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An Automated Software-Backed Process from XML to Rich, Enhanced EPUB 3

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Publishers, publishers’ service providers and training institutions all manage complex editorial workflows. When aiming at publishing content in both print and digital form, it is critical for all stakeholders to efficiently manage core data (text, images, links, …). An efficient data management either by storing data as XML in a content management system (CMS) or database is indispensable to ease up production requirements for multi-channels content distribution. Turning data into print is mostly handled by software products like InDesign. Yet when it comes to EPUB 3 production, there are only a few alternatives, which turn out to be quite basic and rough, mostly because styles, layout and other digital specifications have not been correctly approached in data transformation processes like XSLT, which perform well only with simple documents but show limitations when dealing with complex structures and layouts.

In order to address these limitations and enable automatic generation of complex layouts and structures, Publiwide has developed an innovative approach combining a flexible XML data model and a versatile software program driven by eBooks’ requirements: the eBook Publishing software, which integrates another key component to eBook production, the ability to map data content with a customized template that will set the styles, layout and interactive behaviors of any element of the eBook product. The advantage of this method is that the whole workflow is dedicated to publishing a valid EPUB 3 file which doesn’t inherit from attributes that were aimed at print or any other production. Further benefits include:

  • The content can be paginated on the fly and reviewed in a WYSIWYG interface.
  • XML files can be printed.
  • Multimedia, HTML 5 assets and special layouts can be handled via a simple editor.


This new offering consists in analyzing the structure of the source data, developing the bespoke data conversion (2-3 days), designing the template and related styles (2 days). The transformation, control of production, structure of the EPUB 3 and its enrichment are managed from within the eBook Publishing Software. The editor may then benefit from a dedicated EPUB 3 production chain connected to its core data management model. The high level of automation is the major strength of the system, which will require minimal in-code fine-tuning.

Even though it is still early days, we have successfully delivered a few bespoke products which are in live production.