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Digital publications with Epub 3.0, Fixed Layout Epub (FXL)

Digital publications with Epub 3.0, Fixed Layout Epub (FXL)


Thursday, February 5, 2015 - 14:15

Fixed Layout Epub is a new method for digital publishing. In October 2014, an update for Adobe InDesign CC included the addition of an export option to provide the previously flexible flowing ePubs (e-books) with a beautiful, fixed layout, while searchability remains. According to insiders, this will have roughly the same impact as the origin of the PDF format once had.

Because the Single Edition license of the Adobe DPS System will stop mid-2015, the rise of FXL is a welcome addition to the spectrum of digital publications. Like DPS, FXL uses all layout capabilities of InDesign with additional opportunities to place animations that are based on HTML5, JavaScript and CSS3. In theory, the animation/interactivity capabilities from InDesign can be used. In practice, however, a number of obstacles appear.

The Epub 3.0 format in itself is not new. The format dates back to 2011. What is new is the support for the FXL format. This format makes greater use of the possibilities offered by Epub 3.0 (update 3.0.1). The format still has some growing pains, which is mainly due to the lag of e-readers/tablets.

Some readers are up-to-date, such as iBooks (iOs) en Readium (Chrome plugin). Unfortunately, there is no broad support for the format, mainly because of market competition (Kindle, Android, iOS). This resembles a syndrome which web developers often encounter: browser development often runs a little behind technology. In this case, however, there is a lot of hardware that cannot be updated just like that.

Fixed Layout Epub seems a promising format for digital publications. It is easy to use and suitable for many purposes, such as replacing interactive PDFs on websites. As with many new technologies, it will probably take some time until support for FXL is broad enough to be considered the norm.