it's whether we can feasibly turn page pointers into links (the only way they're in any way effective in an ePub document), or have to pull them entirely with no links at all (entirely possible given the sheer volume of work involved in doing that work by hand).
I am sorry to pick on that, but that is a tool (usage) problem, not a format problem. If your software enables you to maintain links in a structured way (anchors/lables + references) chances are you can use that to create links easily. If your references are plain text, outlook is bleak.
I'm not sure what you're saying here but allow me to walk you through it. When we put together a print book or PDF, we have to manually insert page pointers at the very end (it's one of the more laborious and time-consuming parts of the process, honestly). This basically involves exporting the book in PDF and then searching for "XX" and manually replacing all of those instances with pages from the finished book. We have yet to find a faster method of doing this that's reliable (just as we don't use InDesign's native indexing feature, as none of you would appreciate the results - we certainly don't).
to be much worse in ePub exports, as once you're done with those manual replacements - which again, have to be done regardless - you have to hand-code HTML hyperlinks links for each one of them, using whatever arcane pointer structure is used on the ePub back end to signify each section in question. As far as we can tell, there's no practical way to set files up for automatic linking, though we're still doing the research (or rather, our graphic designer is - we're still waiting for his findings).
I'm glad someone else brought this up, as it's been a nagging question on my end as well. I have to admit, I don't own a tablet and probably won't for some time (I like PDFs and physical books just fine, and don't see the need to "upgrade" outside knowing what's going on with our ePub products), so my knowledge of the platform and its various formats is limited to what I'm told and shown by others. I've had it in my brain for some time that once we figure out whether we can even manage links on a small scale, we need to ask the very basic question: is there a "back" button of some kind on these machines and/or with these programs. Because not having one makes pointers kinda... pointless IMO.
Do you have any links speaking to it possibly emerging as a format leader or otherwise helping on the output front?
The former is clearly a matter of opinion. If you look at the companies
who support the standard, though, it becomes clear that EPUB is
the standard already. Amazon seems to be the only big player holding out (to a fault, imho). You can buy EPUB from many distributers already, including B&N and Kobo. Technical books are another issue, though. Former versions of EPUB where not equipped for those so people stayed at PDF. We will see what ongoing adaption of EPUB3 changes there. Picture-heavy books will probably never be a good idea on ereaders (regardless of the format).
This is roughly what we've found as well, and it's why we're focusing on ePub outputs right now, with Kindle being a distant and far less going concern. That said, we're struggling with even picture-light products like the Mistborn Adventure Game, so it's a safe bet you won't see ePub versions of any of our other lines anytime soon - at least not unless a market leader crops up that makes it viable, which at present looks highly unlikely.
People jump on that multimedia stuff, true. I don't think that is a useful perspective, in particular because today's readers probably can't handle the load. But then, technology is moving onwards quickly. More important is that EPUB3 specifies HTML5 and CSS3 as used formats; clearly, not all mistakes from HTML are to be repeated. Those two, especially CSS3, are supposed to make formatting good ebooks easier. For detailed questions and advice, I suggest you head to the official EPUB forums and ask the experts.
We've already pointed our guy there, and hopefully it'll wind up yielding some useful data.
Again, EPUB adaption seems to be a tool issue. Good tools are only now emerging, and authors/editors/publishers are bitten in the ass by bad decision-making earlier: hardcoding semantics to fit individual formats (e.g. print, PDF) is a bad idea. There are tools that allow you maintain one source for many targets (e.g. LaTeX, Markdown), allowing to create either format in no time, but those have other restrictions. Normal fiction authors should certainly have no problem writing their stuff in say Markdown (easy, plain text, free) so they have no barrier to any format. Illustration/format heavy documents are certainly harder to get right, but why not drop some demands there and exploit the format-specific advantages? The book does not have to look the same in every format, it has to be useful in every format.
For instance (as I said) give me the main text with a good table of contents and maybe index (should be superfluous with fulltext search) as alternative for easy use at the game table and I may get more value (compared to book and PDF). If you try to emulate the PDF to the last pixel, the end result will probably not solve any problem I have with the book or PDF.
This works well enough for you, but the RPG market speaks to very different standards. The demand for premium production values is higher here than in most other parts of the publishing world, and books built for utility above and beyond appearance (function over form) are judged pretty harshly.
There's also the fact that virtually every graphically oriented creative - and by that I mean virtually every professional graphic designer and illustrator - has long-since adopted Adobe's Creative Suite as the exclusive market standard, and you've got a recipe that doesn't afford ingredients like LaTeX or Markdown. You switch to unconventional software and suddenly no one out there can
work with you, even if they want to. Production and market standards may seem draconian and limiting form the outside, but they serve a very important purpose: they let creatives speak to each other quickly and (relatively) easily, which on the business end is a requirement to keep things moving.
Now if Adobe could just let folks backsave by perhaps one more iteration, we'd have that particular problem solved, or at least mostly managed. So it goes...