EPUB is an e-book file format with the extension .epub that can be downloaded and read on devices like smartphones,
tablets, computers, or e-readers. It is a technical standard published by the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF).
The term is short for electronic publication and is sometimes styled ePub. EPUB became an official standard of the IDPF in
September 2007, superseding the older Open eBook standard. The Book Industry Study Group endorses EPUB 3 as the format of
choice for packaging content and has stated that the global book publishing industry should rally around a single standard.
EPUB is the most widely supported vendor-independent XML-based (as opposed to PDF) e-book format; that is, it is supported by
the largest number of hardware readers.
Many editors exist including calibre, Sigil, LaTeX, and Genebook. An open source tool, called epubcheck, can be
used for validating and detecting errors in the structural markup (OCF, OPF, OPS), image, and XHTML files. epubcheck can either
be run from the command line, used in applications, used in Java applications as a library, and used online at
EPUB Validator. Readers exist for all major hardware platforms with the exception of Amazon Kindle, including Google Play
Books (Android and iOS) and Apple iBooks (MacOS and iOS).
Sigil is free, open-source editing software for e-books in the EPUB format.
As a cross-platform application, Sigil is distributed for the Windows, OS X and Linux platforms under the GNU GPL license.
Sigil supports both WYSIWYG and code-based editing of EPUB files, as well as the import of HTML and plain text files.
Sigil has been developed by Strahinja Val Markovic and others since 2009. From July 2011 to June 2015 John Schember was the
lead developer. In June 2015 development of Sigil was taken over by Kevin Hendricks and Doug Massay.
EPUBZone - The Community and News Site for all things EPUB
This article covers distribution options for EPUB 3 content. EPUB 3 is the latest version of the EPUB format, a widely
used and easily manipulable format for representing digital publications. If you are a content publisher distributing content
indirectly via retailers that support EPUB 3 as an ingestion format then you don’t need to worry directly about how readers will
consume your publications. That’s your reseller’s problem, not yours. But if you need to distribute content directly to
consumers, then you need to think about how your readers will get and consume this content and potentially develop your own
consumer-facing solution(s) to enable that consumption.
Stepping back, there’s really only three ways to deliver any kind of digital content experience to users: files
(documents), apps, and websites. EPUB can be readily used to support any of these three fundamental delivery options.
Files are the original form of digital content. Some argue that their sell-by-date is past and that in a cloud-based
world everything will become a dynamic experience for consuming data fragments…with no on-going need for “reified” document
files. But judging by all of our personal hard drives, files certainly don’t seem to be going away yet and much of our cloud
usage seems to be devoted to sharing these files via consumer services like DropBox. When it comes to long term digital content
consumers repeatedly have expressed a preference for downloadable files that they can store and consume whenever they want,
including of course when they are not connected to the Internet. This also means reading can take place that is not under the
control or scrutiny of corporate entities or Big Brother.
The most natural way to distribute EPUB content to consumers is as .epub files that they can download and read on their
choice of EPUB-compatible reading systems just as .pdf files are downloaded and read on whatever PDF viewer a reader has
installed. These files can be simply links on webpages, for example. But there is a difference in that PDF was invented by
Adobe Systems as the file format for Adobe Acrobat and for over 20 years the Adobe Reader Software has been the
assumed-by-default option for reading PDF files. Now, there are many other options for reading PDF, including PDF viewers built
in to Web browsers like Chrome and Firefox and operating systems like OS/X and iOS. But it’s still quite common to see a “Get
Adobe Reader” badge when you see a link to PDF files. There is no such vendor-specific default option for EPUB reading. Adobe
does, in fact, provide an eBook reading application for Mac and Windows PC - Adobe Digital Editions - but it is only one of may
such applications. So, if you are going to directly distribute EPUB files you probably want to think about which EPUB reading
systems your readers are likely to have or be willing to install, test your content with these systems and recommend these
reading systems to your customers. Hopefully EPUB will end up as widely supported as PDF and built-in yo browsers and operating
Note - About Digital Rights Managements - DRM
When delivering EPUB files to consumers one consideration is whether the files needs to be protected technologically
against redistribution or other un-permitted uses. There is an active debate about the usefulness of technologies that attempt
to enforce this type of protection, which are typically referred to as Digital Rights Management (DRM) systems. The issues
differ by market segment and use case. For example some publishers don’t try to restrict redistribution of eBook titles that a
consumer purchases, but do expect downloaded eBook titles loaned by libraries to automatically stop working when their loan
period expires (which requires DRM technology to accomplish). In any case the EPUB standard does not define a particular DRM
scheme, but instead provides a more general encryption framework on top of which vendors can add their own encryption
technologies. The result is that some .epub files - those protected with a particular DRM - can only be consumed on reading
systems that support that type of DRM. If you are a copyright owner who directly distributes EPUB publications, or specifies
requirements to distributors who do so on your behalf you may need to consider the pros and cons of utilizing DRM technology
versus other options such as “watermarking” content with personal information about the customer who bought it and a notice
that it’s licensed only for that customer’s personal use.
Of course, in addition to downloadable files you may want to offer your readers custom apps for reading your content,
either as a general application that supports a number of articles, issues or titles or title-specific applications that are
specific to a particular publication.
One reason to create apps is to simply take advantage of AppStore distribution channels. If you want to be in a
particular AppStore, you need to have a native app for its platform. Another reason is to deliver a native-optimized
experience, that looks and performs like other native apps and takes advantage of native platform APIs. A third reason is to
differentiate the experience your readers have with your content. If you deliver content as a file or website, you are at the
mercy of whatever reading system or web browser the user has installed. If you deliver an app you are providing the content
together with the overall experience. Delivering content as an app may be an indirect way to get DRM protection, as apps are
often, but not always, “locked” to a given system when they are installed. Last, but not least, if you deliver content as an
app you don’t have to worry about whether or not your consumer has an appropriate reading system available - you are taking
care of that for them.
A variety of open source solutions and commercial software providers offer software development kits - “SDKs” - that
facilitate creating custom applications that support EPUBs. One that is being collaboratively developed by a number of major
industry players is Readium SDK (see https://readium.org). While most of these SDKs are focused on developing general EPUB
reading systems, they can be utilized to develop title-specific apps and it’s likely that specialized solutions to facilitate
this will be available in the near future.
Files and apps have been around since the dawn of computing but, of course, these days websites anchor most people’s
content consumption. EPUB is designed to “package” Web content into portable documents so it may seem counter-intuitive to
consider delivering EPUB content as web pages but it actually has some pretty compelling advantages. Of course, from a consumer
perspective, consuming content in a web browser means there’s nothing to download or install. From a publisher’s perspective,
you can retain an umbilical cord to your reader for dynamic communication and analytics. By developing your core content as EPUB
publications you can de-couple that authoring from the process of deploying a browser-based reading experience with that
content. In effect EPUB can become the “contract” between your content production team and your website deployment team. Of
course many other formats could be used for that “contract”, including PDF but EPUB has the advantage of being based on HTML5
and CSS…i.e.. it’s a web-native format. Other formats like PDF require either a major format conversion process to turn it into
something that can be deployed in a browser, or a very heavyweight client-side rendering program. PDF.js for example is an open
project for reading EPUB 3 files in the browser and its core library is only 20KB, 100 times smaller. A number of other similar
solutions are available (with both commercial and open source options) or if your EPUB content will be limited to use of
certain features it’s not too hard to write your own browser script for handling content.
That is not to say that all Web content should start life as EPUB. That would be silly. For online-only web apps,
dynamic content and small content “nuggets” there’s not necessarily any good reason to go to the trouble of creating a
publication packaging of that content. But if you have content that is long-form, has a linear reading order (a beginning, a
middle and an end) that might benefit from the option of paginated display, and where the content can be logically separated
from the experience of delivering it, then EPUB via the browser may be a good option. Of course, if your content only needs to
be read online in the browser, there are other options for structuring such content (CMS systems such as Wordpress and Wikis
for example). But if you also need to create eBook files that can be disseminated through distribution channels and read
offline, and/or your apps with that same content then using EPUB for all three distribution channels may be be a compelling way
to modularize your production and delivery work streams and reduce your overall costs, even if your articles and other content
nuggets are originally stored in a CMS system or Wiki. In fact CMS and Wiki systems are beginning to add support for EPUB (see
the Wikipedia Book Creator for one example of Wiki-based EPUB support).
Easily create ebooks in Epub and Kindle formats: publish on any ebook distribution site, including Amazon's Kindle,
Apple's iBooks, Google Play, Kobo, and more. Your readers can use Kindles, iPads, iPhones, Android tablets and phones, Macs and
PCs. You can also create PDFs suitable for sending to print-on-demand services.
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