(6.2) Compare, contrast and criticise the various formats for eReaders (PDF, ePub and other formats) and comment on the workflow software for their production.
– Format descriptions
– About Digital Rights Management (DRM)
– Building Files for eReaders in InDesign
– Selling an e-book through your Website
The number of eReaders available on the market is growing quickly, and different file formats are required to support all those different eReading devices and reading methods. Comparing with the battle between Betamax and VHS format in the 70s or more recently Blu-ray vs HD DVD, the confusion involving eBook formats today is way more complex. It’s been called the “Tower of eBabel”, where no one seems to be speaking the same language. If you release a file only in PDF – one of the most well-know formats – for example, you’re excluding 81% of readers that won’t read this specific format.
Companies and organizations are fighting to establish their own formats. Amazon with their Kindle wants you to read your e-books in their DRM-encrypted version of Mobipocket, while Sony would prefer you to read in ePub, which is compatible with their reader. The storage size for texts without images depends on the file format, but is always relatively small compared with a richly illustrated text. For publishers, e-books are lucrative as they eliminate distributors and printing.
The eReaders and Tablets have some differences. An eReader basically has the advantage to work quite well in the sun or in very bright environments, is gentler on the eyes and usually smaller and lighter, making the reading experience more comfortable and, of course, eReaders are considerably less expensive. The tablet has a great range of apps, full colour screens and 3G connection, however the “e-ink reader” can have some difficulties when reading in sun light for example, and it is way heavier than an eReader, a very important fact for its use as an e-book. Carl Howe, director of the Anywhere Consumer’s research division, said: “Carrying around a Nook (eReader) is like carrying a paperback. An iPad is like a hardback. They’re both perfectly viable but they are different experiences.
According to Wikipedia there at least 28 different formats for eReaders at the moment, and this number keep increasing. Here are the 5 most important ones.
1) ePub (.epub)
ePub (short for Electronic Publication) is arguably the most important format today. Managed by the Independent Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF), is a free and open e-book format. Text created in ePub is a linear flow and reflows according to the screen size of different readers. If your book is available in ePub, it can be read on some of the most popular e-book readers and e-book reading software applications (like Stanza on the iPhone or Adobe Digital Editions). In other words, it’s an open e-book format that allows readers to read books on a variety of devices. ePub can be seen from the monitor of your PC to your mobile phone, tablets or eReaders each with different resolutions and screen sizes, and ePub provides a way of easily viewing images and text on any of those devices.
The .epub format can be read by the Kobo eReader, Apple’s iBooks app running on iOS devices such as the iPhone and iPad, Barnes and Noble Nook, Sony Reader, BeBook, Bookeen Cybook Gen3 (with firmware v. 2 and up),COOL-ER, Adobe Digital Editions, Lexcycle Stanza, BookGlutton, AZARDI, Aldiko and WordPlayer on Android and the Mozilla Firefox add-on EPUBReader. Several other reader software programs are currently implementing support for the format, such as dotReader, FBReader, Mobipocket, uBook and Okular.
So, to summarize, ePub features are the following: it is free and open; re-flowable and re-sizable text; inline raster and vector images; embedded metadata; DRM support ; CSS styling; support for alternative renditions in the same file. One criticism of ePub is that, while good for text-centric books, it may be unsuitable for publications which require precise layout or specialized formatting, such as a comic book.
2) Portable Document Format (.pdf)
Portable Document Format (PDF) is a file format readable by devices such as eReaders, PDAs and computers. It’s ideal if the book contains complex formatting and layout. There’s a plug-in called Pitstop Professional that allows you to edit the PDF: change colours, font-styles, delete or move elements and add or remove pages, for example. The format was created by Adobe aiming to provide a standard format for storing and editing printed publishable documents. PDF is a very popular format on the World Wide Web as it can be viewed and printed by users on many computer platforms.
PDF files are supported on the following e-book readers: Mobipocket, iRex iLiad, iRex DR1000, Sony Reader, Bookeen Cybook, Foxit eSlick, Amazon Kindle (1, 2, International & DX), Barnes & Noble Nook, the iPad, PocketBook Reader, Bebook Neo and the Kobo eReader. Also, pdf files can be read on the iPod Touch using the free Stanza app.
3) Plain text files (.txt)
Plain text is the most widely supported file format, working on most of the readers and devices. It has limitations regarding formatting (no bolding or italics for example), but will work in any device. It doesn’t include images.
4) eReader (.pdb)
Formerly Palm Digital Media/Peanut Press
PDB or Palm Doc can be read in Ereader. It’s a freeware program for viewing Palm Digital Media electronic books. There are versions available for IPhone, PalmOS, WebOS, Android, Symbian, Blackberry, Windows Mobile Pocket PC/Smartphone, desktop Windows and Macintosh. The reader shows one page at a time and supports embedded hyperlinks and images.
A wide selection of eReaders-formatted e-books are available in the company’s website, which can be purchased and downloaded, and they also offer a handful of public domain titles available for free. The program has features such as bookmarks and footnotes. The footnotes can be written in any part of the text and then exported as a Memo document. Barnes & Noble uses the eReader format as their method to deliver e-books for their eReader Nook.
5) Mobipocket (.prc)
Mobipocket is the format used by the Amazon Kindle and is supported on Windows PCs and on eReading apps used by many handheld devices. Amazon has been criticised by the industry for insisting publishers must supply DRM-protected books for Kindle. The Kindle’s AZW format is basically just the Mobipocket format with a slightly different serial number scheme.
About Digital Rights Management (DRM)
E-readers normally use DMR restrictions to try to limit copying, printing and sharing of e-books.
An interesting story involving Amazon’s DMR occurred in 2009. Through the system, Amazon remotely deleted purchased copies of George Orwell’s “1984” and “Animal Farm” from customers who had it in their Kindles after providing a refund for the purchased products. An Amazon spokesman, Drew Herdener, said in an e-mail message that the books were added to the Kindle store by a company that did not have rights to them, using a self-service function. “When we were notified of this by the rights holder, we removed the illegal copies from our systems and from customers’ devices, and refunded customers,” he said. That case shows the power Amazon has to remotely censor what people read through its software. Jeff Bezos, CEO of Free Software Foundation called upon Amazon to free its e-book reader and drop DRM.
In Sony Reader DRM rules allow any purchased e-book to be read on up to six devices. The owner can’t share a purchased e-book but can register five eReaders to a single account and make the books available to those devices.
Building Files for eReaders in InDesign
Text in a well built e-book is fluid; it is a linear flow and reflows according to the screen size of different readers. Reflow works very well but is not compatible with complex layouts. According to stonehillgraphics.com, “True drop caps, carefully controlled text sizes, large spaces at the top of chapter pages, etc., are either difficult to create or are not possible. Punctuation used in print books, such as curly quotes, em or en dashes, and special characters, will often fall out of eBook files and be replaced by nonsense code.”
Adobe InDesign is the best software to create an ePub file. E-books in this format can be read on the Adobe Digital Editions, iPad, Lexcycle, Barnes & Noble Nook for PC, Sony Reader, Stanza, and many other eReaders. If you’d like have a book formatted for a specific eReader, it is simple to convert ePub to another format, like Amazon’s Mobipocket for example.
When generating an ePub file, Adobe InDesign automatically reduces images to a size that can be viewed on all eReaders. The Kindle displays larger images than most of eRedaers, but even those are still smaller compared to a printed book. If in colours, images are converted to greyscale, but the best procedure is to convert them before insert into the InDesign project. About fonts, web-safe fonts are the best options, although in case the reader doesn’t have the font, it will be default to one closest to the original.
STEP BY STEP – EPUB in Adobe InDesign
a) For this example I will create a 16 pages book for demonstration.
In InDesign: File > New > Document
Now you can choose Number of Pages, Page Size, Orientation and Margins. Uncheck the option Facing Pages.
After create your document paste the book cover followed by publisher’s information and index. Then select the whole content of the book (in Microsoft Word or some text editor) and paste it in InDesign. It’s important that the content is pasted as one long story, with no breaks. The chapter division will be done later on.
b) To confirm that you have an unique piece rather than separate parts, go to View > Show Text Threads and the connectors will show you
that you have a long story.
c) When placing images, it’s important to make sure that they are part of the text or into the long story, as an ePub file is read from left to right and top to bottom. If the images are inserted as separated elements, they will appear together before the text starts. The following examples taken from an Adobe’s tutorial video show the behaviour of an ePub file. In the first example, 5 separated objects were placed in a particular order and were read in an eReader (in this case, Adobe Digital Editions, a free software to read e-books in a computer) from left to right, top to bottom.
In the second example, the elements 1 and 2 were aligned, so an eReader will read it left to right, (block with elements 1 and 2), then top to bottom, as the eReader image shows. That helps to understand the linear flow generated in ePub.
d) To place images, the first step is to convert them to greyscale in Photoshop, as most eReaders haven’t got colour displays. After dragging the image into your document in InDesign, you’ll have to make it part of your text, so cut it (Edit > Cut), move the cursor to the exact place where you want it (in this example, right before the text “illustration here”) and paste (Edit > Paste) then press return key. Doing this, the image will become an inline graphic, meaning it is part of the flow of content.
e) To place this graphic in its on paragraph, having total control on how it will be displayed in an eReader, you first quadruple click besides the image to select the paragraph, then set the leading value to zero. Then go to Window > Text Wrap and click in the second option of text wrap so you can drag your image and place it where you want it to appear in the eReader.
f) To separate the chapters without split the document in separate documents, we will use the InDesign Table of Contents feature. First you need to decide where you want your chapters to start and apply Paragraph Styles in the beginning of each chapter. First, select the text where the chapters begins (Chapter 1, Chapter 2 etc), the go to Type > Paragraph Styles. Click in Create New Style. You’re going to see a Style Name called Paragraph Style 1. Double-click and an option box will appear. Name it and choose options like Alignment, Character Formats etc. I named mine Demo e-book Style.
g) Next Step is going to Layout > Table of Contents Styles. Click New in the box that will appear. Name it, let’s call this one epub. Then in Other Styles you select the Paragraph Style that you just created. Click add and your style will be moved to Include paragraph Styles. Click OK.
h) Now, to save your final ePub file, go to File > Export for Digital Editions, name it and click save. So, we need to tell InDesign to use our Table of Contents. Go to the Contents Panel, turn on Include InDesign TOC entries and select your style. Turn on the other option as well (Suppress Automatic Entries for Documents) and click Export. Your ePub file now have the images placed where you wanted, is divided by chapters and can be read in most eReaders. To make it available for Kindle, for example, just use a converter and convert it to .mobi. Mobipocket has developed an .epub to .mobi converter called KindleGen. In this example, the ePub created is being read in Adobe Digital Editions.
Selling an e-book through your Website
In the Internet, distribution of any type of media is easy. Music, distributed mainly in mp3 format, started as a free peer-to-peer file sharing that led to lawsuits, and ended up with the creation of a successful business, the Itunes music store. Books have begun to enter the online market place, aided by the increasing popularity of Amazon’s Kindle, Apple’s iPad, Barnes and Noble’s Nook and other e-Readers, therefore starting an on-line e-book businesses or implementing a method to sell e-books in your website may have a great chance of success.
It’s possible to create your own e-book as it was described above or sell other e-books. To do so, you must acquire licenses from various publishers to sell the eletronic version of their products. You’ll need a web host with enough storage space to host all the books you will sell on the site. Then integrate a payment provider such as PayPal or Google Checkout.
The New York Times, Amazon Erases Orwell Books From Kindle, available online, accessed on 21th February 2011.
Smashwords, Smashwords eBooks, available online, accessed on 21th February 2011.
Stone Hill Graphics, eReader Formats, available online, accessed on 21th February 2011.
Wikipedia, ePub, available online, accessed on 21th February 2011.
Wikipedia, eBook Collections Usage Guide , available online, accessed on 21th February 2011.