Sunday, May 15, 2011

ePub: Publishing your own iBooks for the iPad

Written by Greg Swanson on 15/5/2011

ePub stands for e-Publishing. It has been adopted as the international standard for publishing e-books. The ease of ePub is that any PDF text file can be uploaded into an ePub document. This means that many existing documents can be easily converted into an ePub full featured publication. Once you have published your e-book you can then give your student access to the document or you can publish it via your itunes. If it is something that others may use or enjoy you can even distribute or sell it via ibooks.

Benefits of ePub:

The open source and free format allows for reflowable text facilities. This means that it allows word wrapping, resizable text and in-line and vector images.

ePub also means that the files have metadata embedded in them which allows for the features that we have become used to with ibooks
  • definitions of words when clicked 
  • can locate all verbs, adverbs etc in the whole document 
  • embedded video and movies 
  • live links to resources and websites 
  • landscape or portrait capabilities 
  • single or side-by-side page displays 
  • it also has the support of many of the major publishing houses 
Limitations of ePub:
  • the ePub format code does not allow for design features 
  • therefore significant styling and presentation limitations 
  • all graphics have to be anchored into the text, other features have to be reflowed into body text 
  • therefore not great for textbooks - any design intensive layouts like sidebars or image callouts that look great in a printed textbook necessitate major redesign to meet epub standards 
  • strange behaviour on different devices 
  • ePub format targeted at limited content types - great for fiction

What I can do with ePub

What I want to do with ePub


ePub books will allow many people to publish their own e-books that will be able to be accessed using either itunes or ibooks on iOS devices. This provides the ability of drastically reducing the costs of texts for schools and the ability for teachers to differentiate texts for specific groups. Many of these will be excellent publications that serve the purpose they will be designed for.

The use of ePubs for textbooks is itself limited due to the restrictions of the design features of the present format. The whole nature of presenting information on the iPad is about the features. These are only good if the overall design of the publication is engaging and captures the students attention. The fact that many of the design features we can already do in design applications, Illustrator or Pages can not be incorporated into the ePub format let this down as an educational tool. It also means that many of the big publishing houses will simply produce PDFs of existing textbooks.

When this aspect of the ePub protocol is rectified than this will become a tool that really democratises textbook publication. Until then it can still be an excellent way to get documents or e-books on to your students's iPads.

If you are interested in locating or publishing ibooks in the ePub format try these sites:


  1. Even better, eduPad enables teachers to publish their own educational apps. It's free & easy!

  2. Has anyone started to replace literature anthologies with iPads and digital resources? If so, please tweet me @lwelch616