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Publishing for Everyone

Adobe InDesign CC’s Fixed Layout EPUB Format

While we’re often overly focused on the technology, tools and formats, the truth is that our customers tell us they really want to create something beautiful, something compelling, something that simply tells a great story and then they want to get it into the hands of their customers (or readers, or maybe just their moms). Providing our customers with the right kinds of choices for how they publish that content seems to be just as important, if not more so, than how they create it.
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That’s why I’m particularly excited about the new Fixed Layout EPUB export capability that we announced in the 2014 version of Adobe InDesign CC. This new capability provides one more publishing choice for our customers: If you want to create a beautiful fixed-layout digital book to sell or give away via digital book stores, like the iBook store, then this is the feature for you.

If you’ve been making e-books for a while, then you’re probably familiar with the EPUB format. It’s an acronym for “electronic publication” and it’s the most widely supported e-book format. Developed by the International Digital Publishing Forum, it makes it possible for any device to change the format of any reflowable EPUB book. (There’s also a fixed-layout EPUB where the format does not change from device to device and the original design of the book or document is preserved.)

Lock-down your design

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InDesign CC has provided the capability to create reflowable EPUBs from InDesign documents since 2007; reflowable EPUBs are great for text heavy documents like novels (like the one you read on your mobile device last time you were on vacation). However, as soon as you want to create a “beautiful design” for a coffee table book, a travel guide, a comic book, or a cook book, the reflowable nature of the EPUB simply doesn’t allow your design to successfully translate. With InDesign CC’s new fixed layout capability, you can truly “lock-down” your beautiful design and make sure that your book looks as beautiful on the device as it did in your layout. No author likes seeing their carefully chosen images moved around, or their artfully chosen layout changed, at the whim of an e-reader. Now those disappointing moments can be gone for good and the appearance of your document will be as you intended.

I’m obviously biased but, really, you should try it. There’s something magical about taking a beautiful design and creating a version that will stay beautiful and true to your original design when viewed on a device. Once you’ve created the digital document, it’s just a short step to take it to one of the many digital bookstores.

A better way

I can hear you say, “But I don’t make books.” Well, we built this new capability with two kinds of customers in mind: The first are professional book authors and publishers who are very clear that this is the kind of capability they want, if not need, right now; the second, and in my mind just as interesting, are casual book creators.

A few weeks ago, I attended a large well-established conference for book publishers. While it’s always fun to represent Adobe, it’s sometimes even more fun to talk to people “incognito.” As I wandered around the show floor, full of publishers of every kind, I came across a small, children’s book publisher. As well as proudly displaying his hard copy books, he had also mounted a tablet device onto a podium to showcase the EPUB versions of his books. I asked how many of his books were available as the digital version. “Some,” he said. “But ultimately all our books will be available and in fact need to be available as Fixed Layout EPUBs.” I asked him how he made these books today, and he visibly deflated right in front of me. He proceeded to tell me a sad story of how he had to find and hire a “coder” to take an InDesign document and convert it into a Fixed Layout EPUB. It was time consuming, it was costly and, in his words, “there has to be a better way.” Eventually I felt I had to explain who I was and why I was asking these questions. He said “So can you just give me a Fixed Layout Export from InDesign?” (Well, yes. But I couldn’t tell him as we hadn’t yet announced the new feature.)

We’ve obviously spoken with a lot of book publishers and authors, and they’re very excited. In fact they seem VERY excited. InDesign CC gives them a simple way to take their existing beautifully-designed content, use their existing workflows, and existing skills to create something wonderful that they can publish in digital book stores or serve up in their readers’ browsers.

So what about the second group I mentioned? The casual book creators? This is the group that, if I’m honest, has surprised me the most with their excitement around this new capability. As I’ve talked to more and more people, I’ve discovered that the world is full of would-be book publishers who all have stories to tell. There are millions of people who have created something beautiful in InDesign, or who know someone who can create something beautiful for them in InDesign CC. Why shouldn’t they be able to create a digital book?

Export to the format of your choice

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When I talk about digital books to either professional or casual book creators I’m often asked one important question: “How is this capability different from making a PDF or using the Adobe DPS (Digital Publishing Suite) format?” This answer is straightforward and mostly comes down to how you want to distribute your content and whether you want to give the content away or sell it.

If you want to distribute your digital document as an application, free or paid, then the DPS solution will give you that capability (along with analytics, and connections to social). If you want to create a digital book to sell or give away via one of the digital book stores, then EPUB is almost certainly the format of choice. If you want to create a digital document, typically one that you want to give away, that can be read on most digital devices, and you want more flexibility about how you get it onto the device, then PDF or one of the other publishing choices may well be your answer. The good news: If you use InDesign CC, you’re going to be able to export to any of these formats.

Perhaps the thing I want you to remember after reading this, is not so much that InDesign CC has a great new Fixed Layout export capability, but that this new capability represents the fact that Adobe is committed to offering designers and publishers a choice about how and where they publish. Too much choice is often confusing, but too little choice… is worse.

Chris Kitchener is the Group Product Manager for Adobe InDesign CC.

COMMENTS

  • By G G - 3:23 AM on July 15, 2014   Reply

    The end result is of very good quality. Great work indeed!!

    One question:-
    Why is each word in the resultant epub being enclosed in a separate span? The problem is that selecting text on the resultant epub doesn’t work very well. There are gaps between words when selecting a sequence of words and selection is jittery. The para information is already there inside the epub, so wouldn’t it have been better to simply collapse all spans(for words inside a para) into a para element and fix it?

    In any case is there something we could do while generating the EPub such that the text selection experience is fine?

  • By Douglas Waterfall - 12:32 PM on July 16, 2014   Reply

    Each word is enclosed in a span in order to precisely position it where InDesign had composed it – maintaining this accuracy is super important to us (more so than selection).

    The epub reader is entirely responsible for selection and it has to look at the HTML DOM elements to figure out what parts of the DOM, not just text spans, is selected and it gets confused because when it hits gaps around spans it thinks something else is selected.

    Douglas Waterfall
    Architect, InDesign Engineering

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