Valid, but not accessible: crazy fixed EPUB layouts 04 Apr 2016

EpubCheck is an invaluable tool for assessing the quality of EPUB files. Still, it is possible that EPUBs that are valid according to the format specification (and thus EpubCheck) are nevertheless inaccessible to some users. Some weeks ago a colleague sent me an EPUB 2 file that produced some really strange behaviour across a number of viewer applications. For a start, the text wouldn’t reflow properly after re-sizing the viewer window, and increasing the font size resulted in garbled text. Running the file through EpubCheck did return some validation errors, but none of these were related to the behaviour I was getting. Closer inspection revealed some very peculiar stylesheet and HTML use.

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The future of EPUB? A first look at the EPUB 3.1 Editor’s draft 10 Mar 2016

About a month ago the International Digital Publishing Forum, the standards body behind the EPUB format, published an Editor’s Draft of EPUB 3.1. This is meant to be the successor of the current 3.0.1 version. IDPC has set up a community review, which allows interested parties to comment on the draft. The proposed changes relative to EPUB 3.0.1 are summarised in this document. A note at the top states (emphasis added by me):

The EPUB working group has opted for a radical change approach to the addition and deletion of features in the 3.1 revision to move the standard aggressively forward with the overarching goals of alignment with the Open Web Platform and simplification of the core specifications.

As Gary McGath pointed out earlier, this is a pretty bold statement for what is essentially a minor version. The authors of the draft also mention that they expect it “will provoke strong reactions both for and against”, and that changes that raise “strong negative reactions” from the community “will be reviewed for future drafts”.

This blog post is an attempt to identify the main implications of the current draft for libraries and archives: to what degree would the proposed changes affect (long-term) accessibility? Since the current draft is particularly notable for its aggressive removal of various existing EPUB features, I will focus on these. These observations are all based on the 30 January 2016 draft of the changes document.

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Jpylyzer 2015 round-up 08 Dec 2015

Yesterday (7 December) we released version 1.16.0 of the jpylyzer tool, which is this year’s third release of the software (excluding bugfix releases). This blog post gives a brief overview of the main jpylyzer improvements that have been implemented over this year.

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Preserving optical media from the command-line 13 Nov 2015

The KB has quite a large collection of offline optical media, such as CD-ROMs, DVDs and audio CDs. We’re currently investigating how to stabilise the contents of these materials using disk imaging. During the initial phase of this work I did a number of tests with various open-source tools. It’s doubtful whether we’ll end up using these same tools in our actual workflows. The main reason for this is the sheer size of the collection, which we estimated at some 15,000 physical carriers; possibly even more. At those volumes we will need a solution that involves the use of a disk robot, and these often require dedicated software (we still need to investigate this more in-depth).

Nevertheless, throughout the initial testing phase I was surprised at the number of useful tools that are available in the open source domain. Since this will probably be of interest to others as well, I decided to polish a selection from my rough working notes into a somewhat more digestible form (or so I hope!). I edited my original notes down to the following topics:

  • How to figure out the device path of the CD drive
  • How to create an ISO image from a CD-ROM or DVD
  • How to check the integrity of the created ISO image
  • How to extract audio from an audio CD

In addition there’s a final section that covers my attempts at imaging a multisession / mixed mode CD. The result of this particular exercise wasn’t all that successful, but I included it anyway, as some may find it useful. All software mentioned here are open-source tools that are available for any modern Linux distribution (I’m using Linux Mint myself). Some can be used under Windows as well using Cygwin.

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Response to report on JPEG 2000 expert round table 19 Oct 2015

Today my attention was caught by this report of an “Expert round table” on JPEG2000 and Digitisation, which was published on the TownsWeb Archiving blog. Although the report as a whole is quite balanced, it’s unfortunate that it provides fuel to some long-running myths about JPEG 2000 not supporting fully lossless compression. Since I wasn’t able to leave a comment on the Townweb blog itself, I turned my response into this small blog post.

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