I’m sure many of you have heard about eTextbooks recently, and no, I’m not talking about pdfs that require you to squint at your tiny hand-held screen. Instead, I wanted to tell you about a personal favorite, not only because it is easy to make, requiring little more knowledge than Microsoft Word, but because it works across numerous devices, from Android, Apple, Macs, and PCs, is able to be marked up by the reader, and is open-source.
ePubs, or electronic publications, can work on any screen size, smart phone or tablet, because the content flows to adjust to the screen its displayed on, and its file structure can be thought of as a compressed website with a few more complexities. However, creating an ePub does not require you to know code. You can create epubs with a no more than Microsoft Word and Calibre (pronounced like “caliber”), a free ebooks manager that allows you to convert between the different formats. ePubs allow the reader to highlight sections of a passage, make notes, etc. Unlike a pdf, users are free to change the font size and mark up the book as they see fit.
eBook creation is becoming increasing popular with people interested in self-publishing. It takes less time to get to publication and the author has more control over the look and content of the book. I’ve talked with several people, from first time authors to professors who wanted to make textbooks that were free and available to developing nations with little production costs. They were looking to digital textbooks as the way to get knowledge into the hands of the users.
While there are several digital textbook formats to choose from, ePubs stand out because they are cross platform. It doesn’t matter if you are on an android or apple device, as long as you have an epub reader, you can read the book. Because it’s open source, you don’t need to use proprietary software or have it limited to a specific device.
Now, while these are great advantages, it does have a few downsides. The free flow formatting of epubs allows it to easily work on any screen size, but does not allow for a fixed formatted look. If you wanted elements on a “page” to always look the same regardless of the device, then you are out of luck. You might want to stick with a pdf or an iBook.
Some of those concerns are being addressed in the new ePub document standard, ePub3 (we are currently in ePub2). With ePub3, there is greater support for fixed formatting layouts, HTML5 integration for interactive elements, multimedia, and MathML support, among other features. If none of that made sense to you, then think of it like this, ePub three is getting competitive. However, ePub3 is a new standard and no eReader, as of this publication date, fully supports ePub3. That will quickly change in the near future.
With its hopeful future, ease of creation, ability to be accessible to students with disabilities, future interactive features with ePub3, and its ability to be viewable on any device makes ePubs, in my opinion, a prime choice for eBook format. I’ve very excited to see where the future of eBooks will take us, and I see ePubs as a prominent format to keep your eyes on.
If you are interested in learning more about creating ePubs, contact us, or come by the Digital Union. We also host workshops, so be sure to check our offerings.