Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Of iPads, ePub and Troy

Apple's iPad will start arriving in customer's hands on April 3rd, and at least some of them will end up in the hands of Mediterranean archaeologists. That sounds like an opportunity so I've spent the last few days playing around with ePub software.

I can quickly say that all the desktop readers that I've seen are terrible. Adobe Digital Editions? Ugly. The Stanza desktop version? Ugly and doesn't show my images. Lovely Reader looks OK but does a bad job of laying out text and image.

The Stanza reader on the iPhone is decent and that's what I've been testing against.

The most useful application is far-and-away Calibre. Once I figured out to install the command-line tools, converting xhtml to epub is a single step. There are lots of options to play with, but the basic idea is simple.

So... I spent a little time simplifying the xslt stylesheets that convert the database for Greek, Roman and Byzantine Pottery at Ilion into xhtml. Then I pointed Calibre at the resulting file. You can download an early version of the results here. Don't expect too much. No TOC, bad spacing so it's hard to distinguish catalog entries, other varied problems. But all will improve over time.

To get this on an iPhone you need to load Stanza on to it. Then "Get Books" -> "Downloads" -> "Edit" -> "Download Book from URL". Typing a long URL is a pain on the iPhone so enter this: http://bit.ly/troyepub.

Again, it's super-preliminary so keep an eye out for improvements. And if anybody gets this onto an iPad, let me know how it looks. I'll try it myself soon enough but not right on April 3rd.


John Muccigrosso said...

Does this mean you've ordered your iPad?

Sebastian Heath said...

Sadly, no. But I hope to have access to one pretty soon after they start shipping. I'll report on how well it can handle richly illustrated catalogs. I'm cautiously optimistic that iPads, and e-readers in general, will gain traction as one delivery mechanism for DRM-free scholarly publishing.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

Yeah for DRM-free publishing, especially scholarly publishing!

I want to point out that, in addition to Stanza, there's an HTML5 ereader:
Works on iphone, blackberry, other smartphones, and webbrowsers... plus offline once installed.

John Muccigrosso said...

Some comments on ePub and the iPad here.