reuse existing tools
• What this Implies
• website developers make the best EPUB developers
• EPUBs can flow from web content
• CMSs can produce EPUBs
• Website Developers
• already have 95% of the skills
• can use standard development tools (their text editor, their source repository, etc.)
• accustomed to widely disparate platforms and adding not-yet-supported features
• Flow from Web Content
• if your workflow allows it
• print begets web begets EPUB
• just use structured, semantic markup
• CMSs Begetting EPUBs
• CMSs generate HTML—and EPUBs are HTML
• e.g., WordPress
• wp2epub
• GMU’s Anthologize
• Caveats
• books need designers, whether print or digital
• designers need to collaborate with developers
• Tips
• create a standard, baseline stylesheet
• for iOS, mount the device’s filesystem
• Questions?