Further Info on Activation in 1.5

Adobe recently announced plans to support cross-machine portability of DRM-protected content in Digital Editions by allowing named activation. Since then we have received quite a bit of feedback on our plans. Much of the feedback is positive, but others have voiced concerns about some users (library patrons, minors) needs for privacy. An Adobe ID is a very non-intrusive way of identifying users – users need only provide a name, country and email address. Nonetheless, Adobe understands that some users and organizations are uncomfortable with even this minimalistic level of identification. Based on the feedback from users and partners we have decided to continue to support an option of anonymous activation.

We feel very strongly that content portability is a very important feature. These days, almost everyone (especially ebook users) has multiple computers and a handheld device or two. Without content portability that has been enabled by named activation, users cannot move their books around as they wish. Almost more importantly, Digital Editions will be introducing new social features in the future that will enhance the use and enjoyment of user’s ebooks, such as sharing annotations and reading lists. Use of these social features will require that the user have a personal identifier, even if they only use one computer.

Therefore our plan remains to promote named activation as the primary means of enabling DRM capabilities. Anonymous activation will be supported, but discouraged in order that users not be disappointed to discover that content they have purchased is inextricably tied to a single PC, or that they can’t participate in new social features. And the overall user experience of activation will be more integrated and seamless than the various DRM activation options that were present in Adobe Reader versions 6 and 7: we are working to keep it simple. We will post additional details about the new DRM activation coming in Digital Editions version 1.5 here on the blog soon.

Page template (XPGT) file

Bob Russell asked:

What about the .xpgt file? It is possible to deduce most of it, but more complete detail would be good. (like: reducing the top margin on the first page, and interaction of column min-widths and font-size…)

And how will its operation fit with future implementation of the OPS extra CSS properties: display:oeb-page-head; display:oeb-page-foot; and oeb-column-number:[integer]; ?

Better late than never – here are some details.

Named Activation Coming in Digital Editions 1.5

“Named Activation” coming soon to Adobe Digital Editions

Adobe wants your eBook experience to be as easy and seamless as possible. Naturally, this includes protecting your investment in eBooks from being lost or damaged. This is one of the key reasons why the upcoming release of Digital Editions 1.5 will feature “Named Activation.”

Some users have eBooks and other digital publications on their computers that have been licensed with Acrobat, Reader or Digital Editions using “Easy Activation.” These items cannot be moved to a new computer, essentially becoming locked on a particular machine. To solve this problem, Adobe Digital Editions 1.5 will convert items to a “Named Activation” license, enabling them to be backed up, copied and read on other computers. All items subsequently downloaded with Digital Editions 1.5 will be licensed using Named Activation. This change will also enable a new breed of mobile devices designed to be used with Digital Editions. However, note that your content will not be portable if the content distributor has specified a more restrictive setting, in which case you will need to re-acquire the content directly from them.

How will “Named Activation” work?

The first time you run Digital Editions 1.5, you’ll be prompted to activate the application by entering an Adobe ID. If you don’t have an Adobe ID, you’ll be provided with a link to get one. Then, when you purchase an item online or borrow one from the library with Digital Editions 1.5, the item will automatically be “tied” to your Adobe ID, rather than to your computer. This way, you’ll be free to move your items to other machines where Digital Editions has been activated with your Adobe ID.

What about the eBooks I already have?

Once you’ve entered your Adobe ID, Digital Editions 1.5 will look for eBooks already on your computer. It will first back up the items it finds, then convert copies of the items to a new “named activation” license.

IMPORTANT: Digital Editions 1.5 will convert eBooks that have been purchased or borrowed with Acrobat, Reader or earlier versions of Digital Editions. However, items that were licensed using Easy Activation can only be converted on the same computer with which they were originally purchased or borrowed. If you are contemplating buying a new machine, please consider keeping your old machine intact unless you bought all of your books with Acrobat or Reader using Named Activation.

Is Easy Activation still an option?

Adobe introduced the Easy Activation option in Acrobat and Reader 6.01 (and it was the only activation option previously supported in Digital Editions). This option made it easy for users to get started with eBooks, as users did not have to go online and get a Microsoft Passport or Adobe ID. The downside of this convenience is that the books could not be transferred to another machine or device.

Based on feedback from our customers, the Digital Editions team has decided that the benefits of content portability outweigh the inconvenience of the user ID and activation processes. So the next release of Digital Edition will use only Named Activation.

The Digital Editions team understands that some users may be uncomfortable at first with the need to obtain an Adobe ID and activate their machines. But we are convinced that everyone will quickly see the value of safeguarding their investment in eBooks. We’re working hard on this new release and look forward to sharing it with you soon.

For further info on this topic, please also see this post.

Exporting ePubs from InDesign

In the next couple of posts, I hope to give you an idea of what works well with the ePub export, how to get better ePub documents from InDesign, and what sort of documents would work better as a PDF. To that end, I thought I should start with giving you some background on what an ePub is and how the Digital Editions export inside InDesign works to create ePubs.

You may be aware that ePub is really made up of OPS, OPF and OCF, which are standards from the International Digital Publishing Forum (www.idpf.org). They build on other standards, including XML and XHTML. This means that the pages you’re seeing in Digital Editions (when you export an ePub from InDesign) are XHTML. They have xml structures around them to aid navigation and presentation, and a package that wraps it all so that the many files are a single item on disk. Still, they are essentially XHTML and CSS, and that means they have certain strengths and weaknesses.

In building the current version of the Digital Editions export into InDesign, we made the decision to focus on book formats that lend themselves easily to automated layout – that is to say, narrative books where readability is important but the view of a double page spread or of a single page isn’t a priority. Still, the XHTML nature and the focus on narrative books means that certain items won’t be preserved when exporting ePubs from InDesign.

There’s no support for putting text on a path in XHTML. When you put text on a path in InDesign that text would need to either be rendered as a graphic, or it looses the path. For CS3 we decided not to export the text as a graphic, so the ePub export preserves the text, but not the path, so that the text is still text in the XHTML. The same is true for text that is set at an angle. If you create a text frame in InDesign, and then rotate it a few degrees one direction or the other, the text will still be exported as XHTML, rather than choosing some other format. This means that the rotation is not exported, just the text. Of course if you have a document that uses these features, they’re preserved perfectly when you export a PDF and open that in Digital Editions.

Updated Export Plug-in for Adobe InDesign CS3

If you’re using InDesign CS3 to create ePub documents then you’ll want to make sure you’re using the 1.0.1 update. The update includes an option to embed the fonts in the document and to use a TOC Style from the InDesign document, but more importantly, the update implements the OPS 2.0 v. 0.984 Draft specification (dated 16 Apr. 2007). The original export plug-in implemented a previous version of the draft, so you’ll want to get the update.

You can find the update in the downloads section of www.adobe.com, and it’s available for both Macintosh and Windows.

If you’re already using the update, you’ll see a faint ’1.0.1′ in the lower right hand corner of the export dialog. You’ll also see the option to embed fonts and a third panel in the dialog. If that ’1.0.1′ is missing, then you’ve not installed the update.

Publishing DocBook content for Digital Editions

This week I was looking at the DocBook mark-up and experimented with convertion of DocBook content into ePub. There seems to be a very good fit there. I was able to create a XSLT stylesheet to transform a couple of O’Reilly-published books into ePub. Here is a sample: Greg Kroah-Hartman‘s “Linux Kernel in a Nutshell” book as ePub (IE sniffes it as zip, but it is really an epub file). Unfortunately, I only can post it with freely distributable clip art, no embedded fonts and with low-quality gif images for the illustrations in the book, so it does not look quite as good as the original (but with the right resources it is possible to make it look as good).

The XSLT stylesheet, a simple bash script that drives it and the free art that I have used can be downloaded here. If you want to run it yourself, this is what you need:

  • Find some UNIX-like environment, in particular bash, xsltproc and zip commands. I have used Cygwin on Windows XP.
  • Unzip downloaded file into some folder.
  • Copy source DocBook XML (available at the book’s web site) into that folder; main book file should be named book.xml.
  • Copy images into epub/OEBPS/images
  • Run ./epub.sh
  • If everything goes right, ePub file will be written into book.epub

For this particular book you should also add author’s name and book identifier into the book source (or it will be missing from the metadata and title page). Insert the following into the book.xml after the title tag:

<isbn role=”13″>9780596510480</isbn>

I have only tried XSLT stylesheet with one other DocBook, which is certainly not enough testing; thus, I don’t think it will work with arbitrary DocBook content. If someone wants to take it from there, it would be fantastic because I won’t have time to polish it. The right thing to do is, of course, to integrate this capability into the existing XSLT framework for DocBook which is used to publish DocBook content into XSL:FO and PDF.

And, thank you, Greg for writing this book and for making the DocBook sources available!

The point of Digital Editions

Bob Russel writes:

I’d like to get a better feel for how you see Digital Editions from within the company. Not the polished formal or comprehensive and official description, but in your minds what’s the main point of it, what’s the intent, and where would you like to see it progress in the future? What sort of (realistic) hopes do you have for it’s adoption, and how can that be encouraged along?

This is a bit loaded question to ask a tech guy like me, of course. Success depends on much larger set of things than just technology alone and I’d rather concentrate on the technology.

To me the point of Digital Editions is quite clear. There are these things called books and they are not going away, even if they have to morph to fit into the digital world. Reading books today on paper is still much nicer than on an electronic device, but it does not have to be that way. We need these things to happen:

  • we have to agree on a eBook format which is open, easy to author, adapts to the reading environment form factor, but still rich enough to look good;
  • we need software which renders eBooks, so that they are pleasant to read and easy to manage; it also needs to provide new functionality that paper cannot do well (e.g., links, search and annotations – or embedded interactive content);
  • we need handheld devices which are small, easy to read from and have long battery life;
  • we need good authoring tools so that it is easy to create eBooks
  • we need publishers to treat eBooks as first-class citizens.

I think that we are getting there. PDF would have been a perfect eBook format if it could be reflowed to a small screen without quality loss, but at least it is easy to publish an existing content in it. So we had to try again. ePub, I think, as it is now, is quite good (and I think it will evolve – we need to add MathML and perhaps some extra layout and typographical features). We are, as you know, working on the software ;-). We see devices coming (e.g. Sony Reader). The hardest part is to convince publishers that eBooks are the future, but I think we can do it, maybe slowly and case-by-case, but things are moving there as well.

Bidirectional text and MathML

Ahmed Hindawi pointed out that Digital Editions does not support bidirectional text for ePub, so it is not possible to display documents that use right-to-left writing. Certainly it is a missing feature: IDPF standard for ePub mandates that support. As we internationalize the application, we certainly plan to add that as well as other features that are necessary to display Arabic (ligatures and glyph shaping). I should just point out that the fact that Flash 10 will support that does not automaticaly means that Digital Editions will get it for free, as ePub rendering engine in Digital Editions uses different pipeline for text layout.

Another point that Ahmed made is that there is no support for MathML. In the case of MathML the situation is a bit different from bidirectional text: MathML is not something that IDPF standard mandates for ePub. It is only possible to include MathML “islands” in XHTML if a fallback image is included as well and an ePub viewer is free to display that fallback image instead of rendering MathML. So when including a formula in an ePub document one has to supply either a bitmap (PNG or GIF) or vector graphics (SVG) that reperesents it. Bitmaps for formulas are used on the web quite a bit (e.g. some Wikipedia articles), but their major drawbacks are that they look bad when printed (or font size changes), they don’t reflow when width becomes small and they are unaccessible for blind. Vector graphics is basically how formulas are represesnted in PDF. This does not fully solve the accessibility and reflow problems, but they certainly can be made look as good as MathML. I think that for the time being including vector graphics image for a formula is the best bet, maybe along with a MathML island.

Producing ePub Documents from InDesign

Today is the last day of Piotr Kula, who worked with us as a summer intern. While he himself has to go back to study at Berkeley, we still have a lot of documentation that he wrote while working here. I am going to edit and publish some of these documents on this blog and here is the first installment on creating ePub documents with InDesign.


Hello – my name is Peter Sorotokin and I along with other engineers on the Adobe Digital Editions team are going to use this blog to talk about technical details, tips and tricks which are relevant to the electronic books. There are a lot of things to cover, so please use this entry to ask questions – this way I know what people are interested to know.