Digital Publishing: Are You Getting the Most Out of EPUB 3?
Support for scripting is beneficial to publishers in many ways. Textbook publishers can include “assessment” content: self-tests and quizzes that give a student immediate feedback. Cookbook publishers can restate recipes for U.S. or international measurements. Children’s book publishers can involve kids in the stories. There are numerous cases where clicking on a button or filling in a blank can take the reading experience to a whole new level.
Because of this variability of scripting support among reading systems, an EPUB with scripting should strive to also be useful on a system that can’t handle the scripting. Liza Daly’s chapter on interactivity in the aforementioned EPUB 3 Best Practices makes an especially clear case for “progressive enhancement.” Too often, publishers start with the whiz-bang version and then struggle to figure out what happens when there is neither whiz nor bang. The progressive enhancement design principle, instead, starts with the most accessible version as the primary version, and then builds up to the jazzy one. This makes it far more likely that the resulting EPUB will be viable in more systems.
There’s Lots More
While I’m on the subject of the O’Reilly EPUB 3 Best Practices book on which this article is based, this is a good time to mention that I’ve touched on only a few of the many exciting things you can do with EPUB 3 — and the boatload of useful tips about how to get things right — that that book provides. There are whole chapters, for example, on topics like font embedding and licensing (by O’Reilly’s Adam Witwer), global language support (by Murata Makoto, CTO of the Japan Electronic Publishing Association), interactivity (by Safari’s Liza Daly), as well as media overlays, accessibility, text-to-speech, validation and lots more written by the editor of the EPUB 3 spec, Matt Garrish, who, with IDPF CTO Markus Gylling, ably edited the whole book. (Full disclosure: I wrote the chapter on packaging and metadata. End of commercial.)