Semantics and Simplicity Are Keys to ‘Future-Proof’ EPUB3 Content

“Think about what your content means. We lose sight of the fact that content actually means something,” said Josha Tallent, chief ebook architect at Firebrand Technologies, discussing the practical aspects of EPUB3 at the Digital Design and Production Conference at Digital Book World 2014 in New York.

Semantic language should be the focal point for ebook designers working with EPUB3, according to Tallent, especially when it comes to planning for the future of digital products.

EPUB3, the free, open-source standard for ebooks developed by the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF) in late 2011, boasts a range of capabilities previously unavailable to reflowable content. In order to build “future-proof” files, Tallent says, publishers implementing EPUB3 should consider functionality and accessibility.

Creating and converting files for a wide array of reading systems can be a dizzying prospect. Publishers have limited resources to publish new ebooks and update back-list titles simultaneously. Many outsource those responsibilities to vendors while performing some form of quality-assessment in-house. Tallent suggests output should guide production workflow, especially as it grows more complex.

“I’m a huge advocate for clean code. When you’re looking at converting or making EPUB3, think about the structure of the documents and use coding to make that come into place,” he said.

That point-of-view isn’t just a matter of efficiency on the production end. It’s also a reader-oriented and “future-proof” approach to ebook creation. Accessibility is now another major consideration for publishers. Files built properly from the ground up will have greater longevity in the marketplace.

3 thoughts on “Semantics and Simplicity Are Keys to ‘Future-Proof’ EPUB3 Content

  1. Pingback: Faber Factory Semantics and Simplicity Are Keys to ‘Future-Proof’ EPUB3 Content - Faber Factory

  2. Michael W. Perry

    Epub desperately needs two things:

    1. What this article hits on. It needs an archive format like PDF, meaning one that legitimate ePub readers are expected to read from now to eternity. The responsibility for that should be on those who write the specs not demanding the writing of clean code by others. Very, very few readers know what clean code looks like.

    2. Less focus on glitz. Epub needs to be able to handle the routine formatting issues that print books have been able to handle for 500 years. That includes charts, tables, the intelligent placement of graphics, and the auto-elimination of widows and orphans. Only once that’s in place, should there be much interest in adding multimedia features.

    Both flow from the same basic idea. First and foremost, an ebook should be a book, able to do what books have always been able to do both in permanence and in formatting complexity.

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  3. Theresa M. Moore

    I agree. Right now I am going through and preparing docx files for conversion, and I lament the lack of resource for leaving elements like pictures and tables in place. This is one of the reasons why there are so few children’s and illustrated books on the ebook market. PDF is apparently the only format which can support them, and creating flowable content means sacrificing a lot to make a book readable on a smaller screen than a laptop.

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