I wrote last week about Simon and Schuster's new “enhanced” edition of Rick Perlstein’s Nixonland, with vintage videos, that had made it into Apple's iBookstore, despite not being able to pass EpubCheck 1.0.5, one of Apple's stipulated requirements for inclusion.
There are a couple of reasons why this is so significant. First of all, it implies that Apple has no interest in supporting XHTML 1.1's
objectelement, which is an existing way of embedding video that would have passsed EpubCheck. I have experimented with many different permutations of the
objectelement with iBooks with no luck at all. It not only doesn't show video, it doesn't fall back to the alternate content. Bascially iBooks doesn't seem to support
Third, it's interesting to note that Nixonland uses .m4v videos, and that those videos are properly declared in the content.opf file as video/mpeg4. I recommend the rest of us do the same.
Fourth, there is no sign of audio in the Nixonland sample files, Apple says, "This book is enhanced with content such as audio or video..." but actually it turns out to be all video. I think that's because HTML5's audio element isn't yet fully baked (or supported). I can get audio to work, but it's buggy at best. (More on that soon.)
Fifth, the Nixonland sample contains four videos which all together contain eleven minutes and 15 seconds of video. The sample weighs in at 127Mb. The full book takes up 447 Mb. That's a pretty hefty file. Assuming the same quality, that means the full book has about 39 minutes and 34 seconds of video.
Finally, what I think Nixonland only begins to demonstrate is why we want video in a book anyway. I'm not a Nixon aficionado, so I can't begin to judge the usefulness and relevance of these videos given the surrounding text, but I'd be interested to hear what others think.
I've created a new, but still tiny example of a video enhanced ebook (with explanations) so you can pull it apart and look at the code, and also see why it might be a good idea to have videos in ebooks. There's a bit at the end with more explicit instructions. Even though it's tiny, with just 7 short videos, it still takes up 50 Mb! Note that the only errors that this book generated in EpubCheck are due to the use of the
videoelement; that is, exactly the same errors that Nixonland produces.