Liza Daly, VP Engineering, Safari Books Online
Adapted with permission from EPUB 3 Best Practices (O`Reilly Media)
Why you would want a book to be interactive? For many readers, a book’s immutability is a feature rather than a bug. A print book does not demand anything from the user but their full attention. It does not entice the reader to click, to comment, to share, or to tweet. It promises total immersion in the text, a direct conduit to the author’s thoughts.
Yet there are many cases where the static nature of the traditional book is perhaps an artifact of print technology rather than the canonical best form for the content. Books that aim to teach complex, real-world subjects could benefit from the opportunity for readers to engage with the material. New forms of storytelling can encourage readers to choose new paths, or let the reader dig deeply into the narrative, uncovering hidden motivations through careful discovery. Books packaged with their primary source material could be rich scholarly resources, allowing researchers to independently verify assertions or build follow-on experiments out of raw data. Far from being a de facto distraction, interactive publications have only begun to be explored.
EPUB 3 provides the capability to do all of the above, but author beware: interactivity remains at the vanguard of ebook support. The more the publication deviates from a traditional book, the less likely it is to be fully crossplatform. Many EPUB 3 reading systems will never support interactivity, and the standard is not specific about how conditional or partial support should be best implemented. Careful testing is required.