EPub Straight to the Point: Creating Ebooks for the Apple IPad and Other Ereaders (One-Off)
Elizabeth Castro Castro
Published by: Peachpit Press on July 2010
Dig in to the nitty gritty of the ePub format for ebooks. The book is essential for anyone developing ebooks for the iPad.
I bought this book in electronic format. As an ePub of course; what else. I read it on my iPad of course; what else?
I really like this book. As it says on the cover; straight to the point. The problem for publishers / book makers is that the ePub format is a devil of a pain to deal with and you really need to be a top notch geek to understand it all. Furthermore, it really pains me to report that, just like the days of developing hacks for web site delivery to different browsers, you may need the same approach for different eReaders (depending on how sophisticated you want to get!). Yes, folks, you need to include more than one CSS version to gracefully degrade to different devices. By the way, did you know you can provide different styles for iBooks depending on the orientation? More from me on that soon.
Elizabeth Castro deals with many of these issues as clearly as is humanly possible, but I do believe that this book will only interest those who are prepared to roll up their sleeves and edit code! If you believe that Adobe InDesign (even in the latest version) will make ePub as easy as drag and drop, then forget it! Adobe gives us a starting point, but once you export for ePub, then you are very likely to need a good deal of hand-crafting.
Epub Straight to the Point covers these issues and more, but I believe (as I always tell my students) - you can only learn by doing. So get yourself a text (try Gutenberg.org) and build a book in InDesign and then go through the process as outlined in this book. I don't recommend that you choose poetry (otherwise headaches will abound) but I do suggest that you have a MAC because the author will expect you to use the Terminal window to zip files from the command line (phew!).
Actually, I use a MAC and I don't think you really need to use Terminal because there are some tools available to avoid this. For example - if you get over to the Adobe web site you can download a copy of PDFXML Inspector and edit the ePUB without needing to unpack and re-zip.
Liz Castro has done a first class job writing this book, but also (straight to the point), she has created a fantastic ePub version. If you buy this book (actually buy an iPad first, then buy this book as an ePub) then, I believe EPub Straight to the Point should come with a small print warning: this book will soon be out of date, this author will need to upgrade this book. Yes, it is inevitable. Because, when Apple upgrade the iPad and iBooks, or when Amazon upgrade the Kindle, or when HTML5 becomes the next eBook standard (whoops, I mean if it does), then all will change. Just as web developers now need to do less CSS hacking, so the ePub standard will mature and your books will look the same on all devices and readers. We have just seen the release of an upgrade to Apple's Pages that will export to ePub. This is not mentioned in the book and this is no fault of the author, because this upgrade came out only days after the publication of the first edition.
I would like to make another comparison to the process of learning about developing web sites. Because the web is open, those interested in learning about how others build their web sites can (as part of the process) view the source of various web pages. This doesn't give a full answer, but sites like *CSS Web garden take this further, by revealing all sorts of ways that the appearance of a web page can be changed through CSS. Can the same be said for ePublications? Take a look at the beautiful Winnie The Pooh ebook, on the iPad or iPhone. Do you want to have a look at how the publishers (Egmont) did that? You cannot, because the XHTML and the CSS are encrypted.
I am currently re-building my PDF ebooks into ePub versions and I have conducted a lot of research into methods and workflow for cross-platform compatibility. More on this soon.
*Note: see also http://epubzengarden.com