New EPUB features in InDesign CC include linked Indexes and Object style support
With every successive version of InDesign since CS4, Adobe engineers have improved the program's EPUB export feature set. (EPUB is the standard format for eBooks on the iPad's iBookstore, and on the Nook, Kobo, and other eReaders.) InDesign's EPUB-ability has never gotten a lot of love or attention from Adobe's PR team for this — EPUBs aren't even eligible for Adobe's Digital Publishing Awards, gah! — but I LOVE HOW the InDesign team just keeps at it anyway, like a dog with a bone, investing time, money, and precious programming resources into making InDesign the premiere layout program for the print AND digital book publishing industry.
InDesign CC, due out with the rest of its Creative Cloud kin in a couple weeks, has so many new and improved EPUB features that they've written up a 20-page PDF detailing it all. If you didn't happen to make it to BookExpo America a few days ago, where it was distributed to the attendees of the InDesign team's sessions, you can download it here: EPUB Changes CS6 to CC.
Major new EPUB features in InDesign CC include:
- Indexes that you create with InDesign are now exported to EPUB along with the rest of the text, and best of all, they are linked! Users can tap the entry's page number to jump to the paragraph where it appears.
- EPUB-specific attributes (basically the contents of the Object Export Options dialog box), have been added to the Object Styles dialog box, making it much easier to apply and manage settings like custom rasterization, alt tags, and positioning.
- Object styles can be mapped to HTML tags and CSS classes, just as paragraph and character styles have been able to do
- Embedded fonts now actually work, that is, you can see them, in iBooks (it wasn't your imagination that you could see your custom fonts in other eReaders, just not iBooks) because, per the PDF, "we have figured out why [...] and we?ve made a change (obfuscate before compress) which allows this to now work on iBooks Reader."
- Many internal fixes to CSS and HTML code, detailed in the PDF, result in far fewer reasons to ever have to crack open an EPUB and edit its markup manually. More often than not, you can go straight from InDesign to EPUB to the iBookstore and beyond.
A lot of the work that went into CC's (and earlier) new EPUB features were the result of the InDesign team being incredibly proactive and reaching out to the eBook community for extensive face-to-face meetings about what needed to be fixed with InDesign's output and what features could be added. In fact, for the past few PEPCON's (our Print + ePublishing Conference), we've helped set up closed-door,sessions with Adobe's InDesign team and attendees who create eBooks for a living, for 2- or 3-hour NDA sessions on what users saw as the "EPUB pain points" and how InDesign could eliminate those.
These discussions continue online, in an ongoing conversation by forum and email, with the team posing scenarios and asking for feedback, then reporting on the feedback and fine-tuning the scenarios. It's quite astonishing, and refreshing, for me as a jaded software user, to see a company take user's opinions so seriously. The middleman is gone, for this group. And the PDF of the new EPUB features in CC shows the results so far.
Douglas Waterfall, senior InDesign engineer, has been the flag bearer for the team's EPUB efforts, with the full support of Chris Kitchener (senior product manager) and many other dedicated InDesign managers and programmers. Douglas wrote the PDF I linked to above, and gave me permission to post this picture too:
This is the bulletin board in Douglas's office at Adobe. It shows all of the notes he took during PePcon meetings and with his staff about EPUB and InDesign. I was impressed with how neat it was! ;-D And impressed too at the visual proof of their single-minded dedication to making eBook development easier and better with every new version.