Something’s Wrong In ePubville

I came across this link at MobileRead about free ePub eBooks for kids.

I downloaded one at random: R. Caldecott’s First Collection of Pictures and Songs [ePub link]

I opened it in Sony’s eLibrary software and Adobe Digital Editions.

Both were horrible.

I also tried Calibre, which did a slightly better job.

But still, I was so disgusted by what I saw, I couldn’t even take screensnaps.

How is it so easy for people to create terrible ePub? And then set it loose on the world to give ePub and eBooks something akin to a festering lip sore?

The worst LIT I’ve ever come across had blank lines between paragraphs (which is also an ongoing sin in all formats) — never anything as atrocious as what I saw here.

Previously here:

Is Adobe Hindering eBooks?
Ah, Gorgeous LIT!
The Native Beauty Of LIT

6 Responses to Something’s Wrong In ePubville

  1. MCM says:

    The big issue for kids books (by which I mean books with images) is that image support/rendering between readers is abysmal. I’ve done up a few ePubs of my picture books, and could never get it to work the way I wanted. Ideally, you’d be able to set it up so an image will always display on its own individual page, regardless of flow, and fill the screen nicely. I don’t think there’s any syntax to do that yet, which means you’re stuck doing clumsy hacks to get around it. And worse, no two readers display the content the same way, so you can either have it screwed up one way, or another.

    The problem with ePub and picture books is pretty much the same as the web back in the early browser wars: if a designer is forced to cope with so many flimsy implementations of the same concept (or no implementation at all), they opt to do something crappy-but-compatible instead. It’s a flaw on the technical side, and I’m frankly amazed that the spec doesn’t deal with the issue more sensibly.

  2. MoJo says:

    Ideally, you’d be able to set it up so an image will always display on its own individual page, regardless of flow, and fill the screen nicely.First, you find out the specs for displaying images in each device. For instance, an eBookWise takes images at 290 x 435 max. Keep to that, and you're good to go.

    Second, you use this code for the page breaks:

    < p style="page-break-before: always" >

  3. Olympia says:

    For .lit, at the moment, there’s a slight bug in calibre so that the –remove-paragraph-spacing command flag isn’t followed, been that way for two upgrades, but nobody wants to pester Kovid on matters any2lit, as it makes him unhappy.

    (Calibre’s the only other reliable way to go xml2lit after Overdrive Readerworks…)

    I find the promises about SVG from Adobe on Epub… amusing, given that it took them 2 years to justify the text, and so many non-standard requirements… such as file-splitting… just to get DE to work. Ish.

  4. MCM says:

    @MoJo: Sizing the image properly certainly helps, but then some readers scale big images, and some crop them, and you can’t really predict which will do which.

    As for page breaking: a reader like Stanza will ignore the page breaks, so you get images half-displaying on a screen, with no way to see the other half.

    And then that doesn’t change the fact that full-screen images have margins around them (sometimes big margins) that force your images to be smaller than they need to be. It’s bad enough that it’s probably better not to bother making picture books into eBooks because the presentation is so flaky that it will bother make the audience cranky.

    I’d love to have an extra tag for full-screen images that will tell the software to hold it back and display it without margins at the next page turn… but I get the impression that’s not going to happen any time soon.

  5. eBooks About Everything says:

    How is it so easy for people to create terrible ePub? And then set it loose on the world to give ePub and eBooks something akin to a festering lip sore?After fighting with ePub for days I understand exactly how you can create a terrible ePub file.

    In fact, I would argue that the ONLY kind of ePub file you can get for something other than straight text is terrible!

    ePub is a great idea and a really lousy implementation.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I, personally, still use .Lit. It's a better format to my mind.

    I create mine with the old xml2lit, though the XSL files are seriously not the originals. :)

    As to the blank lines, the full line is very bad. Too much of a break up unless a change of scene. Though no gap between paragraphs can make a little awkward to read.

    Solution? I use a 4pt gap as part of the Paragraph command in the CSS. Works quite well. :D

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