[clug] Apple and ePub

Paul Wayper paulway at mabula.net
Thu Jun 24 20:11:32 MDT 2010

Hash: SHA1

On 06/25/2010 12:01 AM, Alex Satrapa wrote:
> On 24 Jun 2010, at 23:05, Ivan Lazar Miljenovic wrote:
>> Is there anything in the spec stating that Readers must actually render
>> the text as given and not delete every second word?
> Nope. But that pretty much goes against the grain of being a method of
> presenting texts.

Well, what about censoring?  Would it be OK for Apple to black out any
sentence that contained your socially intolerant phrase of choice, e.g. "Apple
Sucks"?  Would it be OK for the iPad to only display fonts whose files were
from a certain manufacturer, or had certain attributes in their headers?

I think Ivan's example is a good one.  There are several good reasons to use
monospace fonts for code, yet a novel formatted in monospace is more difficult
to read.  It would be reasonable for Apple to not allow monospace fonts to
preserve their look and feel on the device and yet it would make some
programming examples harder to read.

> Note that the emphasis in the three documents presenting the ePub standard
> are that the publication is about presenting *texts*, not *typographically
> interesting productions*. So things like justification, kerning, font-face
> are all things you can aim for, and wait for the existing technology to catch
> up with your ideal (or ideology, as the case may be).

OK, but for example Terry Pratchett occasionally uses interesting fonts and
typographical techniques for additional effect.  Is it Apple's right to take
that away, possibly even ruining the joke in the process (e.g. page 25 or
"Maskerade")?  Just whose choice is it about what is a *text* and what is a
*typographically interesting production*?  There's no easy delineation between
good and bad style.

> If the file says to render the text in Wingdings, I'd prefer the reader to
> override it and present the text in (e.g.) Palatino.

Even if it wanted a particular symbol (or just a bullet, where any star would
be OK but a letter wouldn't work)?

> It might possibly be the case that Apple is being extremely egocentric and
> wants to show off the "Retina Display" of the iPhone 4. It may also be the
> case that Apple is exercising editorial control and insisting on blocks of
> text (paragraphs) being presented in serif fonts simply because they feel
> the days of being restricted to sans serif fonts on 72dpi monitors are
> behind us.
> For me, it's a non-issue. I'm not going to take exception to Apple's iBooks
> deciding to do things one way, when it does so much that other readers don't.
> If I don't like the font, there's the option of setting the font (though that
> does set the font for *everything* with no distinction between <p> or <code>).

Well, i think it's a moot point, because of course you have absolutely no say
in how iBook renders text.  I mean, if it were an open source project, you
could at least include some kind of control to ignore or obey fonts at the
user's discretion.  But since you've bought a proprietary product, you've
voluntarily surrendered all right to change it.

Having struggled with trying to impart upon various people the idea that the
web is about presenting text, not having an inch between paragraphs or two
spaces after a full stop, I do agree that the point of an ePub reader is to
render text, not to display slabs of page like a PDF.  It shouldn't really
matter what fonts you use or how big or small your text is, it's a book - you
read it for the content.  But layout and design are important too, and Apple
arbitrarily deciding that they won't obey heading styling because it might
interfere with the look and feel of the iBook is just plain dumb.

My point of view is that at some point every manufacturer has to let go.  Like
children, at some point we release our finished and unfinished projects into
the world and say "there, go play".  There will be accidents and damage, tears
and pain, and we patch them up as best we can.  The idea that you can control
that product for ever after for everyone is worse than just wrong, it ends up
with you spending far too much time preventing things that are perfectly
natural and in everyone's best interest.  Apple has to let go of their
products and accept that people don't blame them if someone else's application
isn't perfect.

It might not hurt Apple to lock everything down, but it hurts everyone else.

Have fun,

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