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Opting out of FXL - ebookcraft 2015 - Laura Brady

"Opting out of FXL" by Laura Brady (Brady Type) for ebookcraft 2015, presented by BookNet Canada and eBOUND Canada - March 10, 2015

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Opting Out of FXL
ebookcraft
March 10, 2015
What is FXL?
Print-replica format
Absolutely positioned text overlays on image backgrounds
(usually)
Text size cannot be changed: FXL is not reflowable
Layout holds its shape, with very little device fragmentation
Based on the spec as developed by the IDPF and
described here:
http://www.idpf.org/epub/fxl/
Pros
Perfect for image-based content like children’s picture
books, manga, comics and graphic novels
Full-bleed, tightly-controlled layouts
Lends itself nicely to enhancements like narration,
interaction, animation, video, sound
Very little device fragmentation
Cons
Labour intensive and expensive – return on investment?
Unexpected user experience
Restricted sales channels
Hinders accessibility
Three completely different flavours of code
(EPUB, KF8, ePIB)
[FXL] is a sledgehammer solution
not particularly suited to the
nuances of a delicate problem.
– Sanders Kleinfeld
The Debate
Alberto Pettarin (@acutebit) :
http://www.albertopettarin.it/blog/2015/02/21/current-fixed-
layout-ebooks-considered-harmful.html
The Digital Reader (@thDigitalReader):
http://the-digital-reader.com/2015/02/22/the-problem-with-
fixed-layout-ebooks/
Ad

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Opting out of FXL - ebookcraft 2015 - Laura Brady

  • 1. Opting Out of FXL ebookcraft March 10, 2015
  • 2. What is FXL? Print-replica format Absolutely positioned text overlays on image backgrounds (usually) Text size cannot be changed: FXL is not reflowable Layout holds its shape, with very little device fragmentation Based on the spec as developed by the IDPF and described here: http://www.idpf.org/epub/fxl/
  • 3. Pros Perfect for image-based content like children’s picture books, manga, comics and graphic novels Full-bleed, tightly-controlled layouts Lends itself nicely to enhancements like narration, interaction, animation, video, sound Very little device fragmentation
  • 4. Cons Labour intensive and expensive – return on investment? Unexpected user experience Restricted sales channels Hinders accessibility Three completely different flavours of code (EPUB, KF8, ePIB)
  • 5. [FXL] is a sledgehammer solution not particularly suited to the nuances of a delicate problem. – Sanders Kleinfeld
  • 6. The Debate Alberto Pettarin (@acutebit) : http://www.albertopettarin.it/blog/2015/02/21/current-fixed- layout-ebooks-considered-harmful.html The Digital Reader (@thDigitalReader): http://the-digital-reader.com/2015/02/22/the-problem-with- fixed-layout-ebooks/
  • 7. The FXL mutation will always be harmful because its existence is driven by people firmly locked in the print worldview. To steal a phrase from Jonathan Ive, my regard for the ePub FXL format could not be lower. – Baldur Bjarnason
  • 8. Fixed layout ebooks are like heroin. Way too appealing to the addicts. To an unhealthy, and perhaps fatal, extent. The easy road to oblivion. – Micah Bowers
  • 9. I am a Very Firm Believer in using FXL only for content with small amounts of text. The idea of zooming and panning and de- zooming (?) then rezooming, or popping up and then popping some more, is really annoying to me.  It makes for a very uneven, unpleasant reading experience. You lose reading rhythm and context of the content within the page. – Kevin Callahan
  • 10. You’re not going to create a fantastic digital product by imposing the restrictions of print onto a digital file . . . Your audience is going to be better served with a genuinely digital product that makes the most of its format. –Nick Barreto
  • 11. Fixed-layout is not damaging anything. It’s a transitional stage in a shape- shifting medium that is as merciless to formats as the sea is to wooden boats. –Ron Martínez
  • 13. Brochureware Refers to Web sites or pages that are produced by taking an organization’s printed brochure and translating it directly to the Web without regard for the possibilities of the new medium.
  • 14. Preaching to the Converted https://www.flickr.com/photos/11810054@N07/
  • 15. Confusing UX “I was very frustrated that I could not use the full features of iBooks. I could not change the font. I could not make the font bigger. And the most frustrating of all is that I [could] not highlight my favorite and important text and make notes. . . I would recommend that you buy a paperback.”
  • 16. “I was very excited to open this ‘textbook’ but now I’m a bit puzzled as to why I can only look at it in landscape mode and why I’m unable to zoom it in at all to adjust for this mind-numbing lack of a ‘portrait’ mode. This is very disappointing—I would comment on the book, BUT I CAN’T READ IT SINCE THE TEXT IS SO SMALL. “So... pretty much one star until I can, you know, actually read the book.”
  • 17. Accessibility Loss of logical reading order Static font size Inline styling and positioning interfere with legiblity and searchability Lack of semantic structure See: http://matt.garrish.ca/2014/06/accessible-indesign-fixed-layouts/
  • 18. Thanks to Martin Kraetke for the meme.
  • 19. Authoring New authoring tools like InDesign’s FXL export make creating easy and cheap. Maybe too easy and too cheap.
  • 21. Where are all the KF8-FXL ebooks?
  • 22. Anti-responsive A fixed-layout approach, where designers expressly earmark a specific chunk of content for a specific page, is entirely antithetical to the endeavor of responsive design. – Sanders Kleinfeld
  • 24. Let It Go Publishers are attached to print-style controls. The print design serves the content and being able to visualize the content differently doesn’t seem to be an option.
  • 25. Dumb content on smart devices Most of these e-textbooks are nothing more than a print-under-glass experience. – Joe Wikert http://jwikert.typepad.com/the_average_joe/2015/03/why-johnny-doesnt-like-e-textbooks.html
  • 26. It is incumbent upon ebook developers to make using, navigating, storing, and re-accessing ebooks as easy and as accessible as possible.
  • 27. Let me clarify that I do not consider FXL harmful per se. FXL is harmful as it is done now. – Alberto Pettarin From: http://www.albertopettarin.it/blog/2015/02/21/current-fixed-layout-ebooks-considered-harmful.html
  • 28. Scalability and the Phablet 2 billion people use smartphones now, projected to be 4 billion in five years time (http://www.economist.com/news/briefing/21645131-smartphone-defining-technology-age-truly-personal-computer)
  • 29. With the rise of mobile devices and now tablets, we have to give up this shared hallucination that we have all been operating under, that we have any control over the presentation. That we have any control over the size of somebody’s screen or the layout that they have or the input mechanism that they’re going to be using. That’s gone. And it’s not coming back. –Karen McGrane
  • 30. Thanks to Martin Kraetke for the meme.
  • 31. Linear Of necessity, complex page layouts need to be straightened out – made into a text flow.
  • 32. From Everyday Lace by Heather Zoppetti. Courtesy of Franco Alvarado.
  • 34. From Hamish McKenzie’s Pitch (Parcel Design/Canadian Writers Group)
  • 35. From Glenn McArthur’s Colour and Two-Dimensional Design (OCAD)
  • 37. http://lifenebooks.tumblr.com/post/108548805086/telling-a-publisher-not- to-convert-a-book-as-fixed Advising a publisher not to convert a book as fixed layout because it will be obnoxious to read, and it’s a normal book.
  • 41. With thanks to Joshua Tallent for this sample.
  • 44. So How Do I Opt Out?
  • 45. Use ID to your advantage
  • 51. CSS With thanks to Joshua Tallent for these samples.
  • 52. From The Metadata Handbook. Thanks to Jean Kaplansky for this sample.
  • 53. From Superfoods at Every Meal, courtesy of Jon Simpson
  • 54. From A Passion for Trees. Thanks to Ben Dugas for pointing me to it.
  • 56. Because as a publishing company, we need to sell our content. I will support all efforts to improve format options, but in the meantime, we have jobs to do. – Jon Simpson
  • 58. Resources Storify of a Twitter conversation on FXL ebooks https://storify.com/LauraB7/fixed-layout-ebooks Content in a Zombie Apocalypse http://karenmcgrane.com/2014/10/15/content-in-a-zombie-apocalypse/ On Digital Formats, by Nick Barreto https://medium.com/@canelo/on-digital-formats-b33e5a083154 On the epub:type attribute http://www.idpf.org/accessibility/guidelines/content/semantics/epub-type.php

Editor's Notes

  1. I hope this session can be a conversation of a sort, not just me talking at you. Also, please ask questions when you have them.
  2. The main focus here is on the fact that FXL ebooks are a non-fluid approach to digital publishing which is entirely out of step with the potential and promise of multi-platform publishing.
  3. Despite the bluster, there is an important point here about breaking out of a print mindset.
  4. Micah later (correctly) deleted this tweet because it belittled the notion of addiction, but the sensibility is still valid.
  5. A more nuanced opinion about the impact of FXL on the subtleties of the reading experience.
  6. From a digital-only publisher
  7. Even the defenders of the format acknowledge it’s place in the digital publishing landscape. Ron also called FXL “a bit of a mule – may take you where you need to go, but no genetic future.”
  8. I suspect I am talking to a crowd that it already down with the point of view that FXL is the wrong answer to digitizing most content. So what do readers want?
  9. Some question of what the reader wants. Do they want it to just look like the print book?
  10. And the InDesign files are really hard to edit.
  11. This kind of code soup exacerbates the issue of semantic, accessible content.
  12. Because, outside of books with a small amount of type converted on Kindle Kids Book Creator, they are really expensive to produce. (Mention Circular Flo)
  13. The proliferation of FXL content is the wrong direction to go in. Ebook developers and consumers agree, for the most part. So why are we still making these static-flavoured EPUBs?
  14. Choosing the format b/c of attachment to the print design. Mention client who opted for FXL because they wanted folios.
  15. And editors and authors and everyone involved in the book.
  16. Sticking with FXL ignores this very important market
  17. Tomorrow, there will be an ever-greater number of new devices and platforms and screen sizes. It is a veritable zombie apocalypse of new devices and platforms. Ted Nelson: “imitating paper on a computer screen is like tearing the wings off a 747 and using it as a bus on the highway.”
  18. Break here. Let’s talk about how a variety of ebook developers approach taking FXL content reflowable.
  19. So let’s look at some samples from the wild.
  20. In this case, while the content looks quite different, it really benefits from the format. Double-tap full-screen instructions, nicely hyperlinked for maximum usability.
  21. Things lost: full-bleed image. But really the only sacrifice in turning this graphics-heavy book into a nice looking ebook.
  22. This print design looks dramatically different as an ebook, but because it’s reflowable it is still highly usable as a classroom text. The images are very important to the text and have loads of resolution to double-tap and explore. Also: true to the original design.
  23. A little light comic relief to get you ready for a humdinger of a Penguin publishing story.
  24. Cautionary tale of Penguin doing as the author asked, making an FXL ebook, and having to take it down a week later because of the poor reviews on AMZN, replacing it with this reflowable.
  25. Naomi frantically made an awesome reflowable EPUB in about a week, assigned the same ISBN so that previous buyers could download the new version. Sidebars made full-width. Now this book is used as a way to scare pubs and garner support from digital sales.
  26. And sometimes reflowable will mean ugly whitespace.
  27. This title has lost nothing in the transition. In fact, reflowable means full-screen images which really benefits content like this.
  28. From Jon Simpson. Produced as FXL at the publishers insistence. Moved to reflowable because of complaints about the KF8 experience (it was just image of the page, not live text, no region magnification). The Quarto Publishing Group has moved toward reflowable b/c: -- getting decent results from reflowable -- FXL was too expensive -- FXL sales were not strong
  29. I start with the source – usually InDesign. I take the hodge-podge of unthreaded, unstyled text, the layered and unanchored boxes, and put them into one long text flow. * This section assumes some knowledge of InDesign
  30. If that’s your workflow tool, make it work overtime for you. Understand where it falls down. Group items that will be exported as a picture, anchor them in the text flow, and then rasterize that content. PNG/JPEG, dpi, sizing, etc., can be controlled from this window. Note: also apply ALT text here.
  31. Apply at the object level. From Adobe: “Only the first occurrence of the value is added to the landmarks.” Other best practices, responsive and otherwise: Export images relative to the text flow. Use the object export options palette to designation some art as a PNG export where required.
  32. Build a deep set of navigation aids via the TOC. No reader ever complained that there were too many navigation guides. Ever. Parts, chapters, subheads. But also lists of figures and illustrations. Full set of landmarks.
  33. From the dreaded ADE4.
  34. Hopefully you were all paying attention at Iris’s CSS workshop earlier. I am going to give only a few CSS samples.
  35. Cookbooks leading the way.
  36. Jon also admits that the inexpensive ID FXL export enable the pubs he works with to convert files that would never have been converted otherwise, as they are too complex. “So it becomes more a question of whether we want to incur modest conversion cost to be able to offer fresh titles for sale in channels we otherwise wouldn’t have, because some titles wouldn’t otherwise be converted at all.”
  37. Outside of digital comics, manga, children’s picture books, I can admit that it might be the right solution for some kinds of content – particularly any that requires interactivity. But I doubt it.