Thursday, 6 May 2010


Some years ago, I wrote and published a book called "Roots Of Elvis." It was based on the information I present in my Elvis Presley The Originals site. The problem with a paper book is that it is difficult to keep the information contained therein up to date. In the several years since the book came out, the information on the site has been modified and added to. Even now, the quest for original versions of numbers later recorded by Elvis Presley turns up an occasional earlier version or even a brand new title, though this is becoming very infrequent. Still, my thoughts turned to a way in which I could present the information in such a way that it could be kept up to date, following the updates made to the site, yet without requiring an Internet connection to peruse the data.

My first idea was to write an iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad app, but this was a tad limiting and also required more effort on my behalf than my over forty years in computing could muster. Twenty years ago, I would probably have jumped to the challenge, but it all seems a bit much nowadays. Then I saw an electronic book (ebook) in a format called epub. I realised that this offered a number of advantages: I already had the basic book layout, for it was much the same as the Elvis Presley, The Originals site layout, which is specified in CSS; the epub format allowed internal links, allowing at least some user navigation; I guessed that the intellectual effort required to produce an epub ebook was less that that required to write an app.

After some Web searching and examining of existing epubs, I was ready to try my hand, so created some fixed files, as required by epub, and set up some others with variable holders. The latter were filled in, using the same script I use to generate the website from locally stored data (all done with the free revMedia application); the script was extended to produce the data required for the epub format: manifest, list of chapters, tocs, navmap, etc., as well as the individual chapters of the book in separate .xml files.

It all went relatively smoothly and revMedia also allowed me to use a couple of Unix shell commands in order to compress the numerous files into the epub format single file holder.

So now, each time I make a modification tot he contents of my Elvis Presley, The Originals website, I also generate a new version of its accompanying book, Roots Of Elvis, in epub format.

The epub version of Roots of Elvis can be downloaded for free from here.

Here are some sites that I found useful during my research of the epub format:
Epub Format Construction Guide;
An Epub Tutorial;
Dossier epub;
ePub Zen Garden;
Validate ePub documents.

Just one point, though: the otherwise very good An Epub Tutorial above provides a set of Unix commands to generate the compressed epub file that do not work in all cases. Instead of these, use the following:
zip -q0X yourfilename.epub mimetype
zip -qXr9D yourfilename.epub *

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