Although I was intending to buy the physical book, for curiosity I decided to also give the EPUB version a go. A few weeks ago I briefly glanced over an article What Web Designers need to know about EPUB (via Russ Weakley’s Some links for light reading) but hadn’t delved further so I thought it would be a good chance to learn more.
I completed my order, downloaded the EPUB file, and then realised I didn’t know how to view it! (Note: I didn’t mind figuring it out for myself and although Rosenfeld Media don’t currently have instructions for using EPUB files they have let me know that they will be improving the experience of buying EPUB books as they ramp up their EPUB publishing.) A little research and I found a number of applications including Stanza which is available as an iPhone app and a desktop program. Their instructions helped me to transfer the EPUB file from my PC to my iPhone via wifi – in the end a simple process.
Poking around Stanza on my iPhone I found that I could download other books, many offered free by publishers or through lapsed copyright, and some paid books. I realised I had previously used a similar app to download a few books but perhaps I’d stumbled on a poorly built app as I wasn’t too awestruck by the idea of reading on my phone at the time. Stanza’s interface and interactions, while a little clunky, are alright and “Card Sorting” is formatted well for reading on screen while I wait for the physical book to arrive.
I realise that the EPUB format has been around for a number of years but it feels like it’s been one of those ideas floating around waiting for technology to catch up. Sure, the iPhone might not be the ideal reading interface but the Kindle, iPad, and whatever else comes next means that people who might be unable to access good (or any) book shops/are environmentally conscious/want to save some money/want to try before they buy/etc have a much easier method to do so. Australian books are pricey which I presume is due to the distance books have to travel from overseas, or because the shipping orders are small due to our small population, so providing access to quality information in affordable and environmentally friendly ways is a step in a good direction.
I know that I won’t be giving up on my much-loved bookshelves any time soon, but in the same way that digital music downloads of single tracks encourages me to try more artists without spending a lot of money on CDs, I expect I’ll now “try” more books before I buy physical copies.
Now if only the various publishers, hardware developers, software developers, etc could agree on a single format for e-books and sort out the whole DRM mess!
A few links I’ve stumbled on while looking for more EPUB information:
- Epub Format Construction Guide (Harrison Ainsworth)
- Producing EPUB eBooks from InDesign: How-to guides (Adobe)
- The Apple iPad and ePub Books (Mike Cook at epubBlog)
On reflection as I hit “Publish” this begins to feel like an ignorant post, but I actually don’t know anyone who owns a Kindle or an e-reader, and I’ve been very much in love with the physical flipping of book pages since I was a child. From my choice to download an EPUB book and having a good experience with it, I’m now much more willing to give e-books a go.