Tag Archives: fixed-format

EXPORTING FIXED-FORMAT EPUBS FROM INDESIGN: An update

Adobe InDesign fixed format export

Now you see it

Adobe InDesign fixed format export

Now you don’t

Yesterday Adobe announced their latest round of updates to Creative Cloud apps. And they’ve fixed lots of the issues around their new fixed-format export feature that I wrote about here and added a whole lot of interactivity possibilities too.

The biggest issue I suppose is links. You can now have internal and external text hyperlinks. So you can add your website (or any website), index and cross-references. Whay-hay!

Adobe InDesign fixed format export

Cross references and multistage objects (That’s set up with a simple slideshow feature.).

But you can also add most of the interactive features that previously only applied to interactive PDF (and most of them wouldn’t work on iPad). I spent an hour quickly (and roughly!) animating page elements on my Sleeping Beauty sample book. Here some ‘blood’ fades in when you tap the page (draw shape, fill red and set to fade in on page click/tap). And in the pictures above the cat appears inside the cupboard (create closed-door cupboard by copying and flipping left side of cupboard, place on top of original image and set that to appear on page click/tap). When I exported the book everything worked as it should in iBooks (desktop and iPad).

Adobe InDesign fixed format export

And some ‘blood’ fading in on a page tap.

You can also add html animations too, but I haven’t tried that yet.

Another really useful feature is that there is now an ePub preview panel so that you can preview how things will look without having to export and load onto an iPad if you haven’t got a desktop ereader. This is brilliant, seems to work really well and is such a time-saver.

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Exporting fixed-format ePubs from InDesign

I WANT CANDY

I WANT CANDY!! – Fixed-format EPub displayed on Readium

A couple of months ago Adobe launched InDesign CC 2014. Among its new features is the ability to export your documents as fixed-format ePub 3. This is really rather exciting. Prior to this update you either had to go to a specialist conversion company or pretty much hand code files. Either way it was a palaver and often an expensive palaver at that. I’ve been using a very good conversion script (ePub Crawler) for the past year (and will continue to use it for some projects), but this is something else! I’ve just got around to having a proper look at this new capability and I’m impressed. InDesign CC 2014 can now export valid ePub 3 fixed-format ebooks as quickly and easily as exporting a PDF. Barring a few minor issues and things-to-watch-out-for, the resulting file will be identical to the InDesign book file.

What is a fixed-format ebook?
Fixed-format ebooks reproduce what is on the printed page (like a PDF). The text is live and can be selected, searched, defined and read aloud (depending on ePub-reader software capabilities). The new InDesign export places all of the page elements exactly as they are in InDesign and each word is dealt with individually, so your line endings and spacing remain intact. (It also means that if you crack open the ePub files and look at the HTML it looks like the stuff of nightmares, but that’s another story.)

Currently Apple iBooks is the only platform that really has full support for all ePub 3 has to offer, however other retailers are following (I’ve had some success with opening the resulting files in Kobo apps, for example. They will also open in Google Chrome with the free Readium extension installed and I’m pretty sure they’d be fine on Google Play.) But I have spoken to some people who are still very dismissive about fixed-format ePub – there’s just not enough support on other platforms, why would you want to, isn’t it just easier to convert to PDF? Well, yes – but Apple don’t sell PDFs (nor do any other major ebook retailers to my knowledge) so if you want to sell a PDF book you’ll have limited places to sell it. And – did I mention? – if your book is set up correctly export is no more time-consuming than exporting to PDF. So you can still export to PDF if you want to and export a version you can at least sell on Apple iBooks for very little additional outlay – probably less than the cost of getting a proof copy printed.

Fixed-format conversion is most suitable for:
✔ Children’s picture books
✔ Photo books
✔ Highly designed and illustrated non fiction and reference
✔ ‘Coffee table’ books
✔ Cookery books (and other instructional books)
✔ Any book where it is important to keep the design and layout intact
✔ Prospectuses or catalogues

So who would benefit from this?
✔ Publishers and self-publishers wanting to release backlist titles quickly and cost effectively
✔ Publishers and self-publishers creating new titles in the above fields. If new titles are designed with an eye to exporting to ePub on completion, the convertion is very quick and pain free.
✔ Photographers and artists (Photo books, portfolios and ePub albums for wedding clients, for example)
✔ Bands and other performers (tour books, blogs, programmes, etc)
✔ Organisations and retailers who would benefit from conversion of prospectuses and catalogues, internal and external training materials, etc, to ePub to allow them to be read on a wider range of apps and devices

I’ve incorporated fixed-format ePub into the range of typesetting, layout, editorial and conversion services I offer. I don’t give flat-fee prices at the moment because every project is different.
I can:
✔ Convert your final InDesign files to fixed-format ePub more cheaply and quickly than I used to be able to offer. (If your files are suitable this takes the same time as saving to PDF.)
✔ Place video and audio prior to conversion
✔ Assess your files’ suitability and make font substitutions and layout tweaks prior to conversion
✔ Re-set and layout (from old backlist, etc)
✔ Set up new titles from scratch

Sample Books
I’ve set up a couple of 30-ish-page sample books. One is the full text of The Sleeping Beauty Picture Book, illustrated by Walter Crane and the other is a section of The Candy Maker’s Guide, a recipe book first published in 1896 by a manufacturer of confectionary and baking equipment. (Both public domain texts – the photos are mine.)

Here are some screen grabs from Sleeping Beauty:

Note the overlapping text on the headings. The text is still live.

InDesign layout sample – Sleeping Beauty

InDesign layout sample – Sleeping Beauty

Ibooks screen grab showing thumbnails

IBooks screen grab showing thumbnails

This one has a path around the image of the girl on the left. Every word is in exactly the same position as in the InDesign file. (You might have noticed the overflowing text box below. InDesign will not warn you of text overflow on export – it just assumes it’s what you want.)

Indesign layout sample – Sleeping Beauty

InDesign layout sample – Sleeping Beauty

IPad screen grab showing thumbnails

IPad screen grab showing thumbnails

Now here are some screen grabs from the sweets book:

Again we’ve got a clipping path around the sweet jar and I put a feather on it (the path is rough, I know – but the point is that it is exactly as it was.)

Indesign layout sample – sweets

InDesign layout sample – sweets

IBooks screen grab

IBooks screen grab

Here’s a spread showing a mixed single- and two-column layout and images with transparency.

Sweets spread example

Sweets spread example

You can set the ePub up so that it displays a table of contents as thumbnails like this, or if you set up a table-of-contents style, you can have it display a multi-level toc in words.

Thumbnail Table of Contents

Thumbnail Table of Contents

This shows looking up ‘live’ words in the built-in dictionary.

IBooks showing definition of word

IBooks showing definition of word

So what can’t you have?
✘ Hyperlinks in text or internal links
✘ Live text that is horizontally or vertically scaled, or kerned
✘ Live text with strokes, gradient fills, drop shadows etc.
✘ Live text on a path (text will flatten on conversion)
✘ Gradients (this can be overcome by flattening to jpg first)
✘ This conversion process is not suitable for adding audio with read-along text highlighting
✘ Postscript fonts

(Adobe are still working on enhancing the export, so some of these issues will be overcome soon.)

Backlist conversion and fonts
The major issue when converting InDesign documents is fonts. Many publishers are still using (or used to use) Postscript files. These won’t work in ebooks, so if your books contain Postscript fonts they will have to be replaced with Truetype or Opentype fonts. Many common fonts have Truetype or Opentype versions, but more obscure fonts might have to be replaced with similar fonts. It’s also important to make sure your fonts are licensed for ebook use. They often aren’t. Ideally new titles should be designed using correctly licensed Truetype or Opentype fonts.

Multimedia
You can also add video and audio if you so desire – obviously if you are converting a print book you might have to make some design tweaks to make room for the media. Video and audio can be placed directly to the InDesign file. You don’t have any choice over the video/audio controls’ appearance (but I believe you can edit the css if it really bothers you.) There is also support to link to Youtube etc if you don’t want to embed your media.

Here are a couple of screen grabs from a small test file I made.

How video looks on the page. You can't customise the controls.

How video looks on the page. You can’t customise the controls.

The audio controls can't be customised.

The audio controls can’t be customised.

A note about tracking

I was asked about tracking text. The screen grabs below show text tracked backwards and forwards.

InDesign showing text without tracking

InDesign showing text without tracking

InDesign showing tracked text

InDesign showing tracked text in heading and bottom line.

EPub showing tracked text

EPub showing tracked text

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Fixed-format epub with read-along audio

ios devices

IPhone and iPad

I’ve now added read-along audio to the ‘list of things I can do’. Specifically fixed format ePub for IOS devices with an audio track that highlights each word.

I can’t show you a sample because I’ve been working on copyrighted material. Maybe one day I’ll get around to making something, but the first thing I learned about the process is that it’s time consuming – oh so very time consuming.

You will need:

  • One fixed-format ePub
  • One or more audio tracks saved in .m4a format
  • A .smil file for every page that contains text

 

Method:

1. First you need to mark the start and end point of every word in the audio. (I split my audio into one file for each page –  you can use just one I think, but I haven’t tried it) Apple apparently recommends that you use a program called Audacity – which is handy because I already have it. But it is free anyway and easy to use. You will have to find the start and end point of each word by creating a selection, listening and fine-tuning it until it’s right. Then you press cmd b to create a label – you don’t have to write anything in the little box that comes up (I just did it to draw your attention to it).

When you have marked every word you can export the labels to a text file. When you open the text file all the start and end points of the label, and hence the word, are there in a list.

This will take some time. I’m sure some clever person has or will shortly automate this process, but until then there is nothing for it but to sit and listen … over and over again.

Marking the audio timings

Marking the audio timings

 

2. Next you will need to create your .smil files. Below is a sample showing just three words. This is where you add your timings you made earlier (they don’t have to be in red though!).

<smil xmlns="http://www.w3.org/ns/SMIL" 
 xmlns:epub="http://www.idpf.org/2007/ops"
 version="3.0">
 <body>
<par id="par1">
<text src="6-page6.xhtml#W1"/>
<audio src="audio/audio3.m4a" clipBegin="0.000000s" clipEnd="0.632985s"/>
</par>
<par id="par2">
<text src="6-page6.xhtml#W2"/>
<audio src="audio/audio3.m4a" clipBegin="0.632985s" clipEnd="0.964874s"/>
</par>
<par id="par3">
<text src="6-page6.xhtml#W3"/>
<audio src="audio/audio3.m4a" clipBegin="0.964874s" clipEnd="1.214646s"/>
</par>
</body>
</smil>


3. Next you need to mark up your html. Each word is wrapped in a span with the id corresponding to the text source number in the .smil file. For this short example you’d end up with a paragraph that looked like this.

<p><span id="W1">The </span> <span id="W2">Cat</span> <span id="W3">sat</span></p>

 

4. Next you need to update your content.opf file.

Remember to list all your audio and .smil files in the manifest and give them a unique id.

Then in the entry for the html files with audio you must remember to add:

media-overlay=”ID of corresponding .smil file”. This is really important – if you don’t do this properly it won’t work.

 

5. Then go into the css file and add this.

}
 .-epub-media-overlay-active{
 color: red;

This is saying to highlight the words in red (but it can be any colour you like).

 

6. Finally zip your ePub file back up again and test it out. If you have got everything right you should see a speaker icon in the top right of the menu bar, and if you’ve got everything absolutely right you will be able to have your file read to you and turn the pages automatically or manually. (Have you got the volume turned up?)

So then you’ve got everything right  and you try to validate it. And find it won’t validate – yep that’s right – this is quite normal; the validator doesn’t accept media overlays or some such gubbins.

 

So there you have it. Not a quick snack!

 

I used Read Aloud ePub for iBooks by Liz Castro  as my guide. The section about using GREP to help in the markup was extremely useful.

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