Three JavaScript ePub Readers

by Keith Fahlgren

The last few weeks have seen a tremendous increase in interest about ePub. Many new blog posts have been written trying to explain the format. We’ve also seen a big jump in the number of publishers coming to Threepress for help with tricky ePub problems or just asking for guidance about the format. While I’d like to pretend that the growth is due, in part, to a long-anticipated awareness about the benefits of open standards among consumers, publishers, and suppliers, I think it’s more likely that it was Steve Jobs’ explicit mention of ePub support in iBooks on the iPad that drove most of the excitement. What makes me most excited about this groundswell is the sudden interest in ePub from a number of clever developers.

Just in the last few days, details emerged of two new JavaScript ePub readers, rePublish from Blaine Cook (@blaine) and JSEpub (screenshot) from August Lilleaas (@augustl). These two new readers join @liza’s epubjs, which will be a year old on Tuesday. An improved version of epubjs powers the ePub Zen Garden, which helps “dispel the myth that digital books can’t also be crafted works of visual design.”

Why are JavaScript ePub readers interesting? They’re interesting to me for three reasons:

  • JavaScript is the most popular programming language in the world and it might be the best way to get more developers interested in creating and tweaking ePub readers.
  • JavaScript ePub readers start challenging publishers, developers, and book readers to start thinking about what’s most important in delivering a compelling reading experience in a browser. We’ve spent a lot of time thinking about these choices while developing Ibis Reader, which will launch later this month, so I’m eager to see more opinions.
  • Building a pure-JavaScript ePub reader requires unzipping in JavaScript, which had no open source implementations until just recently. August has written about and open sourced his critical breakthrough for unzipping files in JavaScript. [Edit: Oops! I was wrong about this one. See the comments for more details.]

Colin Hazlehurst has also published some impressive introductions, tutorials, and code for the .NET/C# crowd at his InsideEpub project and on his blog.

Do you know of other techies making waves with ePub? Please let us know!

(And if you’re one of those publishers who is looking for help, contact us.)