Ebooks with enhanced features!

Today, e-Books represent a completely different category of content delivery, where usage experience takes center stage. The technology and tools used in the publishing industry has evolved to the extent where e-Book users are guaranteed of not just content in the e-Book, but a whole lot of other enhanced features that make the content come alive. 

e-Books are incorporated with enhanced features falling under three categories, or 3 i’s, which go a long way in making the content more interesting; informative; and interactive. 

What are the components/features that an e-Book can possibly incorporate to achieve these 3i’s? 

Multimedia (Audio/Video) content is the most common and prominent component that makes an e-book content more interesting and informative. There are a wide variety of multimedia file formats that can be used, depending on the platform on which the e-Books are finally delivered. For instance, audio, video or animation files can be embedded in PDF files using the Adobe Acrobat Pro program. The multimedia file formats supported by Adobe Acrobat Pro include those that are compliant to the H.264 MPEG-4 video compression standard. This includes most of the common file formats for multimedia content (.mp3, MOV, ASF, ASX, AVI, 3GPP, MP4, MPEG, MPG, QT, WMV, etc.) 

An enhanced feature prevalent typically in children’s e-Books is audio narration. Audio narration is made possible by embedding a voice file for each block of text indexed into logical blocks at the time of content composition process. 

Animations in e-Books are typically two-dimensional, cut-out animations, typically used in children’s e-Books. These can range from simple ones (animations restricted to a single page, simple movements like tilt/rotate along a predefined path), to highly complex ones (animation spanning multiple pages, animation that is synchronized with audio narration, or complex movements). The technical competence required on the part of the publisher to produce e-Books with animations is directly proportional to the complexity of the animation involved. 

Interactive Widgets are pre-coded controls that can give the reader a lot of flexibility in viewing content. Apple iBooksAuthor offers a widget gallery which can be used to create e-Books with interactive content. These widgets give readers the flexibility for readers to view 3D images, interactive galleries, or take up adaptive, ‘test-your-understanding’ type questions at the end of a chapter. Using iBooksAuthor, publishers can also program their own custom widgets using HTML, CSS and JavaScript codes. 

Contextually Relevant Content in an e-book can also enhance the reading experience. For instance, a literary classic from the past, when reproduced in an e-book version, could be enhanced by embedding content relevant to the subject matter. In such instances, the main content is viewed directly by the reader, whereas the contextually relevant content could be displayed upon reader action through a widget. 

From a technical standpoint, the possibilities of providing enhanced features in an e-book are endless. However, it remains a fact that the final choice of the extent of enhanced features is dependent on which platform the final content is to be delivered on. Compatibility across content platforms from Apple, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Sony, and others is yet to reach desired levels. The marketplace is evolving continuously, and a day is not far off where content can be delivered across all platforms seamlessly, thanks to standards like EPUB3 and HTML5.


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