Converting e-Books to Open Formats
Listing 2. OPF is an XML-based format for book attributes.
<dc:Title>A Midsummer-Night's Dream</dc:Title> <dc:Creator role="aut" file-as="Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616"> William Shakespeare, 1564-1616 </dc:Creator> <dc:Description>fiction, poetry</dc:Description>
The practical consequence of this is Convert Lit could be useful even if you wanted to leave all of your collection in a proprietary format. You still could run the program on all your .lit e-books and delete everything but the .opf files. Then, any quick script or full-blown XML parsing utility could scan them and index everything into the database of your choice.
Convert Lit also removes digital rights management (DRM) infections from e-book files using the older DRM1 version. And if you have Microsoft Reader e-books, you likely have a Microsoft Windows system and a licensed copy of Microsoft Reader. According to the Convert Lit Web site, you can build and run Convert Lit on Windows to first convert new DRM5 e-books to DRM1, using the Windows DRM library.
In general, we have discussed only command-line processing in this article. If, however, you have a whole collection of e-books in different formats, you can convert them all at one time with a simple shell script. As we already have shown, once the text is in ASCII or HTML format, the sky is the limit. You can add one or two lines to the loop to index with glimpse or ht::dig, print everything in one single PostScript book and much more.
A solution for putting e-books, at least the ones you will be able to get in the near future, into an open format is in the works. It is the Open eBook Publication Structure (OEBPS). Its goal is to provide an XML-based specification, based on existing open standards, for providing content to multiple e-book platforms. OEBPS, which has reached version 1.2, is maintained by the Open eBook Forum, a group of over 85 organizations—hardware and software companies, publishers, authors and users—involved in electronic publishing. OEBPS itself does not directly address DRM. However, an OeBF Rights and Rules Working Group is studying these issues “to provide the electronic publishing community with a consistent and mutually supporting set of specifications”. Time will tell what will come from this.
In any case, the open standards on which OEBPS is built already are well established. Besides XML, Unicode, XHTML and selected parts of the CSS1 and CSS2 specifications are represented. Unicode is a family of encodings that enables computers to handle without ambiguity tens of thousands of characters. XHTML is the reformulation of HTML 4 as XML. In a nutshell, OEBPS could be described as nothing more than an e-book optimized extension of XHTML—something that won't go away when some company goes out of business. Graphics can be in PNG or JPEG formats. Metadata, including author, title, ISBN and so on, will be managed through the Dublin Core vocabulary.
OEBPS has the potential to preserve all your e-books and make sure that the ones you download or buy will not vanish if any hardware or software company goes the way of the dodo. However, DRM schemes applied on top of these “open” e-books still could lock your content in to one vendor. As long as you can obtain OEBPS e-books without DRM, OEBPS is the best way to guarantee that even if all current e-book hardware disappeared, your collection would remain usable.
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Marco Fioretti is a hardware systems engineer interested in free software both as an EDA platform and, as the current leader of the RULE Project, as an efficient desktop. Marco lives with his family in Rome, Italy.
Articles about Digital Rights and more at http://stop.zona-m.net CV, talks and bio at http://mfioretti.com
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