EPUB3 a standard that precedes it's time?

Written by: Ori Idan, CEO Helicon books.


The IDPF is a consortium of companies that work together to create standards for digital books. This consortium is responsible for the EPUB standard. On July 2010 the IDPF has anounced version 2.01 of the standard. This version was quickly adopted by many reader vendors and became very popular, in fact today there are two popular standards the EPUB standard and the Amazon propreitery Kindle standard.
On October 2011 the IDPF announced version 3 or the standard.

It seemes that digital books standards are advancing like the web. The web in its early days was text and images only, but people always want more and more interactive contents.
The new W3C standards have enabled web designers to deliver richer content and today users expect web sites to contain rich contents with animation, videos, sometimes sound etc. The same thing happens with digital books, that the new standard enable richer content. What is so new about this standard that makes it so hard to adapt it?

It seems that although there is a demand to the new reach media aditionts in EPUB3, there are not many publications in this standard and which is even worth not many readers.

While version 2 of the standard concentrated on reflowable materials that is great for fiction books and text books that do not need reach media. Version 3 of the standard goes beyond standard book and added many things among them:

  • Interactivity, using JavaScript.
  • Videos, HTML5 added video and HTML5 is used at the basis of EPUB3 page).<
  • Media overlay - enable text and media to be presented in a combined manner. For example, highlight text as it is spoken by the computer or as part of a soundtrack. In order to employ these overlays, special Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language (SMIL) is used. This language is also a W3C standard used by the IDPF.
  • Scaleable Vector Graphics (SVG) has been allowed within EPUB files for some time. However, their use was limited, largely due to a lack of reading system support. EPUB3 now mandates that reading systems be able to process SVG within the eBook, including allowing users to select text and search within the content of the SVG files. The only portion of SVG that is not allowed is the animation capability. The Helicon books reader support more then just EPUB3, it also supports SVG animation.
  • Mathematical equations using MathML - MathML is part of HTML5, and therefore, it is part of EPUB3. Reading systems must be able to process the presentation form of MathML, but may also support the content form of MathML. This feature allow EPUB3 to be used in text books.

These are only the major enhancements of EPUB3. This already show why it is so different then EPUB2, in fact this is a completely new standard.

However although the third version of the standard add many desired features to the standard, it is still not supported by most reader applications. Most reader applications are made for version 2 of the standard with few enhancements to support several features from the new standard.

Helicon books provides the first reader to fully support the new standard. The Helicon books reader, is currently available only for the Android OS but work is being done to port it to Apple iOS (for iPad and iPhone devices)

Creating rich contents books is much more complicated then simply converting the existing text to digital book standard. This is another area in which Helicon books can help publishers. Helicon books has the expertiese and the human resources to manually create a rich contents book.

In the future, Helicon books will provide a reader that delivers even more then what the EPUB3 standard gives. A reader that can display interactive 3D images, rotate them and zoom in or out.

Share this post