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February 09 2012

O'Reilly ebooks now optimized for Kindle Fire

Earlier this week, we at O'Reilly regenerated all of our ebook-bundle Mobi files, upgrading them to meet the specifications for Amazon's latest ebook format, KF8.

These files are now available for download in your account on If your ebook bundle includes a Mobi file (and more than 90% of bundles do), you can download the updated, KF8-compliant file now. (Note: All O'Reilly Media files are now available in KF8. Partner publishers will come soon.)

As always, our ebook bundles are DRM-free. See this page for instructions on loading O'Reilly Mobi files to your Kindle.

We've optimized our Mobi files for Kindle Fire by taking advantage of KF8's support of @media queries. While @media queries have been commonplace on the web for some time, they are just now making their way to ebook ecosystems. KF8's support of @media queries allows you to create an ebook that looks and potentially behaves differently based on your reading device.

For an example of @media queries in action, see the image below, which shows how the same Mobi file appears on a traditional Kindle (left) versus the new Kindle Fire (right):

Comparison of a Mobi file on a traditional Kindle and the Kindle fire
Click to enlarge.

Amazon's support for @media queries makes this possible, and O'Reilly is among the first publishers to employ this feature across all of its Kindle content. Here are some of the new features that you can expect to see on your Kindle Fire (enhancements vary by book):

  • Color images
  • Syntax-highlighted code
  • Improved layout and design with CSS3
  • Embedded code font for better legibility and glyph support

Here are some screenshots from our newly optimized Mobis:

Optimized Mobi file from Make Electronics
Click to enlarge.

Optimized Mobi file from JavaScript: The Definitive Guide
Click to enlarge.

Starting this week, our books will begin to be available in KF8 format through Amazon's Kindle Store. However, an unfortunate limitation of buying from Amazon is that they don't normally provide customers with publisher updates. By contrast, buying direct from O'Reilly gives you access to lifetime, DRM-free updates in all standard ebook formats.


October 11 2011

Sponsored post

September 19 2011

At its best, digital design is choreography

The upcoming Books in Browsers conference will focus on books as "networked, distributed sets of interactions," as opposed to content containers. I've asked several of the event's participants to address the larger concepts surrounding books in browsers. We'll be publishing these interviews over the coming weeks.

Below, Liza Daly (@liza), owner of Threepress Consulting and developer of Bookworm, ePub Zen Garden and Ibis Reader, addresses a question about tackling browser display issues.

What kinds of formatting and display issues do browsers need to overcome to handle the various forms of book content — 3D, game-like narratives, immersive texts and the like?

liza_daly_mug.jpgLiza Daly: There is, of course, an art to formatting fixed text beautifully. We call this process "laying out" a design, which brings to mind the pre-digital method of physically laying down type or visual elements in collage to produce a unified final page. The challenge for ebook designers and developers is to think less about "layout" and more about "choreography."

Text can be fluid and responsive — it can reshuffle itself due to display size, orientation, or user interaction. Our job is not to dictate where words on a virtual page must be, but instead to guide them to where they should be. It is not enough to overload a digital page with clickable doo-dads, overlays, and animation: all the elements must move together in concert and, above all, not impair the basic reading experience or enjoyment of the work. This implies a close relationship between an author, a visual artist and a developer — all three must work together to create compelling, adaptive, interactive texts.

This interview was edited and condensed.

TOC Frankfurt 2011 — Being held on Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2011, TOC Frankfurt will feature a full day of cutting-edge keynotes and panel discussions by key figures in the worlds of publishing and technology.

Save 100€ off the regular admission price with code TOC2011OR


  • Digital publishing should put design above file conversion
  • If you're a content designer, the web browser will be your canvas
  • What if a book is just a URL?

  • May 19 2011

    What ebook designers can learn from Bible-reading software

    This is part of an ongoing series related to Peter Meyers' project "Breaking the Page, Saving the Reader: A Buyer & Builder's Guide to Digital Books." We'll be featuring additional material in the weeks ahead. (Note: This post originally appeared on A New Kind of Book. It's republished with permission.)

    Plenty of people open the Bible for inspiration. Today, I'm turning to this all-time bestseller for ideas on how to create better ebooks. I've been kicking the tires on two reading systems — Logos Bible Software and Glo Bible — both of which are packed with reader-friendly ebook features. Let's jump right in:

    Reading plans

    Anyone tackling a big topic (the Bible, Ulysses, CSS, whatever) faces huge, morale-draining amounts of material. Commitment is tough to maintain. Publishers can help by splitting the reading load into small, easy to conquer segments. Glo, for example, lets you set up a schedule built around what you want to read (just the New Testament, for instance, or the whole Bible), or how much time you want to spend each day.

    Glo reading plan

    Logos does the same and lets you export the schedule to your computer's calendar, complete with pre-programmed auto-reminders.

    A related idea, similar to the reading suggestions found at the end of textbook chapters: offer guidance on what to read outside of the book in hand. For example: blog posts, Twitter feeds, web articles, and so on. In an age of information overload a curated, guided path is what many overwhelmed readers would welcome.

    Inline footnotes & cross reference previews

    Great reading experiences happen when we lose ourselves in the text, forget the online world's blinking lures, and submit to the text's "flow." Any interruption — from a nearby toddler meltdown to time spent flipping to the back of a book to consult an endnote — disrupts this state. No advice here regarding screaming kids, but ebooks can end the attention-jarring chore of footnote lookups. Check out, for example, Logos' tap-and-you-see-it, tap-and-it's-gone implementation:

    Tappable footnotes in Logos

    The idea here is pretty straightforward: embed foot- and endnotes "behind" the body text, in a ready and waiting manner, just a tap away whenever the reader needs 'em.

    Most current e-reading systems instead follow the cumbersome path established by print books: force the reader to flip to another section of the book, read the note, and then flip back. (Even books that use sidenotes — commonly seen in Shakespeare's plays — disrupt our mental groove by forcing us to move from main text to margin.) Making the notes available and hideable at a tap lets us preserve our reading momentum and summon help only when we need it.

    And what about those "cross reference previews" I mentioned in the header? Check out how that works in Logos:

    Cross reference previews in Logos

    The first tap gets you the number of the related passage; the second tap summons the first line of the referenced section. And if that snippet proves interesting enough, the "Jump to reference" link awaits for you to head over to the new section. Nice.

    Analytic aids

    This one's similar to footnotes, but amps up the kinds and degree of guidance a really good book can offer its readers. Think of this type of supplemental info as a friendly teacher, waiting in the virtual margins, ready to offer commentary, explication, and reading extras. Logos' iPad app, for example, offers an incredibly rich "Passage Guide" customized to whatever section you're currently reading. It's stocked with all sorts of help: links to specific passages in other books (ready to read — not just marketing teasers); cross references to related Biblical passages; and image collections.

    The passage guide in Logos

    Bundled books

    There's lots of chatter in future-of-the-book circles about the day when — Google and Judge Chin willing — all books will be connected via hyperlinks to each other. While that tectonic battle progresses, Logos has built a smaller version of this vision that just might be more useful. Namely, they've put together a mini-network of related books: dozens of titles that any serious Biblical student would love. It's a hand-picked, rights-cleared little library of translations, commentary, and historical background. Now, the real payoff comes when you see how Logos integrates the collection. It isn't just supplying a "dumb" pile of related books. Instead, they've done things like let you display multiple translations in line-by-line layout, read two books in adjacent panes, and created hyperlinks between significant parts of the collection.

    Logos' mini library

    Rich-page layout

    Where Logos bundles other books, Glo surrounds the pages of its Bibles (six different editions available) with smaller but no less helpful supplements. Each page comes nicely designed with an easily hideable collection of notes (yours, other people's), background essays, and art and photos. The fact you can hide this stuff is great; it's there to investigate when you need it, and outta sight when you want to focus.

    Rich page layout in Glo

    The notes I mentioned are themselves noteworthy. Glo has partnered with a popular Bible reading website called YouVersion, which lets Bible fans post their own commentary on specific passages. All that stuff is now available, if you like, as you read. Especially with a subject like Bible studies, which generally attracts a collection of likeminded individuals with a passion for the topic, the idea of publicly viewable notes is powerful. This is precisely what's missing in Amazon's laudable but not-yet-there "publicly visible notes" feature. Most of us don't care what the world at large thinks about, say, James Gleick's latest book, "The Information." But, man, would it be useful if I could view the marginalia of people I respected or who'd demonstrated a commitment to the topic.

    Zoomable text & objects

    No, I'm not talking about some feature that lets you bump up the font to granny-friendly dimensions. What Glo offers is a service that serious readers of non-fiction will love: the ability to telescope in from a birdseye view of an entire book ...

    Glo Bible: the highest zoom view

    down to a specific section level ...

    Glo Bible: the 2nd highest zoom view

    and end up in a particular passage ...

    Glo Bible: the page view

    Some readers won't give a fig for this feature. But for those of us whose brains need to switch between macro and micro views, the ability to switch from big picture to up-close detail is a great learning aid. The iPad's touchscreen makes the whole process a delight; you tap to move between levels. That makes it easy to sniff around at the highest level and then swoop in when you decide what you want to read.

    Glo's zoomable objects are equally impressive. No mere pinching and spreading here. What they've done for many of their multimedia objects is stitched together hugely detailed composites — virtually stacked collections that let you view, say, a church and then zoom into its various nooks and crannies. Check out the path you can trace (by tapping, of course) an astonishing six levels down into this church:

    Six different image zoom levels in Glo Bible

    If you can believe it, I've just scratched the surface of what Logos and Glo do. The PC-based versions of each program — both of which are available in stripped-down freebie and souped-up premium editions — are plenty worth checking out, as are the iPad editions.


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