Monday, September 27, 2010

iBooks Local Language support

Why is it that all the eBook bookstores only have English books, and how long before we would see books in local languages? There is quite an opportunity there, for local language publishers.

Well, the good thing is that the epub format used on an iPad has good support for utf-8, so its quite possible to create books in Hindi/Urdu, and read them on iPad. However, the rendering of an Urdu book I created as a Proof of Concept was too slow to be of any use, and while the ePub format supports RTL (Right to Left languages), iBooks doesn't.

Without RTL support, Arabic/Urdu/Hebrew books are ruled out on iPad. Hopefully iOS4.0 would change this. As far as the rendering goes, I had all the content in a single file, so I suppose breaking it down into multiple files might have helped.

If anyone is interested, I used an online service to generate the epub from an html (although Calibre will work equally well). Then I expanded the generated epub file using zip, and edited a few things (including the RTL styling for text, so pages are turned from left to right), and compressed it back to ePub. It didn't work, but at the end of the day, its good to know ePub is only a zip file compressed with a few special options.


Anonymous said...

Hi Kacim; I am working on the same topic right now. Generating ebooks in arabic for the ipad. Any information and experience we could share would be great. I am trying the exact same thing on the files themselves, I mean working on the CSS and HTML side of the books. I think the best solution would be to work on the reader itself and add couple functionality to it, it should not be that hard to get it to switch reading direction from LTR to RTL. With the help of Apple of course. Just let me know how we can work together and hopefully a lot of people will join in the effort.

Anonymous said...

Sorry I think I mispelled your first name, it is Qasim and not Kacim. I used the Tunisian spelling. Sorry.

Qasim Zaidi said...

Nice to know this post was relevant to you. The first thing I want to try one of these days is to see if the iBooks support has improved after the latest software update. Apple released iOS 4.2 with a lot more languages supported (including Hebrew and Arabic), and also updated the iBooks program, so there may be some hope.

If iBooks doesn't work, we could always experiment with other readers. I will post an update once I get to repeat this experiment with iOS4.2, and look forward to collaborating on this.

Unknown said...

I can see your post dates back to 2010 but I'm just wondering if you worked on this stuff recently. I would like to exchange notes in this regard (support for RTL languages and urdu books) and see if we can take a bit further.