This page sketches out why and how AxAp might provide access to EPUB documents.


There are several reasons why we're focusing on the EPUB format at this (very early) stage in AxAp's development:

  • It can be converted from other formats.
  • It has "best practices" for accessibility.
  • It is a flexible and popular e-book format.
  • It is an open, public, supported standard.
  • It is based on modern web technologies.
  • It prepares AxAp for handling web sites.
  • It serves as a public HTML "laboratory".

Of course, there are dozens of ways to read EPUB documents, including mobile computing devices (e.g., mobile phones, specialized e-readers) and software for personal computers. (See our Readers page for more information.) However, many of these options turn out to be inappropriate or inconvenient for blind or visually-impaired users.

And, because AxAp is a small project with a strong emphasis on accessibility, we may be able to try out some features "ahead of the pack". For example, we expect to add:

  • column-based sorting of tables
  • display options for plain text
  • HTML tags and WAI-ARIA attributes
  • navigation improvements (e.g., links)

In any case, we should be able to provide a (minimal) EPUB reading facility that leverages the user's favorite tools (e.g., braille display, browser, screen reader). Please note, however, that we aren't trying to replace the existing EPUB readers: they handle a lot of things that AxAp never will!


An EPUB file is basically a "web site in a can". Specifically, it's a renamed ZIP archive, containing a variety of web-related assets (e.g., CSS, HTML) and some associated metadata. For a gentle introduction, see Matt Garrish's excellent publications, published by O'Reilly:

For the nitty-gritty details, see the IDPF standards documents, e.g.:

We are currently analyzing some example EPUB documents we have on hand, attempting to discover issues that we'll need to address. For more information, see our Examples pages.


Here's a simplified guess at an approach:

  • obtain an EPUB document
  • import it, if necessary
  • provide it to a browser

See our Importing page for details on the "import" step and our Known Issues page for issues we expect to address.


The following diagram shows the expected usage for the EPUB subsystem. First, the user navigates from main AxAp home page to the "Get EPUB" page. After retrieving (or simply selecting) the desired EPUB document, she is taken to the "Show EPUB" page. She then has several options:

  • Meta - metadata, harvested from the document
  • Show Page - first page of the document
  • TOC 2 - EPUB 2 table of contents (from NCX file)
  • TOC 2a - EPUB 2 table of contents (augmented)
  • TOC 3 - EPUB 3 table of contents (from Nav file)
  • TOC 3a - EPUB 3 table of contents (augmented)

To be continued...

This wiki page is maintained by Rich Morin, an independent consultant specializing in software design, development, and documentation. Please feel free to email comments, inquiries, suggestions, etc!

Topic revision: r27 - 31 Oct 2016, RichMorin
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