September 29, 2015 7

[Ironic Note: While this site is responsive, the Google Trends graph, above, which shows relative search-volume for “EPUB” has fallen back to summer 2012 levels, may not display correctly on a phone or similar-sized device.]

As it became clear to the IDPF that publishers weren’t going to give up on a crafted, beautiful, printable page, they added support for fixed-layout pages to EPUB.

Publishers had said they wanted a single deliverable format that did it all – reflow AND fixed-layout AND be capable of driving a press (after all, print isn’t dying).

Adding fixed-layout support in EPUB allowed proponents to go back to publishers with the best-possible pitch. Or so they thought.

The hype is proving… excessive.

When EPUB was just a “web page in a zip file” it wasn’t the single deliverable format the publishers wanted. Ever since EPUB proponents started to pitch EPUB’s fixed-layout option they’ve been losing. Fixed-layout vs. reflowable is very much an either-or proposition for EPUB, a fact that directly contradicts the pitch that EPUB can meet publishers’ desire for a single deliverable format while confounding users trained to expect that “EPUB means it can reflow”.

There’s a worse problem that blocks fixed-layout EPUB from government-funded publishers. Fixed-layout EPUB is far less accessible than PDF, undermining one of EPUB’s key benefits and a key selling-point for the format.

With EPUB, as with HTML, accessibility is all within one page. As such, paragraphs, tables and lists that span two pages, to take a few simple examples, are simply inaccessible in a fixed-layout EPUB file.

Developers and technical product managers who want to learn about how PDF technology addresses accessibility in fixed-layout content, and many other aspects of PDF, should consider the PDF Technical Conference, October 19-20, in San Jose.


(added to the above following my exchange with Bill in the comments)

Yes, there are innocuous explanations for EPUB’s Google Trend. Indeed, maybe fewer are using the search term relative to searches overall because EPUB is so generally accepted it’s like Kleenex – that’s certainly possible. For those who feel I’m grossly misinterpreting the data, consider the following graph: