ePub WordPress plugin released today

The Beyond the PDF workshop took place a little over a week ago. One take-home message for me was that ePub is a very interesting document format for scholarly publishing and has several advantages over PDF. The workshop had a wonderful spirit to do something, and in this spirit I wrote a WordPress plugin that automatically creates ePub files from blog posts. The plugin was released today, and can be installed directly from your WordPress installation. A sample ePub can be downloaded from this blog post, using the link at the bottom.

Wordpress as ePub

The workshop example paper from PLoS Comp Biol, as seen on the iPad.

This is version 1.0 of the plugin, and there a still number of small bugs, mainly because ePub is a complex format. A big problem is page breaks, and widows and orphans can currently only be avoided by workarounds. You can also see in the screenshot that the shortcode wasn’t parsed for the ePub.

But these are minor issues that can be solved in the coming weeks. More interesting for version 1.1 is the inclusion of attachments (other than images) in the ePub. I have to do some more thinking on how to do this, especially how to handle all the possible mime types.

I like reading science blogs in ePub format, using either Adobe Digital Editions on the Mac or iBooks on iPad and iPhone. This works particularly well for longer posts, e.g. those lovely posts from my science writer colleagues here on PLoS Blogs. If you have access to WordPress, then this plugin is one of the easiest ways to produce content in ePub format.

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22 Responses to ePub WordPress plugin released today

  1. Mark says:

    Its brilliant, that such big steps can be made with some (relatively) simple coding. Fantastic work.

  2. Mark, this is one reason I like WordPress so much. I’m not a PHP programmer or WordPress expert, but I started work on this plugin only last Saturday.

  3. Mark says:

    All Science 3.0 blog posts will now be downloadable as epubs. Do you have any working space for developing the publishing site? I’ve been playing around with lots of plugins on S3.0 but my main problem is allowing multiple users access to the backend to their individual posts. Have you started anything yet?

  4. Mark, thanks. Let me know how the ePubs at Science 3.0 turn out. I can give you access to my development site, watch your email inbox.

  5. Chris Rusbridge says:

    Martin, prompted by this I downloaded Adobe Digital Editions (not having an iPad etc). I know this wasn’t the point of your post, but as a tool it seems pretty rubbish :-(. For reading science literature, I’d like something much better, that can load papers in situ into my web browser (including Safari), and preferably even allow me to “Save as” (or perhaps “Export as”) ePub. I’m not sure if anything like that is on the horizon, though I do hope so. Anyway, thanks for taking steps towards more useful ePub!

  6. Chris, ePubs look much nicer on an iPad, holding a paper in your hands makes a huge difference in usability. And Safari on the iPad/iPhone automatically detects the ePub and opens the iBooks reader. I have looked at several ePub readers for the Mac, including Stanza and Calibre, and there is also a Firefox plugin. I agree that they could be better. Something I would like to see (but probably still early) is ePub support in reference managers.

  7. ePub Export works great, but it doesn’t work with NextGEN Gallery: images aren’t displayed – only the code. Great plugin!

  8. Martin Fenner says:

    Thanks Emanuel. I did a small update (to version 1.0.1) to fix this and another problem.

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  10. KerstinH says:

    Hi Martin,
    this is an excellent tool! Thanks for putting it together! I didn’t know much about ePub before your post, but I will definitely try it and play around with it a bit more.

  11. Nico says:

    That’s really nifty, I really could see something like that incorporated into a reference manager. Don’t forget that ePub was originally designed for books, it would make sense for reference managers to support it. But then I would say that since the journal that starts with N is using it for iPhone/iPad, and hopefully to everyone soon!
    Like Chris I am not a fan of Adobe Digital Editions, it has all the feature I don’t like in software: bloated, not intuitive, locked down and closed source! I went so far as printing a paper I had in this format and scanning/OCRing it to normal PDF to add it to my library…

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  13. Martin Fenner says:

    Kerstin, I haven’t tried my ePub tool with video yet, but that is certainly a feature I want to explore.

    Nico, there is not only your favourite weekly professional science journal beginning with N (as Henry Gee likes to call it), but Hindawi journals have been available in ePub format for some time. I’m also still looking for the best ePub reader for my Mac. Sigil and Jutoh are ePub editors, haven’t tried them for reading yet.

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  20. Hi Martin!!

    I’m a brazilian and you plugin is the best…

    Well, i have a problem in my plugin.

    I install and i make a link and e-pub archive for download, but when i send a post a receive this error msg:

    “Warning: imagepng() [function.imagepng]: Unable to open ‘cover_with_text.png’ for writing: Permission denied in /var/www/domains/hallais.com.br/docs/wp-content/plugins/epub-export/epub/EPub.php on line 163

    Warning: file_get_contents(cover_with_text.png) [function.file-get-contents]: failed to open stream: No such file or directory in /var/www/domains/hallais.com.br/docs/wp-content/plugins/epub-export/epub/EPub.php on line 164

    Warning: Cannot modify header information – headers already sent by (output started at /var/www/domains/hallais.com.br/docs/wp-content/plugins/epub-export/epub/EPub.php:163) in /var/www/domains/hallais.com.br/docs/wp-includes/pluggable.php on line 897″

    Plugin create a epub but without cover images…

    Any tips for solve this problem?

  21. Martin Fenner says:

    Marcelo,

    your problem is related to write permissions on your server. It looks as if your web server can’t write to the ePub export directory. This step is needed to create a cover image with the title of your post.

  22. Simon Chen says:

    Martin,

    Great plugin–and I am all your fan from now on….(Facebook n Twitter are blocked in China, otherwise I may have better way to follow your posts.)

    From Beijing