Stinkin’ WordPress

I’m starting to see the downside of these prepackaged web site builders: lousy plugins.

I’ve been away from the site for a while, so I’m not sure if it’s been so slow all along or just slowed down because of a batch of upgrades I installed, but apologies for the sluggishness if you’ve suffered through it.

I’ve disabled the worst offending plugins (nextgen gallery and w3 total cache), but if you find the site is still unusably slow, please leave a comment below.

Accessible InDesign Fixed Layouts?

I’d heard rumour about the use of XHTML for fixed layouts in InDesign before the announcement of the new Creative Cloud 2014 suite this month, and having text-based pages — instead of them being purely image-based — sounded like a fantastic thing.

Add that Adobe included the ability to export the epub:type attribute, and it seemed like there was a lot to look forward to as far as making accessible ebooks.

But the all important question lingered… what would the actual output look like, and would it match the hype?

Continue Reading Accessible InDesign Fixed Layouts?

Epubcheck in a language near you

Just an interesting note for those who don’t follow epubcheck development that localization of the messages in at least a couple of languages is being carried out for an upcoming release (Japanese and German).

Doesn’t sound like they’ll be able to cover all messages, since some are inherent to the technologies being used and can’t be modified, but for an internationally-used publishing format a step in the right direction.

EPUB vs. Web Audio/Video Players

Have you tried to embed the YouTube video player in your EPUB book only to find it doesn’t work anywhere except maybe in the overly-loose browser-based Readium?

Felt the urge to rail against the EPUB working group for saying that audio and video can live outside the container only to get snagged on this problem?

You wouldn’t be the first, but opening EPUB to web-based audio and video players, as opposed to just files, is risky, and more complicated than just making an exception for “online players”.

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EPUB Annotations

Annotations are kind of a weird thing to me, at least from a format perspective. Being able to create them is an integral part of the reading experience for many readers, no doubt, but technically they have nothing to do with the structure of an ebook itself. They’re more like a layer that lives on top of the format.

Seen in that light, it’s hard to argue that EPUB itself has to define an annotation framework. Leave it to the reading system developers to figure out annotations in EPUB or any other format they might support, right?

Of course, therein lies a big problem. Leave it the vendors and you get proprietary implementations that can’t travel with your content across devices and apps. You also can’t distribute annotations separately from the content. That’s effectively the world we live in now; another brick in the wall of the walled gardens.

So, it’s not surprising that the IDPF has been working on a framework for annotations in EPUB, based on the W3C Open Annotation work. It walks an interesting line between presentation and storage, which is what I’m going to look at today.

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Lost from HTML 5.0

If you’ve ever taken a read of the EPUB 3 Content Documents spec, you’ve undoubtedly seen the warnings about HTML5 features being experimental, and to use them with caution. Caveat emptor and all that…

Did you ever skip on over to the HTML 5.0 spec and have a look at what features those were? Did you use them with caution? (Everyone follows specs to the letter of the law, right?)

If not, as the 5.0 revision winds down you might have missed the various features that have recently been pushed out. If you liked the details/summary elements, for example, you’re waiting for HTML 5.1 now for official status.

So where does that leave the world of EPUB 3?

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IDPF forums still active

Hm, time really flew the last few months between edupub and a few other things.  Can you tell my January was a bit on the slow side?

Anyway, to get back in the swing of things, I just wanted to note that is still active for asking EPUB questions. When the EPUBZone microsite was added the forum link disappeared from the main menu — and the link from the mircosite goes directly to the EPUB3 forum, making it appear the other three might have been retired — but the all the forums are alive and well, if a little harder to get to right now.

I’ve reported the problem, as have others, so hopefully full access will be restored from the IDPF site soon. In the meantime, though, don’t hesitate to use them on the idea they’re no longer frequented.

TTS … Today, Tomorrow, Someday?

Photo Credit: WikiMedia Commons © 2007 Nuno Pinheiro & David Vignoni & David Miller & Johann Ollivier Lapeyre & Kenneth Wimer & Riccardo Iaconelli / KDE / LGPL 3

I have another long-standing interest in text-to-speech rendering from my time at CNIB, where the two main outputs we were generating were xml for braille full-text production and synthetically voiced DAISY 2.02 back matter components.

The reason we were TTS’ing back matter was that spending time reading indexes and bibliographies is an enormous waste of human resources — it’s a lag on getting books out to readers and would result in a precipitous drop in total output.

Very few people ever read the back matter, too, at least in general circulating libraries like we had. TTS meant that we didn’t have deny readers information that otherwise would have been omitted.

But to the point of this post, when I first saw the enhancements in EPUB 3 to improve text-to-speech playback, and a means of distributing high-quality text for rendering on the client side, I had stars in my eyes. Here was a way to bring high-quality voicing without huge audio downloads. But two plus years on, how close are we to realizing the potential?

Continue Reading TTS … Today, Tomorrow, Someday?