New EPUB for Education Draft Released

Student2nd Editors Draft of the EPUB for Education Profile has been released.  Digital content in education has the potential to significantly improve learning outcomes, as it can better support accessibility, adapt to individual learning modes, increase engagement and experiential learning through interactivity, provide immediate assessments and analytics, and increase social connectivity.

The EPUB for Education profile defined in this specification represents the effort to adapt the functionality of the EPUB® 3 format to the unique structural, semantic and behavioral requirements of educational publishing.

The profile builds on the EPUB 3 specification in the following ways:

  • It adds semantics for common educational publishing components and structures.
  • It defines how to include content that may be created external to the narrative text workflow, such as interactives and assessment (e.g., QTI).
  • It includes accessibility features to enable compliance with educational standards.
  • It enables the identification of discrete content entities.
  • It allows the embedding of shared educational scriptable components.
  • It adds support for annotations.
  • It defines guidelines for the production and inclusion of images.

The full draft is online now: EPUB for Education Editor’s Draft – 11 February 2016

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13 Keys to Accessible EPUB3 Documents

  1. All text must be available in a logical reading order – Use structural markup to define the natural reading order of the primary narrative and to distinguish secondary material such as footnotes, references, figures, and other auxiliary content.
  2. Separate presentation and content – Visual reading is only one way of accessing content. Do not use visual-only cues such as colored text, font size or positioning as the only clue to the meaning or importance of a word or section.
  3. Provide complete navigation – Include a complete table of contents in the front matter and consider smaller tables of contents at the start of each section. Use <section> and <aside> tags in the content and the <itemref linear=”no”> tag in the manifest file to define a logical reading order.
  4. Create meaningful structure wherever possible – Create a structure by using numbered headings in a logical structure. For other tagged structures, specify their content with the epub:type attribute. For example, the tag that contains the preface of a book might look like <section epub:type=”preface”>.
  5. Define the content of each tag – Include semantic information to describe the content of a tag.  A section tag for the table of contents would look like <section epub:type=”toc”> or a list of definitions in a glossary would be tagged with  <dl epub:type=”glossary”>.
  6. Use images only for pictures, not for tables or text – Any content embedded in an image is not available to visually impaired readers. If the textual contents of a table or image are required for comprehension of the document, use proper and complete markup for text and tabular data, including headers and scope attributes for tables. If images of text are unavoidable, provide a description and transcription of the text and use accessible SVG.
  7. Use image descriptions and alt text – Every image should have a description, caption or alt text unless it is solely decorative.
  8. Include page numbers – Page numbers are the way many people navigate within a book. For any book with a print equivalent, use the epub:type=”pagebreak” attribute to designate page numbers.
  9. Define the language(s) – To make sure each word will be rendered correctly, specify the default language of the content in the root html tag. Indicate any words, phrases or passages in a different language by using the xml:lang attribute: <span xml:lang=”fr” lang=”fr”>rue Saint-Andre-des-Arts</span>.
  10. Use MathML – MathML makes mathematical equations accessible to everyone by eliminating the ambiguity of a verbal description of a picture.
  11. Provide alternative access to media content – Make sure the native controls for video and audio content are enabled by default. Provide fallback options such as captions or descriptions for video and transcripts for audio.
  12. Make interactive content accessible – Interactive content using JavaScript or SVG should be accessible. All custom controls should fully implement ARIA roles, states, and properties, as appropriate.
  13. Use accessibility metadata – As part of a general good practice of documenting the accessibility of your content, provide accessibility metadata in your files so end users know what features are there and search engines can discover your accessible materials.

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For a more detailed study of Accessible EPUB books, please visit Top Tips for Creating Accessible EPUB 3 Files.

[This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 Generic License and was originally published in a more complete form by International Digital Publishing Forum.]

eBook Choices: Fixed Layout or Flowable

Modern eBooks come in two general forms: Fixed Layout and Flowable. Each format has its pros and cons, but a good general rule is that for long form reading such as a novel you want a flowable text book while for academic or graphically oriented materials like text books and manuals you would want to use a fixed layout format.

The Book Industry Study Group, Inc. (BISG) has released a Field Guide to Fixed Layout for E-Books that can help publishers select the best format for their book. It also helps book producers understand potential drawbacks and limitations that may result from a book being used on various platforms.

Core to understanding this topic is in the Field Guide’s first section: When to Use Fixed Layout:

When Is Fixed Layout Most Appropriate?

A fixed layout that exactly replicates the print design is almost always best for Children’s picture books, Manga, Comics and Graphic novels. These books have art created at a particular aspect ratio, and almost always need the entire page to bleed. Retailers have shown that there has been a growing consumer acceptance of these genres in eBook form.

Sometimes using a fixed layout, but not fully replicating the print layout, may be a viable solution. The eBook text can use a bigger font, and the design can be engineered to avoid pinching and zooming, even on the smallest screens. This fixed-but-different approach can work well for cookbooks, gift books, and art books.

Keep in mind that a fixed layout should not be the automatic default for the conversion of all of these product types. Often, because we are so familiar with (and attached to) the print format, we cling to fixed layout when a reflowable digital product might be more appropriate.

When Is Fixed Layout Not As Appropriate?

While editors and designers may be most comfortable producing an exact page replica of a print book, this isn’t always the best solution for the content, and it can limit the book’s distribution potential.

Here are a few considerations to keep in mind before deciding to go with fixed layout:

  • A text-heavy fixed-layout title can generate an unfriendly user experience because the customer continually has to pinch/zoom/pan the pages on the tablet in order to view the content. There can be a loss of some of the features available in reflowable e-books–for example, text-search functionality can be lost if the text is flattened as part of an image file. Additionally, a customer who expects a reflowable experience but encounters instead the print replica may experience confusion and disappointment.
  • From a production standpoint, fixed layout is labor-intensive and expensive. Fixed layout needs to accommodate the conversion and oversight of multiple formats–Amazon, Apple, B&N, and Kobo all support fixed-layout e-book files but use different formats, although widespread adoption of EPUB3 will help re-duce this fragmentation. Each format must be individually reviewed by the publisher for quality assurance, usually multiple times, thereby creating additional work and cost for content-management departments.
  • Fixed layout can also affect tight production schedules. Because the format relies heavily on the print layout, conversion efforts typically begin once the print file is finalized, even though the digital product often has to come out either at the same time, shortly thereafter, or even, in some cases, before the print edition. There is, therefore, a high risk of missing on-sale dates, which reduces the ability to capitalize on publicity and marketing.

For long term planning, remember that a reliance on fixed layout can hinder a publisher’s ability to innovate at a time when experimentation may be a critical part of digital migration. While fixed layout does not, in fact, prevent the inclusion of advanced features, a focus on replicating print, coupled with the complication of creating multiple versions for multiple platforms, often inhibits the inclusion of the very features that truly distinguish digital from print publications.

Download the Field Guide


EPUB3 and an Interoperable World

On May 16, 2013 John Mc Namee, European and International Booksellers Federation President presented On the Interoperability of eBook Formats in Brussels.

He asked the question: Why do we need interoperable eBook formats? and provided some excellent reasons supporting the idea of a common standard for eBooks that can help both publishers and consumers while protecting the interests of both.

Non-interoperable ebook formats cause problems for consumers

eBook ReadersMc Namee discussed the fact that proprietary eBook formats can lock consumers into a specific platform or eBook ecosystem. Consumer choice and the use of their purchased eBooks are limited when a vendor requires that their digital content be read on a specific device or using specific software.

This goes on to affect future purchasing freedom for consumers by making it inconvenient to shop around and purchase eBooks from multiple sellers based on price or other factors.

Non-interoperable ebook formats are in contradiction to EU policies

[Pillar II (interoperability and standards) of the Digital Agenda of the European Commission says:

“[It is important to establish] effective interoperability between IT products and services to build a truly digital society. Europe must ensure that new IT devices, applications, data repositories and services interact seamlessly anywhere — just like the Internet.

and Neelie Kroes, the Vice-President of the European Commission, in charge of the Digital Agenda, expanded the idea:

“Interoperability […] applies to ebooks too. When you buy a printed book it’s yours to take where you like. It should be the same with an ebook. You can now open a document on different computers, so why not an ebook on different platforms and in different apps? One should be able to read one’s ebook anywhere, any time on any device.

He supports the use of EPUB3 as a workable solution for reaching a truly inter-operable world for eBook consumers.

The major updates to the EPUB format in EPUB3 are as follows:

  • Accessibility features including enhanced semantic tagging and text-to-speech
  • Additional styling and layout capabilities for reflowable content so content reads well regardless of the platform or screen size used by the consumer
  • Annotation and bookmarking support
  • Enhanced metadata and navigation support including HTML5 based tables of contents
  • Fixed-layout support that is critical for complex eBooks including textbooks and instruction guides
  • Global language support including vertical writing and right-to-left reading.
  • Interactivity support for things like quizzes and crossword puzzles.
  • Mandatory embedded font support so the needed font files are stored in the document
  • Mathematic equation formatting capabilities
  • Rich media support (audio and video)

As to the question of whether or not features of Amazon and Apple formats can exist in EPUB3, John Mc Namee says this is not a real problem as EPUB3 does everything they do, and more:

His examples of enhanced EPUB3 features include:

  • A configurable text-to-speech functionality (for the reading-aloud with a synthetic voice) is supported by EPUB3; none of the other formats supports this at the moment.
  • The synchronization of pre-recorded audio and text highlighting is supported by EPUB3 and Apple´s Fixed-Layout EPUB, but not by KF8 and .ibooks.
  • EPUB3 offers full flexibility regarding character sets (UTF-8) and reading directions, where KF8 only supports a few Asian languages and Apple´s formats do not support languages beyond those with Latin characters.

has released this report on the importance and challenges involved in the move towards interoperable in eBooks.

On the Interoperability of eBook Formats. Selecting an eBook converter is one of the most important choices an author or publisher can make. Let vPrompt handle all your eBook publishing needs.

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