Seems like just yesterday I was super excited about the future of Fixed Layout EPUB. Looking back, though, it was more than three years ago, so in that sense, the future is now.
Truth be told, I’m still excited about it—the interactive features and the user experience is terrific—but when I wrote my original article in 2014, I expected things to get better over time and unfortunately, they haven’t. In fact, in one very important way, they’ve gotten worse.
What’s got me down?
If you know anything about EPUB (and if you’re still reading I’ll go out on a limb and assume you do), you know that the quality of the user experience, especially when it comes to fixed layout, is highly dependent upon the reader application. Back in 2014 when Adobe first added interactive Fixed Layout capabilities to InDesign, my go-to EPUB reader on Windows was Readium and on Mac and iOS, iBooks was the best choice. Android to the best of my knowledge has never been overly friendly for Fixed Layout EPUB. The bonus for iBooks was it was pre-installed on every Mac, iPad and iPhone.
iBooks on iOS and MacOS are still terrific. They render everything beautifully and honor all of the animations that are supported in InDesign. Readium on the other hand has gone straight to hell. It doesn’t work at all, anymore. Why? Ask the developers because I don’t know. But, that really shouldn’t matter. You see, Adobe has its own reader for EPUBs – Adobe Digital Editions (ADE). It’s available on all platforms. Since Adobe is creating the output and developing the reader, everything should be fine, right? Well, yeah…it should be.
Bad news; it’s not.
To be perfectly blunt, Fixed Layout EPUB pretty much sucks on Windows and Android—not because of something inherently wrong with the format (though, there are purists that will tell you it’s an abomination) but because there’s no reliable reader application for it. While I don’t normally put a tremendous amount of weight into user reviews, it’s really hard to ignore the number of one-star Google Play reviews for ADE. On Windows, it’s not much better. Let’s take a quick look at what I’m referring to.