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Open Question: Does Anyone Know How to Format an eBook in Japanese?

I received an unusual query Friday night, and since it is one I cannot answer on my own I decided to ask for help from my readers.

I know a number of people who format ebooks and on Friday one of them forwarded the following query:

I have written a book in Japanese and have had it translated into English.  I would like both the Japanese and English versions formatted as eBooks.

Would you be able to help me with this project?  Or would you know someone who could?

Just off the top of my head I could suggest a half dozen names for the English language ebook, but I don’t know for sure that I know anyone who knows Japanese and is technically capable of making an ebook in that langauge.

Can anyone make a suggestion? The comment section is open.

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Rob Siders April 22, 2013 um 11:39 am

Liz Catsro.

Rob Siders April 22, 2013 um 11:42 am


Not sure if she knows Japanese, but she’s posted a few things at her blog about making Japanese ebooks.

The Rodent April 22, 2013 um 11:47 am

Start with Japanese HTML files encoded in UTF-8, and just make an EPUB in the usual way. Whether any given reader device can *display* it is another matter entirely. I have a couple of Japanese EPUBs here, and Sigil is perfectly capable of handling them. (I’m not volunteering for this project, but you can contact me on this question.) See also for example the PG text of Rashomon: – EPUB available there works fine in Sigil, Calibre, and Adobe Digital Editions. Nook for PC mangles it, and I suspect the Nook would also mangle it — the device must have Japanese font support.

Susan April 22, 2013 um 2:58 pm

I might be able to help with this. I speak some Japanese, and have laid out a few Japanese art books. But whether I can do anything with his books remains to be seen. You can email me at sglinert at aol dot com.

Kevin April 23, 2013 um 8:29 am

It depends on what kind of book it is. If it is a textbook or has lots of files, you probably want to put in the iBookstore because the size of the file will be very large and Amazon charges you per megabyte. And if it has media files you will have to put it in the iBookstore because the iBooks reader is about the only one that has decent support for sound and video files.
If you do use the iBookstore, you cannot use iBooks Author for Japanese text. You will be able to format everything OK in iBooks Author and it will look beautiful, you will also be able to proof it on the iPad and it will look beautiful, but you will get error messages when you try to submit it to the iBookstore. And then after a few weeks of back and forth, Apple support will tell you that you cannot use iBooks Author to author Japanese, you will need EPUB3. Do I sound bitter? 🙂
EPUB3 (most readers of this blog know already, sorry) is a combination of (X)HTML, CSS, and some EPUB3 files. I used Oxygen XML Author as the editor to do this, because it supports all 3 of these and produces rock-solid valid EPUB3. It does require a good knowledge of these though. The first multimedia Japanese textbook I did with Oxygen flew through all the Apple checks except I had a couple of images that exceeded the Apple file size limits.
Note that there is very little difference between EPUB3 for English and Japanese except for some language attributes in the XHTML and EPUB3 meta files. However, the language attributes are important because iBooks reader uses these to decide whether the text can be switched to flow vertically or like English from left to right. I’ve used English language attributes for files that contain Japanese and all the characters display correctly, except the iPad fonts used for English files are those for the English systems rather than the more attractive Japanese fonts available for Japanese systems.
If it is not a textbook then you can probably use EPUB 2, but I don’t have any experience with that. I’m sorry I’d like to offer to help but I’m in the process of publishing 4 Japanese textbooks in the next 6 weeks or so and I’m kind of frantic. Best wishes.

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