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White House uses ebook formats

The Economic Report of the President is available from the White House web site in 3 formats: PDF, Kindle, and the open ePub format which Barnes & Noble’s Nook, Sony’s Reader, and other ebook-reader-software can use. The epub format, being an open, non-proprietary standard is, potentially, much easier to preserve for the long-term than proprietary formats like Kindle and PDF.

I looked at the Kindle version, the ePub version using the Stanza application on a Macintosh laptop and on an iPhone, and the PDF version on my laptop. The PDF looks the way the printed book looks with accurate page formatting and layout. The ePub and Kindle formatting is not perfect, but is readable. Table of Contents links did not work at all in Stanza, but did on the Kindle — including links to individual statistical tables in the appendix. The PDF version has a navigation sidebar for the chapters, but not for the statistical tables within the appendix.

Statistical tables are complete and accurately formatted in the epub and Kindle versions. They are tiny on the iPhone, but re-sizable, so the tables are readable. I doubt many people will want to read those tables on their phones, however. On the Kindle, the statistical tables are not resizable and I found them very hard to read, even when I rotated them to “landscape” orientation. The tables did not appear at all in the Stanza app on the Macintosh.

This is a welcome first step for making digital government information more widely available. The digital publishing community needs to do more work on the open ePub format to handle formatting and links better and the hardware and software manufacturers need to work toward better usability. After working recently to produce a book in Kindle, epub, and PDF formats, I know that publishers (including whoever formatted these for ebook readers [GPO?]) can do a better job even now with what they have. But, this is a good first step.

See also: White House embraces e-book readers, By Nate Anderson, ars technica (February 15, 2010).

CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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