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EPUB for Website Producers


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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...
  • ...the Sony Reader
  • 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 book metadata. [explain]
  • 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.
  • Transcript

    • 1. EPUB for Website Producers Waldo Jaquith Miller Center of Public Affairs University of Virginia
    • 2. Hi!
    • 3. EPUB File Structure
    • 4. Uninteresting Metadata
    • 5. XHTML 1.0 Files
    • 6. CSS
    • 7. Images
    • 8. XML
    • 9. Navigation Control
    • 10. Navigation Control
    • 11. Navigation Control
    • 12. Navigation Control
    • 13. Navigation Control
    • 14. Navigation Control
    • 15. Navigation Control
    • 16. Open Packaging Format
    • 17. Open Packaging Format
    • 18. Open Packaging Format
    • 19. Open Packaging Format
    • 20. Open Packaging Format
    • 21. XML
    • 22. 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
    • 23. What this Implies • website developers make the best EPUB developers • EPUBs can flow from web content • CMSs can produce EPUBs
    • 24. 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
    • 25. Flow from Web Content • if your workflow allows it • print begets web begets EPUB • just use structured, semantic markup
    • 26. CMSs Begetting EPUBs • CMSs generate HTML—and EPUBs are HTML • e.g.,WordPress • wp2epub • GMU’s Anthologize
    • 27. Caveats • books need designers, whether print or digital • designers need to collaborate with developers
    • 28. Tips • create a standard, baseline stylesheet • for iOS, mount the device’s filesystem
    • 29. Questions?