The ePub torture test: Starring ‘Three Shadows,’ a graphic novel
July 27, 2008 | 9:57 am
No one is a bigger booster of the ePub standard than I am. E-books need to be audio-CD-simple.
Right now, however, ePub isn’t the solution for every book, especially those with tens of megabytes of images that need to be displayed precisely.
Some publishers doing ePub are correctly making exceptions of works with production challenges. On both the standards side and the app side, tech people still have plenty of work ahead.
Great for textish books, not the best for graphics variety
Often, of course, it’s often no problem if e-layouts deviate from p-layouts. This is the Web era of reflowable text, where reader pleasure should come out of designer mandates. But sometimes this-here layout issue can get out of hand. For example, images might spill over on other pages in ways that slow down your reading of a book. Small wonder that Wowio, with so many graphic novels and other image-rich works to display, has not yet switched over to ePub. What’s more, at least with some ePub apps, image-filled books may take longer to load than with the PDF approach, and the software may not be as responsive as with PDF apps. I’m not sure how much of this is an app problem and how much is the standard itself.
Textish books: A different story
Books that are overwhelmingly text? No problem in the overwhelming majority of cases! In fact, ePub is sleeker than PDF, and I’d encourage publishers to follow the example of Hatchette and make ePub a standard. Textish ePub books will be less of a challenge to display on small, low-powered devices with little screens.
Our Three Shadows torture test
Meanwhile, however, a rightly vexed Mike Cane complained to me of the hassles he suffered when he downloaded TOR’s free ePub edition of Three Shadows—by former Disney animator Cyril Pedrosa—for viewing in Sony’s eBook Library software. I tried it. Keep going, and you’ll see the PDF version of this graphic novel in Adobe Reader 8, the ePub in Adobe Digital Editions and the ePub in Sony’s eBook Library program. Yes, the PDF version is almost surely closer to the layout in the actual book.
Adobe Reader 8 above – PDF (I didn’t trim to the image). I’ve added the shadow at the borders.
Adobe Digital Editions above – ePUB. Notice? The first image seen in the PDF version is missing here. It’s on an earlier page, a spillover.
Sony eBook Library above – ePUB. Same problems as with Digital Editions. The eBook Library is a desktop program. Don’t even think of trying this on your Sony Reader, at least if you value your time. Of course, I suspect that the PDF version wouldn’t load in a flash, either.