Shopping for an ebook reader? Watching the changing textbook market? One term you might see in the media is “EPUB". This unfamiliar term could be essential for making informed consumer choices. eBooks have been following a path similar to the history of digital music. Since the 1970s, Project Gutenberg has been digitizing classic texts into plain text(or txt), which can be read on literally any device. Some companies have created their own formats over the years, which usually work with one device or app. Some people bought many ebooks to read on their Palm Pilot in the 1990s, and are now unable to read them on their new ebook readers or tablets.
In 2007, a new format was introduced to make a standard type of file that would be readable by many devices and apps. This format is EPUB(for electronic publication). EPUB is designed to work with many devices, and the standard is open for any programmer to refer to. The pages re-scale to fit the size of any screen. EPUB can be used with or without licensing lock-down, so can be used for both paid and free documents. Like your music files, they contain information on the author, date, cover art, etc. This is the most compatible format to date, and should be an important consideration.
Considerations for Educators
If you buy an ebook in Kindle or other proprietary format now, will you still be able to read your book in 5-10 years when some other device is popular? If your school, class, or program adopts an ebook format that is only available on one device, will all students be able to afford that device? Perhaps a format that can be used on many different devices is more appropriate.
Do you, your program, department, or college, ever develop your own classroom materials? Industry standard authoring apps, such as Adobe InDesign, already support EPUB. There are also Open Source authoring options available for free. If you would like to create your own student handbook, workbook, field guide, or other materials in a format students can read on most ebook readers and apps, these software applications will help you get started: