After a couple of years working with Open Access publishing it has become apparent that many online journals are still based on a print-centric publication model. It is easy to establish an e-journal using a traditional print workflow in an academic environment, because most researchers use a word processor as their major work tool. Many know a bit about copy-editing from their contact with scholarly journals, and current word processors can save documents as PDF files. That is why PDF is the standard format used in the Open Access journals appearing outside the professional publishing industry.
We decided to establish a project with the goal of creating a new workflow for the journals using EPUB as the main publication format. The project succeeded, and our aim is to share experiences and guide others planning to do the same.
Why not PDF?
Universal design and accessibility
As early as in 1996, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) established the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI). WAI has made technical guidelines for accessibility for all, e.g. to web content Why EPUB?
EPUB solves both of the problems mentioned above. EPUB is a reflow-able format. This means that the text will always fit the screen without the need for horizontal scrolling. The user can increase and decrease the font size without any changes in page width. This accessibility quality has always been a design goal of the W3C web standards. EPUB is based on web standards and inherits these qualities.
Additionally, EPUB is an open standard maintained by the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF). On the other hand, Amazon’s file format AZW/MOBI is a proprietary format. Amazon Kindle devices cannot read EPUB files directly, but free tools like Calibre can easily convert an EPUB file to the native Amazon Kindle format.
EPUB has other advantages as well. The current version, EPUB 3 from October 2011, is based on a subset of HTML5 and CSS3, making it more suitable for multimedia content than earlier versions. At present, few reading devices and applications support EPUB 3.
EPUB 2 from 2007 is still the most widely used and supported version of the format and works well for most academic journals. That is why we will concentrate on EPUB 2 in this article.
The Norwegian standardization organization (Standards Norway) released a standard for electronic documents in 2013. These guidelines and standards are useful tools when establishing a new publication workflow and format for e-journals.
It is difficult to apply the WAI guidelines and make the e-journals fully accessible within the current workflow of e-journal publishing at HiOA. Some of the main requirements for universally designed e-journals that can be satisfied by the EPUB format are: