EPUB: An Ebook Standard

I was beginning to write about the ePUB standard (used by iBooks, Barnes & Noble’s Nook and many other readers) when this fabulous article from TUAW popped up in my reader. They provide much better coverage of the standard and include how you can create your own books in ePUB format. Here’s a taste:

EPUB is the same format used by the popular Stanza app for iPhone and iPod touch. It’s a free and open standard format created by the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF), and it’s designed for reflowable content that can be optimized to whatever device is being used to read a book file. The IDPF has championed EPUB as a single format that can be used by publishers and conversion houses, as well as for distribution and sale of electronic books.

The format is meant to function as a single format that publishers and conversion houses can use in-house, as well as for distribution and sale. It supports digital rights management, something that’s sure to warm the cockles of the hearts of publishers, but there’s no DRM scheme that is currently specified as part of the format.

Other ebook readers that currently use the format include the Barnes & Noble Nook, the Sony Reader, iRex Digital Reader, and the iRiver Story.

If you’re a budding publisher and want to get your ebook into the iBookstore, you’ll need a tool to help you create your document in the EPUB format. Of course, we don’t know if just anyone will be able to self-publish for the iBookstore, but Apple does note that they will have books from both “major and independent” publishers available.

Basically, ePUB is a mini web site built using HTML and CSS with a couple of configuration files to define what goes where before everything’s zipped up into a zip file. In addition to the ePUB creation software discussed in the TUAW article, there’s a very nice open source editor called SIGIL [Windows, Mac and Linux] which does all the formatting, configuring and zipping in a simple app. It’s easy to use and there’s a well-documented wiki for instructions – covering both ebook-building and using SIGIL to make it happen.

Since the TUAW article was written, iBookstore announced they will support writers interested in self-publishing. There’s a growing number of other sources available to distribute ePUB books we now have even more incentive to learn more about the format. Read the entire article here.

The more ebooks I read, the more interesting this format becomes as a way to publish my family history.

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