Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.
So you want to make a fixed-layout ebook?
For starters, are you sure? Publishers aren’t yet convinced that the format is much more than a niche market. But as technology evolves and ebook developers get better at producing more sophisticated FXL EPUB content more efficiently, change could soon be nearer at hand.
Fixed layout is a complex, print-replica format designed primarily to accommodate children’s picture books, manga and digital comics. That lineup could expand with the latest update to the Adobe Creative Cloud version of InDesign (the 10.0.0.70 build), released this June, as the feature will allow a much broader range of publishers to create ebooks from complex print layouts.
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Previously, ebook developers relied on InDesign plug-ins in order to create the HTML and CSS needed to build an FXL EPUB, but InDesign has almost completely erased any need for those with its new export feature, which now creates pixel-perfect fixed-layout EPUBs from complex print layouts. In addition to making fixed-layout production easier for experienced ebook developers, it could also open the door to more print designers experimenting with digital content.
But publishers, designers and ebook developers looking to take advantage of the new feature and plan for the next generation of illustrated digital content will have a few kinks to work out first. Here are five of them:
- The code produced by this export positions text on a word-by-word basis. This makes for fairly ponderous, hard-to-edit code.
- Everything on the layout page is exported based on the order of items according to the z-index. Complex pages will have many pieces, some of them overlapping, and not necessarily in a logical reading order.
- Images with transparency won’t export as expected.
- Some typography practices are not EPUB-supported and so won’t export at all.
- Hyperlinks aren’t exporting at all at the moment.
Fortunately, none of these challenges are insurmountable, and resolving them can lead to a great wealth of new digital content.