EPUB is a file format for eBooks invented by the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF). The IDPF is a trade group of companies in the digital publishing industry. There are more than 200 members in the organization from countries all over the world.
The current EPUB format is 2.01. Over time, the IDPF has been working to update EPUB. Recently, they released a draft version of a specification for EPUB 3, which is meant to replace the current 2.01 version.
EPUB is important for publishers and authors because it has become an industry standard. Most online stores selling electronic books require the use of the EPUB format. Likewise, most electronic reading devices are compatible with EPUB books. One major exception to this is Amazon. The Amazon Marketplace sells eBooks in the AZW format, and the Amazon Kindle does not read EPUB books. This does not mean the EPUB standard should be ignored. Instead, it means that eBooks should be published in both EPUB and AZW formats.
The EPUB 3 standard includes a number of improved features compared to the current EPUB 2.01. For example:
- EPUB 3 will include support for embedding audio and video files. It will allow the use of video and audio tags from HTML5.
- EPUB 3 is based on the most recent versions of CSS (CSS3) and XHTML (XHTML5).
- EPUB 3 will enable mathematical formulas to be displayed on reading devices as content. Previously, formulas have been displayed as images.
- EPUB 3 will include significant improvements in accessibility features. These features can be beneficial to most users. For example, audio features can be helpful when someone is getting into their car to drive.
- EPUB 3 will allow images to be resized at the same time fonts are resized.
- EPUB 3 will enable the synchronization of audio with text.
- EPUB 3 will include enhanced scripting features that will improve the reader’s experience.
- EPUB 3 will include support for global languages.
The practical effects of EPUB 3 features will be significant. There will be a large increase in multimedia books that contain rich media content such as video clips, audio clips and interactive features such as radio buttons. Educational book authors will be able to include assessment tests that track a reader’s answers. Multi-column layouts will be easier to display across different devices. A reader will be able to click on a footnote number, and the footnote will appear in a pop-up window instead of taking the reader to a different page.
Future eBook reading devices will offer better capabilities to enable them to take advantage of the new EPUB 3 features. Over time, multimedia eBooks will become the norm. This will open up new opportunities in interactive advertising.
The time to start thinking about these changes is now. It is important to be at least one step ahead of the competition. In fact, a number of multimedia features are already being implemented by expert eBook publishers even with the current EPUB 2.01 format. As the EPUB 3 format gains traction, these features will become commonplace.
As far as eBooks already published in the current format, converting them into EPUB 3 is optional. All EPUB 3 reading devices will support EPUB 2.01 books, so conversion is not necessary. On the other hand, some publishers will want to take advantage of the additional features offered by EPUB 3. The features of EPUB 3 will change what readers expect from eBooks, and conversion to EPUB 3 may be a necessity in order for certain types of books, such as children’s books, to remain competitive in the marketplace.
Converting eBooks into the EPUB 3 format is not an easy task, especially if the books contain multimedia content. It is important to have the technical knowledge that is needed to do the job right. Moreover, each eBook should be physically tested on every applicable reading device. These tasks are best left to a professional eBook conversion company.