Safari Books Online has been delivering digital books on the Web for more than a decade now, beginning long before widespread commercial eBooks and the adoption of the EPUB eBook standard. While it’s always fun to be ahead of the curve, that also means a lot of Safari Books Online’s systems were built before reading on mobile phone and tablets was commonplace.
Now that the vast majority of new books are available in EPUB, we’ve made the decision to drop some legacy baggage when it comes to content delivery and rendering. Very soon a majority of books that come into Safari Books Online will come in only as EPUB. What does that mean for you?
- More of the books available in Safari Books Online will be in web-native, highly accessible, and mobile-friendly HTML.
- Performance will improve significantly for many titles when viewed on our iPad app (and our upcoming iPhone and Android apps, which are entering beta testing now).
- You’ll start seeing new titles in Safari Books Online much sooner, often before they’re available in any bookstore.
- As publishers begin deploying some of the great new capabilities available in EPUB 3, Safari Books Online will be one of the first reading systems to support many of them.
Making the transition to become a true EPUB reading system also lays some important foundations for us to build a new generation of features and products. Our acquisition earlier this year of EPUB pioneers Threepress (and their Ibis Reader) brought with it some of the strongest engineering talent around when it comes to building useful and beautiful reading experiences in the browser, and that’s already been a tremendous complement to our existing team and our technology partners. I am seriously excited about what’s ahead for Safari Books Online, and I can’t wait to share more of it with you in the months to come.
Making changes like this to a large-scale system serving tens of thousands of customers all over the world at any given time also presents some challenges — proverbially changing the tires while the car is moving. We’re doing our best to avoid sudden and significant changes to content that’s already in Safari Books Online.
Here’s some of the changes you’ll begin noticing in the weeks and months to come:
- New titles won’t include the option to toggle between viewing modes. New books will be available as either reflowable HTML or as PDF-derived “Print Fidelity”; the vast majority of new titles will come in as EPUB and be rendered as reflowable HTML. For the remaining titles that simply aren’t available as EPUB, we’ll continue to make them available using the Print Fidelity view while we keep an eye on how things develop around the “fixed-layout” variant of EPUB.
- Titles currently in Safari Books Online that offer both reading modes will continue that way for now; you’ll see the HTML version by default. This is a per-book user-specified preference, though, and if you’ve changed it we’ll honor that.
- Some existing books with Print Fidelity mode may eventually be replaced with the EPUB version. We know we need to take care not to disturb your notes, bookmarks, and other annotations, so we’re taking our time evaluating our options around making that transition.
We’ve been a web-centric reading and learning platform for more than a decade. Becoming an EPUB-centric and more mobile-web-friendly platform means we can begin moving faster to respond to our customer needs and to support the latest and greatest digital content from our publishers. We’re always eager to get your feedback, and on a personal note and with next week’s London Book Fair on my mind, I am, as the Brits say, rather “chuffed” about what’s to come!