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O'Reilly Labs Finds Space for ePUB Bookworms
Digital Rights Management announced for more mobile gadgets
William Pollard (will789)     Email Article  Print Article 
Published 2009-02-20 10:59 (KST)   
Announced during the Tools of Change publishing conference in New York (Feb. 9 to Feb. 11), O'Reilley Labs have made support available for the Bookworm ePUB project. This will secure hosting resources and also encourage attention from open source developers for the ePUB potential. The most widely used aspect of Bookworm is a website to store books in ePUB format so that individuals can then download them to mobile devices. The code for the site is written in Python and the majority of the code is open source and available through Google. O'Reilley are well known for publishing hard copy books about computing. The ePUB format is based on open standards but so far is not easy to create from a desktop. Some technical knowledge is required. As support continues from the open source community, this should get easier.

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The ePUB format is a zipped file that contains pages in XHTML, a version of HTML as used in most web pages that is more XML friendly. Graphics can include SVG, easily scaled and another open standard. Other files control the way that a contents page is displayed. Some programs already create an ePUB file from a blog or RSS feed. The Teleread blog has reported that Calibre now offer a service that includes graphics. Feedbooks has a listing of news feeds on which they offer various ebook formats for download. These include the BBC and New York Times.

Liza Daly , a developer for Bookworm, recently spoke to Kat Meyer for the Teleread blog:
Standards mean I can jump right in and build something interesting rather than having to begin from scratch. I got started with e-books because I wanted to write some software that could take content in one format and automatically export to multiple other formats. I stumbled on ePub, read the spec, and in just a few days I had working code. The fact that ePub reuses other standards meant that many of the tools I needed to build my specific application already existed. Without ePub as a standard, I might셶e still been wondering how to format a paragraph in the time it took to build a whole e-book platform.
Since last July when ePUB was supported in the Sony Reader the surprise has been how many people are interested in reading ePUB on a mobile phone with a backlit screen. Stanza software for the iPhone has been downloaded over a million times, probably more than the unit sales of the Kindle during 2008.

The Wikipedia explains that electronic paper "reflects light like ordinary paper and is capable of holding text and images indefinitely without drawing electricity." All the dedicated devices such as the Amazon Kindle and Sony Reader use a form of electronic paper. The strain on eyesight is much less than with a backlit screen. However they are still expensive and it seems many people are prepared to use a phone display instead.

At the Mobile World Congress, held in Barcelona 16-19 Feb, Adobe announced agreements for use of their server technology for managing digital rights (DRM). There is opposition to DRM as people are used to being able to lend a book to a friend, but publishers are requiring DRM before adding to the titles available in ePUB format. Adobe have released the Digital Editions Reader with a Flash display for both ePUB and PDF. In Barcelona they announced a Reader Mobile Software Development Kit and arrangements including Stanza for the iPod / iPhone and iRex for the Iliad. 쏻ith Adobe Reader Mobile SDK, Adobe is expanding the reach of PDF content, making it easier for mobile users to engage with rich digital publications on the go, said Kevin M. Lynch, vice president and general manager of the Acrobat family of products at Adobe. Lynch rarely mentions PDF and is usually more concerned with Flash. There has not been much guidance from Adobe on the context for choosing PDF or ePUB.

Most of the interest in Barcelona was about music and video on mobile devices. Apple have not offered an approach to e-books so the number of downloads for Stanza may be a surprise. Adobe concentrated on Flash for rich media and there are some unanswered questions around products based on text. Comments on the O'Reilly Tools of Change website page on the Bookworm news includes a claim that Buzzword will soon be able to save a document as ePUB. Buzzword is an online word processor purchased by Adobe. However there is no official announcement that I can find. There may have been discussion during the conference. The comments also point out that PDF cannot be imported into Buzzword. So conversion from PDF to ePUB is not likely to be easy. A more likely workflow could start with XML documents such as in Open Office. There is already a way to export PDF and an ePUB option may come later. Google Docs may also consider this as an option. I have no information about this, just outlining something I hope to discover more about. Google Docs has less design ambition than Buzzword, but this may be suitable for the ePUB format. The Sony Reader is not intended for complex page layout. Single columns work best with the font size changing just for the headings.

However the file formats and authoring software develops there is the clear potential for global distribution of literary resources. The world of books may adjust more slowly but there is already acceptance of digital options by people working on newspapers and magazines. At the Publishing Expo held in London (Feb 11/12) Tim Brooks, Managing Director of Guardian News and Media, spoke about the future of newspapers. Brooks has also written for Printweek that "due to declining circulations and the advent of online news, the Quality Press is being forced to re-evaluate its operations to make them sustainable".

Tim Brooks
©2009 Guardian Media Group
Printweek reports Brooks as saying that he will never launch another printed newspaper and has pitched the company's future on multimedia and guardian.co.uk, which currently attracts 26m unique users per month, the highest of all the UK newspapers.

This story appeared first on the Printweek website though the print version has more detail. There has not yet been a similar statement from Haymarket, publishers of Printweek, on how they see the future for magazines.



More about ePUB at the drupa 2008 blog: http://drupa2008.blogspot.com
©2009 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter William Pollard

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