It’s Official: iBooks Now Supports Epub3

There still hasn't been a public announcement (nor has the app been updated), but yesterday Apple made it official. iBooks now supports the advanced formatting options, interactive features, and embedded content found in the new Epub3 book format.

This makes the app the first commercial commercial app to support the new format - only it doesn't, quite.

Apple sent out an email yesterday to the iTunes Connect mailing list. In what looks to be almost an afterthought, Apple told publishers and ebook creators about the change:

EPUB 3 Support
iBooks and the iBookstore now support EPUB 3 for flowing books. EPUB 3 includes new features to enrich your book including the pop-up footnote functionality.

This is good news, yes, but it's not quite true.

I spent yesterday evening playing with Epub3 demo files, and it turns out iBooks still doesn't completely support the new standard. Several of the demo files didn't work, including one which was supposed to include a quiz widget. iBooks also failed to display the MathML demo correctly; that is in fact one of the core requirements so if it doesn't work then the format arguably isn't supported.

The current Epub3 support dates all the way back to January, when Apple launched iBooks Author. I'm not sure it was ever mentioned outside of the digital publishing community, but techies have been playing with the new features for some months now. Apple neglected to mention it at the time, but the new iBooks 2 app was released with partial support for the new format.

In any case, this is still big news; by making it official Apple is going to encourage their competition to get off their duff and complete their own apps. It moves the sale of EPub 3 ebooks one step closer to reality, and that's a good thing.

16 thoughts on “It’s Official: iBooks Now Supports Epub3

  1. I think it’s history repeating itself. Apple is doing to the epub standard what Amazon did to mobipocket: Embrace, extend and extinguish

  2. Come on! Of course it supports ePub3! Apple said so, no?
    Who are you to say otherwise?
    Do you really want Apple to send Guido the enforcer to explain that epub3 is what *they* say it is? ;)

  3. They should be able to add MathML support to their ebook reader easily via MathJax. MathJax (www.mathjax.org) is an open source JavaScript engine for displaying MathML in all modern web browsers. It was founded by my company, Design Science, and the American Mathematical Society (AMS) and the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM). It is also supported by a long list of publishers and professional societies. MathJax has also joined forces with the IDPF’s Readium project (www.readium.org). Readium is an open source EPUB3 ebook reader. MathJax provides its MathML support. Apple could easily borrow from this work to add MathML support to their reader.

  4. Considering that WWDC is next week, iBooks.app’s last update is from April 16th, I think it’s not unreasonable to assume that this refers to a new version that’s to be released during the WWDC.

    I’d hold on a week before I’d waste time testing.

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