Friday, May 20, 2011

More ePub support for Kindle on the horizon? What kind?


There has actually been a form of ePub support for awhile in that Amazon announced on its Kindle Publishing Forum on September 22, 2010 that the Kindle Previewer 1.5 (for materials being submitted for publication for Amazon e-book listings) includes "Support for opening ePub files."

There was much discussion in September about this Amazon support of ePub, in submissions, at the Reddit forums under the topic, "Kindle Previewer 1.5 - Supports ePub files!!! (Suggesting kindle will support ePub?)."

  The first posting there opines: "Well, it compiles the epub file with kindlegen and then opens the generated mobi file.  But previewer is supposed to be just that - a previewer - not a compiler, so it could mean that kindles will finally support epub directly."

  In addition to the above, others have mentioned the ePub source bloating recent Kindle mobi book files.  In February, an article by "huw" is titled Kindlegen Bloat: Strip it or Leave it?  (The bracketed words are my additions.)
' If you’ve worked with many ePubs and converted them with [Kindle-file generator] Kindlegen while paying attention to file sizes, you might well have noticed that the [resulting] Kindle files are much larger than the original ePubs — typically around twice as large.
  It turns out that Kindlegen stashes a copy of the original ePub sources inside its output file, which explains the doubling of size.

 Unfortunately, this can lead to super-sized Kindle files, particularly in heavily-illustrated works, since images get duplicated along with everything else.

... Are they planning to use the stashed information in future versions of their Kindle hardware and software, to enable future Kindles to get closer to the layout of the original ePub?  Will future generations of Kindle support ePub directly, and try to find ePub files inside Kindle files?...'

Knowing the above has been true for awhile, here (below) is what made a lot of news on Thursday because of a posting by Goodereader, reported by with interesting reader-comments and by The-Digital-Reader, especially Comments by fjtorres, who tries to explain what is "not" an "open standard" as applied by the various e-readers using ePub and also what the various flavors of DRM (digital-rights management) used on e-books actually entail.

  "Open" vs "Closed"
  At the current time, the Nook can read Sony ePub but not vice versa.
  Apple has its own ePub DRM, which means no other e-reader can read iBook e-books,

  Ironically, Amazon is deemed "closed" by many vs "open ePub," but any Kindle book is readable on a MYRIAD of devices without anyone even needing a Kindle.
  Apple iBook e-books can be read only on Apple devices.

  Apple uses its own, very-proprietary, DRM locks on ePub books.  The Nooks use a credit card type password that, for over a year, prevents them from being read on other ePub ereaders; however, Adobe and B&N have been working on this for a while and may be close to a working solution.

  The Goodereader site is an interesting one to read but seems to have a bit of a checkered history. The-Digital-Reader's Nate Hoffelder carries some very strongly-worded caveats there about "services" offered which Goodereader has since said was the work of a rogue staffer, now gone, as are links to sibling sites.

ePub version 3 to be ready in 2011
  Whatever the meaning of what Goodereader posted yesterday, ePub version-3 IS coming to the world this year and due to be a big update.

  It would delight many to see its more-effective layout features used in some way by Amazon later this year. They did buy, over two years ago, Lexcyle, the maker of Stanza, the native format for which is ePub.

Goodereader's Wording
The wording by Goodereader about ePub Amazon support is somewhat ambiguous.
  Here are excerpts [emphases included are mine] from Goodereader's much-discussed posting of 5/19 with the title, "Amazon to Allow ePub eBooks on the Kindle e-Reader"
' It seems many publishers have been told by the company [Amazon] that in the near-future, they should be submitting their books to Amazon in EPUB format and not exclusively MOBI.  

 They also went on to let us know that Amazon was indeed planning something BIG and that soon the Kindle ereader will have the full capability to read ePub books.  This news has been confirmed by at least 4 publishing companies we have spoken with during the last few days. '

  Note that they don't say DRM'd ePub books by or from other online-bookstores.  However, it's been a long wish that Amazon might at least allow NON-DRM'd ePub books on Kindles so that we don't need to convert them to AmazonMobi format via Calibre.  And best would be the ability to read ePub files as well, probably with Amazon's own DRM.

  Then they add "confirmation" of their announcement by saying,
' Four publishers in the last week have confirmed that Amazon has indeed told them they now have an option to submit eBooks to be listed in the Amazon store in ePub format. '
  The problem with that sentence is we know they've had an option to submit ebooks (for Amazon listings) in ePub format since at least September 2010 and so this didn't actually need publisher confirmation.  Amazon announced this on their own publishing forum.

  So, does Goodereader actually mean "submit eBooks in ePub format to be listed in the Amazon store" when they write " submit eBooks to be listed in the Amazon store in ePub format"?  ALL eBook submissions ARE exactly "to be listed in the Amazon store."

  The reason for the ambiguity felt is that in a browse of Goodereader's articles, it's clear that the English used in most of its articles just is not pristine when it comes to grammar.  So it's hard to know what to make of the announcement as worded.

  Again, I think Amazon WILL allow at least non-DRM'd ePub reading eventually, and with Version 3 of ePub to be making waves this year, it makes sense that they will look at making use of the new features of ePub 3 as well -- either by accepting ePub use while using Amazon's OWN DRM (not Adobe's) or via a combination of ePub and Mobi features in an updated version of MOBI that recognizes the new features of ePub with better conversion to MOBI.

  Or they could have an ePub source within the Mobi file as they do now, with the ePub recognized and read as an option while retaining the mobi-format for compatibility with earlier Kindle readers.

Additional Considerations
  There are certain things to be considered in light of how Overdrive has described its option to enable Public Library borrowing by Kindle owners later this year, via giving all borrowers an Option to choose either ePub OR Amazon format, depending on the "destination" device.

  Also, there is the fact that Amazon has announced they'll be tracking and sync'g the usual last-page read (which uses location numbers) as well as annotations on the borrowed library books and keeping that information for later use by the same borrower when re-borrowing or buying a book.

  My own thinking, in Comments made to other blogs
  I'll include two long Comments I made to Teleread and to Liz Castro's site to give some background, as I understand it, on all this.  They're similar but maybe said more clearly in one than the other, so am including both.  I also recommend reading others' Comments that I've linked to above, so that the interested here get a more rounded sense of all this from different perspectives.

' Wording is interesting:

——- “…It seems many publishers have been told by the company that in the
near-future they should be =submitting= their books to Amazon in EPUB format and
=not exclusively MOBI-=.

Also, Kindle Director Jay Marine told Len Edgerly that Amazon won't be using Adobe’s DRM.  No additional software will need to be downloaded or used, he emphasized (it’s normally needed with Adobe’s DRM) and that wireless delivery will be within 60 seconds.

Amazon will track last-page-read and location numbers and sync the borrowed books between devices and also keep a record of annotations (by location numbers) in case the person wants to re-borrow a library title or buy the book from Amazon.

Overdrive has written that only one title will need to be bought by a library but that the user will be able to select between ePub and Amazon-format, depending on destination device.

Amazon did buy Stanza, so ePub capability has always been somewhere in the background. I would imagine that if they present or distribute an e-book in ePub format, it’ll be with Amazon’s DRM.

I agree that they would plan to have the Kindle read non-DRM’d (by others) ePub… '
    To Liz Castro's site
' Overdrive also said that libraries buy ONE title and the borrower will be able to select between ePub or Amazon format, or what they called the destination device.

The libraries don't buy a specifically formatted file but a title that can be delivered in either format whenever this happens. An Overdrive manager said this. See for the quote.

That's all we know from Overdrive at the moment.  We also are told by Amazon that it will track last-page read (presumably using location #'s as they do now) and sync the borrowed books between various devices and save the annotations which can be seen again by that user if they choose to re-borrow or buy the book later.

Amazon has said they won't be using Adobe DRM and that they waited until it was 'right' and done in a 'seamless' way, downloadable within 60 seconds after completing library borrowing process and requiring no additional software or download.

Amazon will be sync'g with a copy of the ebook on their server.  How they do this will be the question.

Seems to me they worked out a way to provide library books with their own DRM.

Ebooks [in ePub] can be submitted by publishers.  That was the gist today.  I haven't read yet a quote that said other-DRM'd epub books would be readable on the Kindle.

I think it's about time they allowed Kindle owners to read non-DRM'd ePub books at the least.  They did buy Stanza.

I'd love it if they could at least provide the layout features of ePub in some coming combo format maybe. '

There you have it -- more than you'd ever want to be confused by! ... but the issue currently is a puzzlement and I'm just providing background, for what it's worth.

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  1. After reading all of this, I still haven't seen anything convincing that suggests Amazon has done anything beyond standardizing on format for submission they've been accepting as an option since, as you note, Sept., 2010. That was about the time when Apple added the option to its iLife applications Pages and Keynote to "save as epub." As graphics-intensive firms (like publishers) have lots of Macs sitting on the desks of designers and production people, it seems logical that a fast-track to ebook format can be via Pages rather than high-end layout software. While I don't understand why Amazon *wouldn't* support epub, as it support PDF, for reading, this sounds more like a production issue.

    (I don't use MS Word or PPT, so I have no idea if you can save to epub fom those.)

  2. Rex,
    Thanks for swimming through all that! I -was- trying to show that as far as what I can see there is nothing substantial there in what we read. Yet. I do feel that ultimately Amazon has to pay attention to ePub 3 and all that it can do, so they're probably hedging their bests.

    Definitely they've been involved in making submissions easier for publishers since September.

    Amazon's known for its surprises though and I can imagine their doing some kind of combo format later.

    Some basic HTML is always part of it so I thought you could at least save your Word doc as webpage, filtered HTML as a first step.

    Here's an interesting site (and there are others like this)

  3. Sounds more like there's one source file, and Overdrive (and later maybe Amazon as well) software can select whether to deliver that content in ePub or AZW format on transmission to the customer.
    Including both formats in that file probably was easiest, allowing the software to just place a header rather than compiling the entire eBook source from scratch.

    That's my take reading this as a software engineer rather than a marketting flunky.

  4. j,
    Yes, makes sense to me even if file sizes are doubled (but horrific if the file has images in it - one would think one could reference the images in a common space.

    Looking forward to it all coming about (the library loans especially, but the decreasing number of customer-loanable books as publishers decide to not allow loaning after all doesn't bode well for what will be available at the library.

    Already it seems Simon & Schuster and also Macmillian won't even loan e-books to the libraries currently. And HarperCollins wants to charge the libraries for a new copy upon the 27th loan of a title.


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