DocBook XSL – ePub target is ready for wider testing

If you’re using the DocBook XSL distribution you’ve probably already seen that DocBook XSL 1.74.0 has been released with ePub support. Note that the 1.74.0 release is an experimental release, and is made available for testing and evaluation. See the release notes for a note about DocBook dot-0 releases.

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Digital Editions 1.5 Released!

Digital Editions 1.5 now released
(May 14, 2008)
Adobe has updated its popular Digital Editions software, a lightweight, rich Internet application for reading, acquiring and organizing digital books and other publications. Version 1.5 features enhanced DRM flexibility through named activation so that users can move content across platforms and mobile devices using an Adobe ID. In addition, ADE 1.5 is localized in French and German and has support for Mac® OSX 10.5 (Leopard). Adobe Digital Editions supports both PDF and IDPF EPUB, a standard format designed to reflow for the screens of mobile reading devices, which has gained broad acceptance among book publishers.

Adobe Digital Editions has over 1 million installations since the June 2007 launch. The new software will be automatically provided to users who have installed Digital Editions 1.0, and is available at the product site .

Adobe has also released an updated Digital Editions installer and launcher for distributors of eBooks. The installer is used to detect and install the latest version of ADE for retail or library customers of Adobe eBooks. The software is free to use and available with implementation instructions .

File size limits in Digital Editions

While the Best Practices document (over in the Adobe Developer Connection) had the recommendation that books be broken up into chapters, it wasn’t clear when you needed to break a document up further, or when a book was small enough so that one XHTML file was sufficient.

With the recent update to the document (version 1.0.2) we’ve given you information on how big the chapters can be.

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EPUB Best Practices

We’ve created a Developer Center area for Digital Publishing. What does this mean? Well, it’s a lot of technical information around EPUB, Adobe Digital Editions, and ADEPT. Of particular interest today is also the “Best Practices” Guide. Those best practices will help publishers create EPUBs that work great across a whole spectrum of devices.

Anyway, the Best Practices, and lots of other useful information can be found over at the Developer Center:
Digital Publishing

Digital Editions Beta2 Released

Adobe is pleased to announce the release of the second Beta version of Digital Editions 1.5.

You can find it here:

http://labs.adobe.com/technologies/digitaleditions/install/

The Beta is an opportunity for customers to test and provide feedback to Adobe on new features and compatibility with their digital publications.

The key feature of this second Beta release is that we have enabled the “Setup Assistant”. This walks the new user through the steps of authorizing their computer. With this assistant, you can also, optionally, decline to authorize your computer. Adobe very very strongly discourages this. We feel that you should *always* authorize your computer. More on this below.

The key feature of Digital Editions 1.5 is the addition of enhanced DRM support that provides “content portability” across computers and devices that you authorize with your Adobe ID. (Note that this portability is available ONLY if you authorize your computer).

Note: You should be aware that this beta release includes an enhanced version of DRM (Digital Rights Management) protection. If you plan on using Digital Editions for mission critical work, please consider using Digital Editions 1.0.

Key features of the enhanced DRM include:
- Ability to convert a user’s content to a “Named Authorization” license, enabling them to be backed up, copied and read on other computers or devices
- Authorization of end users’ DRM protected content with an Adobe ID (if authorized)
- Writing the secure license into the document
- Existing content is migrated to the new system and newly downloaded content is automatically converted when it is downloaded
- Content portability applies to both PDF and EPUB documents (again, only if the computer is authorized).
- Resulting documents can be copied just like any other file (if both computers are authorized)
- Documents can be opened on any computer or device which has been authorized by the owner
- The number of machines that can be authorized is controlled by the amount set by the Authorization server (up to 6 computers and 6 devices)
- We have added functionality within Digital Editions 1.5 to support mobile devices. At this time we are working hard on rolling out support for the actual devices which work with Digital Editions, which should become available later this year.
- The number of machines on which a document can be viewed is limited by the number of authorized machines, unless the document has been limited to a single machine by the publisher

Note that authorization with an Adobe ID is no longer required in 1.5, but is *strongly* recommended. If you do not authorize your computer, your content will, as in Digital Editions 1.0, be locked to the computer to which is was downloaded. Adobe feels very strongly that all users will be best served by authorizing their computers. Adobe Digital Editions does not use the ID for any purpose other than enabling portability by linking you and your books. The ID is not used for any other purpose, public or private. Please see Adobe’s privacy policy here.

Publishers and vendors should note that this release does not alter the fulfillment of ebooks so existing ecommerce workflows are not affected.

In addition to the DRM enhancement, this release of Digital Editions also
Adds support for Mac OSX 10.5 (Leopard)
- Fixes a bug in which double-byte (e.g. Asian, some European) users could not use Digital Editions
- Adds support for users whose My Documents folder is mapped to a network drive.
- Improved PDF support, including more complete support for the Adobe transparency model
- Support for named pages in PDF (e.g. i, ii, iii, etc.)
- Page map support in EPUB so that there is a mapping between the reflowed screens and the paper copy of a book
- Adds support for multiple books per ETD fulfillment
- Miscellaneous user interface improvements and bug fixes

InDesign EPUB Export and SWF behavior

By default, when you export a document or book from InDesign, each of the SWFs in the document will play as soon as the page is shown. While this might be nice for some documents you may actually want to change the default so that the files won’t play until they’re clicked.

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Digital Editions and Content Portability

Earlier this week we released Digital Editions 1.5 as a Beta on Adobe Labs (get it here). One of the key features is an enhanced DRM that provides content portability. Of course, the first question that users want to know is “What does this really mean?” This blog is an answer to that question.

The process that happens when you buy an ebook with Digital Editions 1.0 is that your book is downloaded and also a “voucher” (license) is downloaded from a secure server. The voucher contains the key to open your book. That voucher is then stored in secure database (the “voucher store”). That voucher store is locked to your machine and thus so is your book. This has caused some real problems when people upgrade to a new computer or their hard disk dies.

For Digital Editions 1.5 we have enhanced the DRM capability and changed how it works so that when your book and voucher are downloaded, the voucher does still get stored in the voucher store, but then your ebook is copied and the contents of the voucher are written INTO the copy of the document itself. (The original is backed up into a subfolder of your My Digital Editions folder). This means that the book and its key and license are self-contained. Can you then just copy your book to another machine and open it? Yes, with a very important “BUT”.

When you install Digital Editions, the very first action it takes is to contact a secure server at Adobe to get info that it uses to secure your books on your machine. This is very similar to what Digital Editions did. But, with DE 1.5 you have the option to authorize your machine by entering an Adobe ID. All Digital Editions does with the ID is store it on the same server along with the info that came down. This allows us to know that you are you. (Actually we only know that you are whatever Adobe ID you have, Digital Editions doesn’t know or care who you are. Your privacy is very important to us See Adobe’s privacy policy). Then, if you want to copy your content to another machine, all you have to do is go to another machine and install DE 1.5 and authorize that machine with the very same Adobe ID. Then the server downloads the same info so DE knows that your book belongs to you. And you will be able to copy your books back and forth between the two machines as often as you like.

But … you have to authorize your PCs to get this content portability. If you do not authorize your computer, your content will, as in Digital Editions 1.0, be locked to the computer to which it was downloaded. This first Beta release does not actually offer the option to use the old-style “anonymous” mode of use, but the next Beta and the final release version will. But Adobe feels very strongly that all users will be best served by authorizing their computers. Digital Editions does not use the ID for any purpose other than providing the portability by identifying you and your books. The ID is not used for any other purpose, public or private.

It is also important to note that in the final release you will be able to decline to authorize your computer and then change your mind and authorize it later. And, when you do, all your books will become portable to any other computer you have authorized. BUT, really important point: If you have two (or more) computers that are not authorized and you buy books with each of them, then later authorize the PCs, only the first-authorized computer will have fully migrated books. The other computer(s) can then be authorized and books shared with the first-authorized computer, but the books that were downloaded anonymously on the other computers are forever locked to those computers. So, again, Adobe really really recommends that you authorize your computers as a matter of course. There is really no good reason not to do so – it is in your own best interest!

Note that this first beta does not have the final UI for the authorization process. The next beta will include the “setup assistant” which is a complete wizard-driven workflow that guides the user through the process of how and why they should authorize their computer. But it will also provide a way for users to decline to authorize their computer (even though we think that is not a good idea). If the user declines to authorize their computer at the beginning they can always do so later – but with the caveats outlined in the previous paragraph.

You can authorize up to 6 different machines. And up to 6 different devices. At present, there aren’t any publicly available devices that support Digital Editions, but they are coming soon! Also note that some publishers explicitly specify that their books cannot be transferred to any other machine than the one to which it was downloaded. Adobe of course abides by this restriction. You can find out if your book has this restriction by looking the book’s info, available in the library pane by selecting the book and pressing Ctrl+I (or using the book’s drop-down menu).

What about your existing books, that you downloaded with Adobe Reader, Acrobat or Digital Editions 1.0? When you first install Digital Editions 1.5, the application will migrate all your DRM-protected books, from whatever source, into the new enhanced DRM format. If you have authorized your computer, then those books are now portable to any similarly authorized computer with DE 1.5.

What about library books? Well, library books are somewhat special. Your existing library books (ones that you have checked out from the library when you upgrade to DE 1.5) will NOT be migrated. You’ll have to finish reading them in the old application, or early-return them and check them out again. Also, library books cannot currently be transferred from PC to PC. They can be transferred to a device, but not to another PC.

Digital Editions 1.5 Beta is Released!

Adobe is pleased to announce the release of the first Beta version of Digital Editions 1.5.

You can find it here: http://labs.adobe.com/technologies/digitaleditions/install/

The Beta is an opportunity for customers to test and provide feedback to Adobe on new features and compatibility with their digital publications.

The key feature of Digital Editions 1.5 is the addition of new DRM support that provides “content portability” across computers and devices that you authorize with your Adobe ID.
Note: You should be aware that this beta release includes an enhanced version of DRM (Digital Rights Management) protection. If you plan on using Digital Editions for mission critical work, please consider using Digital Editions 1.0.

Key features of the enhanced DRM include:
- Conversion of user’s content to a “Named Authorization” license, enabling them to be backed up, copied and read on other computers or devices
- Authorization of end users’ DRM protected content with an Adobe ID
- Writing the secure license into the document
- Existing content is migrated to the new system and newly downloaded content is automatically converted when it is downloaded
- Content portability applies to both PDF and EPUB documents
- Resulting documents can be copied just like any other file
- Documents can be opened on any computer or device which has been authorized by the owner
- The number of machines that can be authorized is controlled by the amount set by the Authorization server (up to 6 computers and 6 devices)
- We have added functionality within Digital Editions 1.5 to support mobile devices. At this time we are working hard on rolling out support for the actual devices which work with Digital Editions, which should become available later this year.
- The number of machines on which a document can be viewed is limited by the number of authorized machines, unless the document has been limited to a single machine by the publisher

Note that authorization with an Adobe ID will not be required in the final release of 1.5, but is strongly recommended. If you do not authorize your computer, your content will, as in Digital Editions 1.0, be locked to the computer to which is was downloaded. This first Beta release does not actually offer the option to use the old-style “anonymous” mode of use, but the next Beta and the final release version will. But Adobe feels very strongly that all users will be best served by authorizing their computers. Adobe does not use the ID for any purpose other than providing the portability by identifying you and your books. The ID is not used for any other purpose, public or private.

Publishers and vendors should note that this release does not alter the fulfillment of ebooks so existing ecommerce workflows are not affected.

In addition to the DRM enhancement, this release of Digital Editions also
- Adds support for Mac OSX 10.5 (Leopard)
- Fixes a bug in which double-byte (e.g. Asian, some European) users could not use Digital Editions
- Improved PDF support, including more complete support for the Adobe transparency model and support for named pages
- Page map support in EPUB so that there is a mapping between the reflowed screens and the paper copy of a book
- Adds support for multiple books per ETD fulfillment
- Miscellaneous user interface improvements and bug fixes

DocBook XSL: Development

It seemed that creating production level XSLT stylesheets that convert DocBook into ePub would help publishers who adopt ePub as their eBook format. Of course we’re developing the stylesheets as part of the open-source DocBook XSL stylesheets, which gives anyone using an existing distribution an easy migration path.

So Adobe is donating my time to help with this task. Of course I’m not the only one involved, Keith Fahlgren (over at O’Reilly Media) is also contributing. There’s also the help and guidance from the docbook-apps discussion list. And there’s always room for review and feedback.

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EpubCheck

People who write web browsers know how insanely complex a good browser has to be. The problem is that a lot of design decisions for the web were done in a very lax, ad hoc manner. There are standards, but a lot of content does not obey them. When users encounter the content which does not work in their browser, they tend to blame the browser. This leads to more and more of the “black magic” in browser engines and the web content which more and more relies on very subtle (and non-standard) features in the browsers. And any subtlety that some web content uses has to stay in the browser engines effectively forever. This hurts content portability and usability.

To avoid the same sort of problems with eBook content, it is important to make sure that the content does satisfy the standard. This is especially important to make sure that eBooks work well on mobile devices where adding special-casing to “fix” broken content might be simply too expensive. The best way to make sure that the content is standard is to develop a tool that can validate epub files.

The need for such tool was for a long time recognized by IDPF members. As we were developing epub standard, we did the work on validating epub files. Now this tool (named EpubCheck) is available as an Open Source project. It is not complete (there are still many checks that we can do), but it is already fairly mature and extremely handy. If you author epub files, you should consider running this tool on your content regularly. Standard content is much less likely to have problems in today and future eBook readers and any problems with fully-compliant eBooks are much more likely to get serious attention of the developers. If you are a developer, I would like to invite you both to use EpubChecker code in your development (it is licensed under BSD terms) and to contribute back to the project.