Let the tablet era begin!

September 29, 2011

Yes, that should have been the ambitious objective of the iPad team when it launched its version of tablets in the global market on January 27, 2010. Although Microsoft coined the term “tablet” in early 2001, for some reason it didn’t catch on. But Apple’s iPad has paved the way for the tablet market. Now we have not just iPads, we have Samsung Galaxy, Motorola Zoom, Dell Streak, LG Optimus, HTC Flyer, Blackberry Playbook … and the list keeps growing day by day.

How does it affect the global market?

As per Gartner’s report, 20 million tablets were sold in 2010, 54.8 million will be sold in 2011, and the total will grow to more than 208 million in 2014, beating the number of PCs across the world. Tablets have totally changed the way we see, listen, share, and hear things. Now we have 3D applications (apps) that show the complete anatomy of the human body and explain how each system works. We have apps that detect our current location and show us various options to reach our destination and apps that dynamically change the location of the story based on our location. We have apps that read the barcode of the book and give us the book’s ratings, reviewer comments, and comparative prices.

As Don Norman says, “When the technology serves the basic needs, the user experience dominates.” Now we have the technology that allows us to do anything so that we can focus on finding the right solution for our requirements.

How does it affect other industries?

There are many industries that have been affected, predominantly the publishing, learning, and gaming industries. Now almost all major publications have a mobile presence. There are also many options for publishers to be a part of the tablet revolution. Their content can be converted into interactive books, EPUB files, talking books, comics, and so on. Publishers can really give life to their content. If you are a science publisher, you can enable your readers to feel how climate change will affect the overall environment by providing a slider bar to experiment with different climates. If you are an educational publisher, you can enable your students to experience the theory of balance just by allowing them to tilt the device and balance an object. There are many possibilities to bring the content alive by using current technologies. Although we had such technologies in the past, tablets have brought it all into our hands, or rather to our fingertips. 

How does it affect development technology?

When it comes to technology, there are plenty of options available to develop applications for mobile devices. There are frameworks available that allow you to program in your preferred programming language and deliver the applications to various mobiles. You are no longer dependent on any one technology. You can program your app by using HTML 5, Java, .Net, or action script. There are open source technologies and frameworks that will convert your code to suit the requirements of different mobiles. If you want a better user experience and control over device components such as accelerometer, camera, and other features, then it’s best to stick to native code programming. This varies between devices as shown in the following table:

Devices/OS

Native programming technology

iPhone/iPad/iPod  Cocoa, Objective C
Android tablets Java
RIM Java or Adobe SDK
HTC Flyer Java

We’ll continue to monitor the tablet and mobile device landscape and keep you posted on new developments.  

Feel free to post comments and questions below, or get in touch with me directly at u.karthick@macmillansolutions.com

Karthick Ulaganathan

Head – Visual Programming Team


An EPUB 3 Sample

August 30, 2011

UPDATE 24th October 2011: It was brought to MPS’ attention that two of the examples shown in the EPUB 3 video were taken from a blog run by Elizabeth Castro.  Ms Castro is the author of EPUB: Straight to the Point and other EPUB books and runs a popular blog in which she writes about her EPUB development work.  More details can be found at her website here: http://www.elizabethcastro.com/epub.  Due to a management oversight, these files were incorporated into the video and Ms Castro was not asked nor informed.  MPS deeply regrets this oversight and the upset it has caused to Ms Castro.

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UPDATE 2nd September 2011: We’ve taken the video down for now – as people noticed there were some audio issues and being a first cut the quality wasn’t great (we weren’t expecting it to become so popular…).   We’ll be releasing a more polished version which better demonstrates EPUB 3 capabilities soon. Subscribe to the blog or check back here for more updates.

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While most people were enjoying a well-deserved break, our EPUB 3 team has been busy working on a sample for the iPad.  The first cut is below.  We’ve tried to show almost all of the EPUB 3 features currently supported by the iPad which can be seen (remember a lot of EPUB 3’s magic happens at the backend) including:

  • Multimedia: audio and video; animations; slide shows
  • Complex and fixed layouts: print-replica layouts, structured and hyperlinked indexes, embedded fonts, support for high-design content like textbooks
  • Non-Roman scripts: font support, vertical layouts, right-to-left text and page progression
  • Accessibility and early learning: support for accessibility standards, read aloud for children

Watch the video here

We’d love to get your feedback on the sample and hear your thoughts on EPUB 3 in general – does it meet your expectations, which features will be the most useful, what are your plans for EPUB 3.  Post a comment below or join the conversation on the EPUB 3 and HTML5 LinkedIn group here


HTML(5) – The Great Interconnector

July 14, 2011

“Connection, connection, connection.”, pretty much sums up Brett McLaughlin’s long – in fact if copied to Word exactly the 15 pages of the research papers that he tells us used to plague the Web – but definitely worthwhile (and very readable) article on HTML5.
As Brett notes, Tim Berners-Lee dreamed up HTML to re-cast never-ending articles as individual, connected pages and this function as an interconnection enabler has always been at the core of the programming language. “It is called the Internet, remember?”

HTML5 then is just this connecting ability taken to new extremes in a Web-environment – and physical world – where there’s little that isn’t connected. But, as Brett writes, it’s now about connecting “a lot more than hypertext with static images”. Audio and video may be making the headlines, but they are only the first of a possible “20 or 25 elements” which will go “well beyond” them. “The important thing here is that multiple pieces in multiple places can all be wired together in a meaningful way”.

As a programmer, this ability to connect excites him most in terms of the collaboration it can/should generate between web people and content people. Instead of seeing websites as a walled garden of content that you or your organisation owns, he argues for one big shared jungle where the fertility of the soil makes for ever richer, more interesting things. This may not appeal so much to publishers and other content creator organisations, who are understandably concerned about who gets the credit for the products of all this collaboration, but it is probably the direction the Internet will take.

The interconnection theme continues with HTML5 and mobile. HTML5 is touted as the big mobile solution but, “the story really isn’t that HTML5 has great mobile support; rather it’s that mobile is no longer a problem child.” What HTML5 does is make content work, full stop, via whatever medium you’re using. And as well as connecting bits of content Brett hazards that “HTML5 has a really good shot at interconnecting all the devices floating around” which is of course for publishers one of its the biggest selling points.

Read the full article here: http://radar.oreilly.com/2011/07/what-is-html5.html


EPUB 3 vs. EPUB 2.0

May 25, 2011

So EPUB 3 is finally out and, given that the IDPF site was down yesterday with what must have been a huge overload of traffic, everyone seems to be as excited about it as we are.

The blogosphere and trade press are already overflowing with articles on the new EPUB standard so we’ll keep this short and sweet and to the point.

EPUB 3 means EPUB (and thus essentially eBooks as a whole now that Amazon looks set to go the EPUB way) will spread to many more markets and readers because we now have:

  • Support for complex content (maths, high-design textbooks)
  • Enriched content (audio and video)
  • Global language support
  • Accessibility

Here’s a detailed look at how EPUB 3 compares to EPUB 2.0:

Feature EPUB 2.0 EPUB  3.0 Impact/Functionalities
HTML 5 <nav> No Yes HTML5 <nav> element supersedes the NCX document.
NCX document can also be included for EPUB 2 reading systems forward compatibility purposes.
CSS3 support * No Yes

Better control over line break, hyphenation etc.

Enables text writing from left to right and right to left.

Multiple style sheets No Yes

Supports the ability to include multiple style sheets.

Enables dynamic horizontal and vertical layouts.

OTF & WOFF No Yes

Allow fonts which are not installed in the end user’s system to be delivered along with the EPUB file.

Facilitates the retention of the look and feel of the PDF in the EPUB version.

SVG support No Yes

EPUB 3 support to represent vector graphics inline within content as well as standalone SVG file.

Pages will be lighter, thus reducing load time, when we use the SVG element to draw shapes.

Metadata No Yes A rich array of options for adding publication metadata to improve global distribution of publications. eg: a Japanese publication could include an alternate Roman-script representation.
epub: type No Yes

Allows elements in XHTML to include semantic meanings

This addition allows content to be better grouped and defined based on the requirement

epub: trigger No Yes Enables the creation of mark-up defined user interfaces for controlling multimedia objects. Actions include show/hide, play/pause/resume, mute/unmute, etc.
<bindings> No Yes Provides script-based handlers for non-standard media types
XHTML 5 support No Yes Inherits unless otherwise specified all definitions of semantics, structure and processing behaviours from the HTML5 specification
MathML No Yes

Direct embedding of MathML supported

Advantage for STM publishing as this enables rendering of mathematics as text instead of graphics/images

Scripting No Yes Support for scripted content, ie interactivity, using JavaScript language
Audio & Video No Yes Inherits support for HTML5 rich media elements
Aural renditions & Media Overlays No Yes Provides text-to-speech facility (Pronunciation Lexicons (PLS), Inline SSML Phonemes, CSS speech  features).Enables the usage of SMIL (Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language) for representation of synchronized text and audio.

Features that have been removed:

Feature EPUB 2.0 EPUB 3.0 Impact/Functionalities
Alternative syntax to XHTML DTBook HTML5 semantic markup DTBook is no longer an alternative syntax
Out-of-Line XML Islands Yes No <item> element no longer has an optional attribute fallback-style
Tours element Yes No Package document no longer includes <tours> element
Guide element Yes No Deprecated in favour of navigation document  <landmarks> feature

Now that EPUB 3 has been released, the impact it has will be largely determined by how fast publishers adopt the standard and how quickly device makers adapt their devices.

 Naren Kumar 

SVP, Production Technology – MPS Limited


Mobile App Strategies

May 19, 2011

With growing numbers of mobile platforms and the increasing popularity of various mobile devices, the industry is being forced to look for a common platform to develop mobile applications. Although Adobe is pressing ahead with building a common platform for mobile development (including iOS), at the end of the day it’s going to be licensed.  On the other side, there are quite a few open source and proprietary application frameworks that are vying to produce a native app using HTML5, CSS and Javascript technologies. The applications which are developed using these frameworks can be delivered across all platforms (including iOS). We can also have a web version for PCs.

The mobile development team at MPS is actively working on various tested and proven frameworks such as Phonegap and Titanium. Using these frameworks we are able to effectively deliver different applications for various requirements. These frameworks are capable of accessing phone features such as geolocations, camera and accelerometer. The look and feel of the application also can be developed to match the native app user interface elements to an extent.

From what we’ve seen, this model is going to work best for customers who need to deliver their applications to more than one platform. No more redeveloping the same application in different technologies for different mobiles. Develop once and deliver it to ALL.

Karthick Ulaganathan

Head – Visual Programming Team


HTML5: A Closer Look

May 3, 2011

Our technology team has been looking at the HTML5 working draft for several months now.  Here’s a quick round up of the features that will impact the publishing industry. 

Element Details Impact
<svg> <svg> allows the Scalable Vector Graphics formats to be embedded directly as part of HTML5 Pages will be lighter, thus reducing load time when we use the SVG element to draw shapes
<canvas> This feature allow users to draw any shapes/lines/strokes

The current version of Canvas supports 2D and SVG formats

Dynamic images and graphs made using Canvas make pages lighter

Application simulation exercise

Photo editing applications

<video> and <audio> Enable embedding of audio and video components along with controls HTML5 video and audio media playbacks remove the dependency on third-party plug-ins like Adobe Flash
Fonts HTML5 allows fonts which are not installed in the end user’s system to be delivered using the CSS functionality Facilitates the retention of the look and feel of the PDF in the HTML5 version
MathML Direct embedding of MathML supported Advantage for STM publishing

Enables rendering of mathematics content as text instead of graphics/images

New Parsing rules New parsing rules, which are not based on SGML Enable flexibility and compatibility
Drag and drop API Drag and drop API helps in building drag and drop functionalities Increases interactivity with published content
Geo location API Allows the user’s location to be identified Possibility of dynamically changing location names that occur in the content
CSS3 and JavaScript Cascaded Style Sheets (CSS) and JavaScript are supported HTML5 when combined with CSS and JavaScript offers tremendous capabilities to build different functionalities over the web
Content-Specific elements The introduction of content-specific elements, such as <article>, <footer>, <header>, <nav>, <section>, <figure>, and <figcaption> will define the structure and hierarchy of documents This will help transform content such as articles and chapters from a custom specific DTD/schema to a generic content structure

This could be a starting point for the publishing industry (at least trade publishing) to start looking at using HTML as the DTD instead of the custom/other public domain DTDs they are using at the moment

Global attributes such as spellcheck, hidden, etc. Enable formatting/rendering options for specific content/part Some of the new global attributes such as spellcheck, hidden, etc. can be utilized in a collaborative working environment
New form controls and input type attributes New form controls and input type attributes like <date>, <time>, <email>, <url>, <search>, etc. allow specific use of contents, without the need for additional scripting/controls Can add value to the collaborative working environment.

Eliminates many form validation requirements with current web form-filling

HTML5 standard  Better standards for Web 2.0 style functionalities Will enable better cross-browser compatibility and better support for ‘Web 2.0-style’ Web applications in addition to documents
Web Storage Two methods for storing data on the client side—LocalStorage and SessionStorage. Earlier this was done using cookies HTML5 enables mobile and desktop Website designers to deliver the advantages of client-side and server-side development to their users simultaneously.

Local offline storage helps in the automatic saving of end-user data

While we’re very excited about the possibilities HTML5 will bring, there are a few caveats that need to be remembered.  First and foremost, this is a working draft – the final standard may take years.  As a result, it’s still far less mature than Flash when it comes to delivering streaming videos, high-end interactivity, animations, and 3D capability.  HTML5 also offers only limited scope for DRM as compared to Flash.  The other problem with HTML5 right now is that although most browsers now support it to some extent, we are not yet at a stage where all browsers support all features.  In practice what that means is that it is not yet possible to deliver HTML5 content across all devices and channels as different browsers may not be able to handle certain aspects of that content.

All of these limitations, though, will be overcome in time.  For us, there’s no doubt that HTML5 will be of great importance to publishers; the only question is how soon. 

Naren Kumar

SVP, Production Technology – MPS Limited


Analytics Added to MPS’ Online Proofing System

March 12, 2011

Authors and editors have been using MPS’ online proofing system for several years now to help them review their proofs faster and more easily.  Upgrades and improvements have refined the system –proofs can now be marked up online and are automatically dispatched to the next person in the production process – but until recently it was difficult to know exactly how the platform was being used, and thus how to make it as good as possible for each publisher’s authors and editors.

The introduction of a new analytics service brings critical intelligence on how people are using the platform.  A monthly report shows how many times the platform was accessed and by who – where they are from, what language they were using and so on – how it was accessed, and how many articles were downloaded. 

The statistics help both the publisher and the developer better meet the authors’ needs. For instance, a report for one large STM journal publisher showed that a significant proportion was accessing the platform using the iPhone and iPad.  This prompted the publisher to create special instructions for marking up proofs on Apple devices.  Again, another report showed that the majority of people used Internet Explorer to view the platform, while Chrome users stood at just 3%. This helps the developer decide, in consultation with the publisher, which browser to focus on when creating the optimum user experience. 

This new version of MPS’ online proofing system is available for both book and journal publishers.  For more information, please contact Senthil Swaminathan at s.senthilvelan@macmillansolutions.com.


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