Friday, March 9, 2012

E-book Creation, Formats and Workflow

From Booknet Canada Blog: TOC 2012 Conference Roundup:

EPUB 3, KF8, iBooks Author, it was all there. There are some cool new tools like Inkling’s authoring tool and Wolfram’s interactive CDF (Computational Document Format) file format and associated creation tools. For those that like to see a e-book code in action, have a look at Digital Bindery’s EPUB 3 slides—you’ll find lots of great code snippets in the slides, plus they have a list of some of their favourite tools and a sample EPUB 3 file on their website that you can break apart. O’Reilly’s e-book team showed some great slides of their e-book workflow (have a look at slide 11), showing how they tweak and adapt their original XML file to produce all the individual file formats.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Keeping ePub simple for Mobi

From MobileRead:
The CSS from an epub file must be converted (by kindlegen) to HTML 3.2 attributes in the mobi file, so keeping the CSS extremely simple is always the best approach. Unfortunately, the only way to find out what works best (or at all) is through trial and error (and of course by looking through the threads here at MR to find what others may have stumbled upon).

Friday, February 10, 2012

Apple fixed-layout EPUB format

For coding ebooks according to the Apple fixed-layout EPUB format:

If there is an actual spec on Apple's site of "Apple's fixed-layout EPUB", I'm not aware of it. (Let me know if there is a URL that points to one.) For now it just looks like it's "spec by example".

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

"open access publishing"

"open access publishing"? Or better:

"redistributable publishing"
"free-to-copy publishing"

See Budapest Open Access Initiative.

commentary by Richard Stallman <>:

Many scientists recognize the harm done by restrictive scientific publishers that control use of the scientific literature. In 2002, the Budapest Open Access Initiative called for applying two principles in scientific publishing: access for everyone at the main publication site, and freedom for everyone to redistribute exact copies (and do other things with them too).

The second principle is stronger. In practice, it implies the first: if everyone has the freedom to redistribute copies of articles, university libraries will mirror the articles, making them accessible to everyone. However, the term "open access" refers to the weaker first principle and not to the second. That makes it a weak term.

I signed the BOAI statement. I had misgivings about the name, after seeing how philosophical opponents of the Free Software Movement had used the term "open source" to downplay our concerns about freedom, but I put them aside because the substance was correct.

My misgivings later proved valid: some influential supporters subsequently dropped the second principle.  In effect, the weak name overcame the strong substance.

To return to the correct substance of the the BOAI, we should drop the term "open access publishing", and talk about "redistributable publishing" or "free-to-copy publishing".  These terms focus on the stronger second principle, so they will resist weakening.

"Open Publishing Association"

author = "Hildebrandt, Thomas T. and Mukkamala, Raghava Rao",
year = "2011",
title = "Declarative Event-Based Workflow as Distributed Dynamic Condition Response Graphs",
editor = "Honda, Kohei and Mycroft, Alan",
booktitle = "{\rm Proceedings Third Workshop on}
Programming Language Approaches to Concurrency and communication-cEntric Software,
{\rm Paphos, Cyprus, 21st March 2010}",
series = "Electronic Proceedings in Theoretical Computer Science",
volume = "69",
publisher = "Open Publishing Association",
pages = "59-73",
doi = "10.4204/EPTCS.69.5",

(The bibtex of the paper e.g.

Open Publishing Association (
a publication model that links to articles of

This is the way it works.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Don't webby. Be appy.

There seems to be a proliferation of SasSy sites or tools that can turn your Web site or HTML5 content into an app (.ipa/iOS, .apk/Android):

This is very cool, and provides e-publishers another opportunity for publishing content.

On a philosophical note, this move away from eyes on Web sites to mobile apps is interesting. On the Web (either envisioned by the "regal" Tim Berners-Lee or the "rogue" Ted Nelson), the idea is that of going from site to site by hyperlinks. You are one site one minute and less than a minute later you are on some site that may have little relation to the first.

An app is not like that. An app is something of a closed world. Within an app, you don't "click" on something in the app and jump from that app to another app like you do from site to site. You basically stay within that app. An ebook (.epub) on a mobile device (read within yet another app, an e-reader app), is like a closed world too.

(Of course a "Web browser" on a mobile device is an app on its own, but the tools listed above create their own apps.)

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Guidelines for arXiv Review

arXiv Review:

1. Each submission to arXiv has a (potential) review page (thread or section of comments and reviews) in arXiv Review.

2. Each review page is identified following the article identification scheme in References to and in arXiv Documents.

For example, the article arXiv:math/9910001v1 — refers to — could* have a review page arXiv-Review:math/9910001v1 — (abs for "abstract" in arXiv, rev for "review" in arXiv Review).

3. When a submission to arXiv achieves a level of acceptance** from the reviewers on arXiv Review, it is promoted to published status.

This can be found in a separate section of arXiv Review:<indentifier> (pub for "published").

This makes the "pub" section of arXiv Review (and its various subsections) effectively an open access journal.

This is how it works:

1. A scientist submits an article to arXiv. If they want it to be reviewed for publication they would submit a link to the article on arXiv to arXiv Review. (The article itself stays on arXiv.)

2. Comments (reviews and ratings) are opened on arXiv Review for the article.

3. When the reviewers of arXiv Review "accept" the article for publication, it is promoted to the "published" section of arXiv Review.

For example, an article in > math > math.DG that is accepted for publication by the reviewers of arXiv Review would appear in the arXiv Review Journal of Differential Geometry section of

This is to say that under > math > math.DGthere is the arXiv Review Journal of Differential Geometry, a peer-created open access journal; under > quant-ph, arXiv Review Journal of Quantum Physics; ...

This post is a continuation of the discussion in scientific journals in the e-publishing age and the discussion on Google+. (And more comments here.)

There is also a Google+ page for arXiv Review.

2012/02/07 (via comment on Google+): The organization appears like it provides publications exactly along the lines of arXiv Review Journal of <whatever subject area>. (And apparently this organization has funding and people to maintain their site. That is critical.)

In each published paper there is a link to an article: e.g.

So if this organization (or parallel organizations) could take on all of subject areas, then the process seems pretty much along the way of being resolved. (And include Journals as well as Proceedings.)

(Note in the bibtex of the above example: publisher = "Open Publishing Association". There you go!)

And more at: Community Peer Review

* could, since not every submission to arXiv may have a review page in arXiv Review
** the article rating and acceptance process is TBD

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

scientific journals in the e-publishing age

There's been a bit of discussion on Google+ (John Baez - Jan 30, 2012) on the future of costly scientific journals. As print fades into history, there is no reason why scientists cannot have a system where their so-called pre-publications (e.g. on, a current source for many of these) can be reviewed, and with revisions acceptable to a peer community be qualified as being designated as published.

Proposal: continues as it is and some group creates (completely independent of that accomplishes the intended goal of reviewing the articles of When an article on gets a pass from the scientific peer community, it's designated as published.

(The problem, as has been pointed out, is for some group to actually go and create

What would be the result? A free and open article submission and access system as it exists now ( and a independent review system (

Update (2012-02-02): Looks like the site has been created.
Created On: 02-Feb-2012 03:35:26 UTC

(There's also a Google+ Page: +ArXiv Review)

The first step is to provide a Primer and Goals and Mission Statement for the site (along the lines of

Here is a start:

arXiv-Review is an openly accessible, moderated forum for commenting on and reviewing articles. (For information about arXiv, see To provide for this, each article submitted to arXiv can potentially have a review thread in arXiv-Review for comments and reviews.

Each review thread in arXiv-Review is identified by following the same reference scheme described in For example, corresponding to arXiv:math/9910001v1 <> is a potential review thread arXiv-Review:math/9910001v1 <>.

Browsing arXiv-Review is open to everyone (the "readers"). Those who comment on and review articles (the "reviewers") must register on arXiv-Review. In addition, a reviewer may be a member of a select "board" (TBD) on arXiv-Review (and this identification will indicated).

arXiv-Review system for evaluating arXiv articles: TBD.

arXiv-Review sponsors and operators: TBD!

1. See also: Proposal for A New Publishing Model in Computer Science, Yann LeCun.
2. Elsevier's Publishing Model Might be About to Go Up in Smoke - Forbes. Remarks on Google+: John Baez - Feb 1, 2012

Sunday, January 22, 2012


There's consternation about the new .ibooks ebooks produced by Apple's iBooks Author and read by iBooks 2:

Will publishers feel trapped?

"Every publisher should have a publishing workflow." There is nothing novel about that. There is a base format (for the publisher) from which all publications are born. EPUB 3 is a candidate. Or something more general involving HTML5, XML, any combination of these with CSS and JS, etc.

The publisher might have their own EPUB with some additions (e.g. Apple's fixed-layout EPUB). The point is the base format is fixed, and from the base format all other formats flow. I'll just call the publisher's own base format EPUB Me, and the file extension .epme (though it might just be .epub following the appropriate specification).

There are various channels the publisher distributes through. These will likely require a conversion from EPUB Me to another format. Take Amazon's KF8 as an example. Thankfully, Amazon has provided a document and a tool for enabling the publisher to covert EPUB Me to KF8. The publisher first has to convert — how this is done is technology adopted or developed by the publisher — their own .epme to a .epub+ that KindleGen can accept. (That's where the document comes in: to define what type of HTML+CSS Amazon will accept either in .epub form or a directory of HTML+CSS+image files.) KindleGen will output .kf8.

Apple's format is not so simple: How do you go from .epme to .ibooks? Given the restrictions of iBooks Author, one way would be to use an EPUB to DOC converter (EPUBtoDOC*, or E2D for short), import the DOC file into iBooks Author, and edit (hopefully without a lot of work) what is there to make it right for delivery in the Apple channel.

So there are two examples already of the publisher's workflow:

.epme.epub+ → KindleGen → .kf8
.epme.epub → E2D → .docx → iBooks Author → .ibooks

The key to this workflow is that the original source.epme belongs to the publisher alone and not to the channel on which it's distributed. output.ibooks may be "owned" by Apple, but source.epme is owned by the publisher.

iBooks Author seems pretty much like a black hole though. One might manage somehow to get EPUB in, but one can't get anything useful, like EPUB 3 (other than Apple's proprietary format), out.

I.e.: From authors/publishers point of view, they need to feed into the Apple .ibooks format if that turns out to be useful for them, but keep their original source (their .epme) separate, so they can feed that same source independently into different channels as well.

This workflow model can be extended to any number of distribution channels.

* EPUBtoDOC: e.g. Alternatively, load the EPUB file into Sigil (EPUB editor) and cut-and-paste into iBooks Author. :(

Saturday, January 14, 2012

E-publishing distribution formats for 2012

Here are the "container" formats for e-publishers to distribute in this year. There are a bunch of older ones which don't appear much anymore* after 2011, The Year Of The E-Reader. (Some said 2010 was that Year, but it was really last year.)

EPUB (.epub)

Technically, it's all about EPUB 3.0 superseding EPUB 2.0.1. (I write "EPUB" instead of "ePub", etc. as that's what's on the standard.)

EPUB (.epub) fixed-layout

Apparently from Apple, it really just seems to be EPUB with pixel-specific settings in the "style" attributes (CSS) in the EPUB file. There are samples from eBook Architects. It's like PDF in that it doesn't "reflow". I guess whether one wants to call this a "different" format from EPUB is a matter of debate.

KF8 (.kf8)

Amazon's new format to "replace" its old MOBI 7. Could add to some confusion of publishing the "same" book in both EPUB (for NOOK, etc.) and KF8 (for Kindle).

KF8 released for publishers
For Word editors
For HTML+CSS editors

CDF (.cdf)

From Wolfram Research, this is the Computable Document Format (CDF). When CDF "players" are available for tablets, it could be huge in the math e-textbook domain.

How it compares to EPUB

HPub (.hpub)

Used by the Baker Framework to make HTML5-based books or magazines to be downloaded as iOS apps. Could be more powerful than EPUB 3 alone (e.g. allow more JavaScript-ing).

.hpubBaker.ipa (iOS "app")

As mentioned above, Amazon will "replace" MOBI with KF8 (sort of, and not yet for its E Ink Touch reader). PDF will stay around as long as people have printers (though fixed-layout EPUB replaces a lot of its non-reflow "features"), Flash will be edged out. HTML5 will rule.

That's about it. Any other formats worth mentioning I missed?

2012/01/21: On Thursday, Apple announced new format: a NotTechnicallyInEPUB (or "iBooks") format. More about when people can figure out what it means.

* For conversion of EPUB files to older formats, or the conversion of HTML to EPUB, see Calibre (there is a list of formats there). Editing of EPUB files can be done with Sigil.