Next steps for ox-epub

About ox-epub

I'm the author of ox-epub an org mode extension that let's you export your org files in EPUB format. This allows you to easily get your notes or plans onto a Kindle or other ebook device. Documents formatted with org-epub display well on limited capability devices like phones and e-readers.

This week I'm preparing ox-epub version 0.3.0. This version will come with baked in support for mathematical formulae. On the project side, this version also now includes a basic CI pipeline using Travis CI. The documentation has been expanded to include actual sample code, besides the reference-oriented README file.

ox-epub is a niche mode, there were a total of 48 downloads on MELPA during the 8 month lifetime of the project. But reception on Github was more welcome, all counted, it received 25 stars and has already two other contributors, besides me. Every few weeks or so, somebody pops in to report an issue or request help.

So what are the next steps for ox-epub?

Parity with ox-html

One of the earlier issues ox-epub faced was the bulging feature set of ox-html. Fortunately most of these translate well into the epub format. It was necessary to adapt ox-epub for image export, formula export and linking.

In this category, most of the time will be spent on reviewing ox-html and writing test/sample code to verify that those features actually work with ox-epub and translate well into the EPUB format.

This point will take up most of the time. This should be time well invested. Future-proofing ox-epub and enabling people to use the features they expect to be there.

Better ebooks

ox-epub already supports title pages with custom images, as well as custom stylesheets for your books. It also has support for setting the most common metadata defined in the EPUB specification

There's also baked in support for automatically generating the table of contents. The outline is directly taken from the headings of your org document. This table of contents is then specially treated by an ebook reader and presented out of band to the user, to facilitate document navigation.

Some options for the future are:

  • Fine grained table of contens inclusion
  • Support for footnotes
  • Preview function from C-c C-e menu

Nowadays the EPUB 3 specification has been out for some time, adoption however remains laggard. In essence we're limited to create EPUB 2 books. These however will convert well into MOBI or any other format that you could imagine, because of their limited functionality.

I've mixed feelings about EPUB 3. While it allows to use JavaScript and HTML in a more convenient way, I don't see these as essential elements of the EPUB experience. For me an EPUB is basically about getting electronic text into a form that I can easily digest in longer sessions. Something that seems elusive, when sitting in front of a Laptop.

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