Reference EPUB reading app: Readium

I recently just chanced upon a new EPUB reading app: Readium. This is a project by the IDPF, meant to be an open-source reference system and rendering engine for EPUB files. At the time of writing, there is an OSX binary and a Chrome extension for Readium. I will be examining the Chrome extension’s rendering capabilities below.

Prior to this, I had been using Calibre as my reference EPUB rendering app for its extensive list of supported EPUB features. As we shall see, Readium largely supports the same featureset, in addition to new features introduced in EPUB3, which I have not had the chance to test yet.

As with my previous post, I use Fate/Zero Volume 1 as the test EPUB file.


Readium library view
Library interface

The Readium library interface shows a simple list of imported EPUB books; nothing fancy.

Readium reading view
Readium reading and navigation

In reading view, there’s a contents listing in the left sidebar, which can be hidden. Clicking the green arrow in the upper right hides the overlay interface, leaving only reading view.

In the images below, bringing the mouse cursor over the images shows them with the overlay view; moving the mouse cursor away returns the images to reading view. The overlay images may take some time to load. Continue reading Reference EPUB reading app: Readium

EPUB reading on the iPad 3

The search for an EPUB reading app

For the past couple of years I have been waiting for an ebook reading device to tug at my wallet. It had to support e-ink, and EPUB formats, and not be locked down … and I ended up never buying one.

Four months ago, I finally caved and bought an iPad 3. If I were to use a tablet as an ebook reading device, I might as well get the one with the best screen, I figured.

I am happy to say that the iPad makes a fantastic reading device. It handles font catalogues (bold colours, sharp outlines), journal articles (with their typically tiny font sizes), PDFs, EPUBs, and just about everything I’ve thrown at it with ease*.
*with the right apps/software installed.

EPUB test

While I’ve tried the iPad with a variety of ebook formats, my interest still lies primarily in EPUB. This post is a look at the iPad as an EPUB reading device, a follow-up to my previous post on EPUB reading software on the desktop and web browser. I will not be working on a similar comparison for Android EPUB reading devices, since I do not have an Android tablet, nor have I found any EPUB reading app in Android comparable to Aldiko as yet.

The test file used here is Fate/Zero Volume 1downloadable here. This is the same file I used in my previous comparison. However, I will not be focusing so much on rendering accuracy this time round, but rather on readability and other issues that editors/typesetters might care about. None of the three EPUB reading apps support @font-face embedding; all three have a variety of fonts for the reader’s picking instead, with font-shrinking/-enlarging options and night-reading mode. As such, I leave the exercise of picking on typeface availability and selection to other more typographically discerning sites.

This comparison takes a look at the following reading apps. Relevant sections of CSS are displayed where appropriate. All three apps are tested with their default themes (although with varying font settings; I no longer remember what the default font is on each). Continue reading EPUB reading on the iPad 3

The state of EPUB rendering: A comparison

A little discussion about the beaten-to-death topic of ebooks vs. paper books reminded me that I once wanted to do comparisons of EPUB rendering in various reader software. Now that the Fate/Zero project is complete, I have finally gotten round to doing it.

A note for readers: Here I focus entirely on rendering accuracy. The EPUB2 specification does have requirements for CSS support, and in this geek’s opinion any self-respecting EPUB reader should at least have some form of CSS support (even if not all features of it as required by the EPUB2 spec are included). Those looking for comparisons of filetype support and ability to render non-compliant EPUB files will have to turn elsewhere.

The test file used here is Fate/Zero Volume 1, downloadable here. It is validated to be error-free under epubcheck 1.2. The following CSS features are employed in this test EPUB file:

  • @font-face embedding support_ (truetype format)_
  • float <div>s (for sidenotes)
  • font-variant: small caps (for sidenotes, chapter leaders)
  • CSS selectors: :first-child pseudo-class (for unindented first paragraphs)
  • CSS3 hyphenation — experimental, using hyphens and hyphenate-resource (body text)
    Continue reading The state of EPUB rendering: A comparison

Promo: Making Faces — Metal Type in the 21st Century

For many like me, born in later times, typography and type design has largely been of a two-dimensional nature. The books we read are printed with offset lithography, our documents are printed by toner-based laserjet printers, and the articles we read online are displayed through condensed little points of light.

The process of how these letters are made, formed by hand, has largely been lost on my generation, and that is why P22’s Making Faces: Metal Type in the 21st Century is such a valuable documentary. The art of letter-crafting is carefully captured by Richard Kegler as he follows the late Jim Rimmer (1934–2010) through his process of design, transfer, and cutting of a new typeface, Stern, which has been released in metal and digital form simultaneously.

The process of pantographic typemaking is fascinating to watch, as Rimmer’s hands craft the letters, digitise them, cut them into blanks, and eventually shape the metal punches that will produce the letters on paper. The trained movements of his hands produce the shapes and intermediate objects involved in pantographic typemaking in very tangible form; one sees at a glance how the process of his arm movement creates the letter “k”, cuts its sillhouette out, transfers it to a metal blank pantographically, and cuts its three-dimensional profile into brass. For us, whose physical intuition of type largely amounts to Press the “k” key, and the letter “k” appears on screen, Kegler’s documentative piece is a solid reminder that type is shaped by human hands, and not merely digital forms given shape by digital processes.

The commemorative print of Stern, shown near the end of the film, is breathtaking:

The dark imprint Rimmer’s effort leaves on paper is the final result, but the processes that produce it are the source of its richness.

SmartyASS: SmartyPants for Advanced Substation Alpha scripts

Inspired by SmartyPants (from John Gruber), I decided to modify its code in order to fix typography in ASS-formatted scripts. This script does pretty much the same thing as SmartyPants, but leaves non-dialogue text and ASS tags alone, working its magic only on dialogue text.

Naturally, it also faces the same limitations as SmartyPants: apostrophes at the start of sentences cannot be properly replaced. Users are advised to verify the output after running this script. But as a bonus, it removes italic tags.

To use, just run the command “” in the directory containing (or in any directory, if the directory containing is in the $PATH environment variable). It can be used as a shell script, possibly requiring some editing of the first line to point at the correct path of the perl binary.

SmartyASS requires perl to run. Which version of it I do not know; I am only a one-day perl coder.