The ebook future grows complex — more confusing as far as I can tell. Right now in my work, ebook design is being largely constrained by the limits of Kindle. I’ve mentioned this several times. Increasingly Apple ebooks are becoming a problem as the Apple marketers constantly change their marketing lingo. At least monthly, Apple bounces one of my ebooks because I am using what they told me to use, i.e. the iBookstore, and now they don’t allow that. I’m changing my writing to always just call them Apple ebooks. That seems to be safe for now.
The ebook future grows complex conference
Actually, the conference was called W3C Publishing Summit 2017. In an extremely interesting ePUBSecrets post this morning, Teresa Elsey from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt shared some important reactions and information. Here’s a list that certainly matches my experience, plus more:
- “Many of our familiar problems are prevalent, especially in less-mature international markets; for example, low-quality ebooks, many PDF-only, many EPUB2 files, publishers not understanding how to modify InDesign-produced EPUB files.
- The majority of EPUBs submitted by US publishers are still EPUB2. Microsoft said 90% of their US catalog is EPUB2, with 63% of titles created in 2017 still EPUB2. Existing EPUB files still have lots of problems, like faulty or nonexistent TOCs, images used for text content, poor accessibility, and bad/missing metadata.
- The fixed-layout format is still misused/overused from the retailer perspective. And FXL is not bulletproof – it will reflow if, for example, if an ereader can’t access your embedded fonts.
- There are still many places where PDF is a prevalent ebook format. EPUB is not a strong brand for users. For example, many readers may choose PDFs simply because they know and recognize the format. And of course there are many documents besides books – journals, magazines, news, documentation, textbooks – that are still most commonly available only in PDF.
- Liisa McCloy-Kelley (Ebook VP at Penguin Random House) mentioned two future challenges she foresees as print, web, and digital publishing become integrated:
- Fonts (different rights for different environments)
- Image quality/optimization (some digital contexts now require better-than-print quality).
- One interesting tidbit: Japanese ebooks are almost all EPUB3 because EPUB2 never had sufficient language support for Japanese, and 72% are FXL (manga!). So while we know the FXL user experience needs to be better, Japanese ebook producers are hyper aware of this fact and are driving innovation in FXL performance, speed, amount of device storage, etc.
- My favorite fact to take back to my team is that Kobo says they’ve fixed font obfuscation on their readers, so we don’t have to remove font encryption on InDesign-generated books for them anymore (… which we usually learned about when our FXL books reflowed because of missing fonts, to disastrous results; see above).”
I still use ePUB2, for example, because it works better with D2D and Smashwords
I don’t consider this a good thing, but it is a reality in my world. I have reluctantly added a Kindle conversion process where everything is set in Bookerly with HTML lists and no tables because I am tired of them butchering anything else I give them. So, as the ebook future grows complex, we can expect worse.