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How can one add .SVG files to ebooks in a way that is supported by major ereaders?

I've raked through the entire internet, and I find two things:

  1. People bragging about including SVG in their eBook.
  2. An absence of how-to guides.

This is obviously a well-kept secret. I'm making a reflowable ePub in InDesign with at least 200 illustrations, so I'd love to include .SVG.

The only workaround I found was this weird plugin for Indesign - that doesn't include export support if you don't have Adobe Indesign CS6.

I feel very passionate about this so feel free to shake me down for money or natural payments if you have the answer.

Love and thanks from a desperate author,

Wout

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I don't know a lot about SVG, but I have played around very superficially with svg in ebooks (about a year or two ago). What I found was that although my simple svg worked in one or two epub readers, support on Kindle was very iffy.

If you look at the Amazon Kindle Publishing Guidelines, you will see about half a page on SVG support. It seemed very limiting. That probably accounts for the lack of interest in the topic -- especially because it's just as easy to make a jpg or png.

If there is SVG in an ebook, I'm guessing it is an ebook targeted to one specific reading system. (I suspect that academic publishers would be the one pushing for it most).

As ebooks become more graphics-intensive, ebook size will become a more important consideration, and scalable graphics will finally be important. One crazy thing about KF8 format is that the max-width css attribute isn't supported -- making it hard or at least complicated for images to scale in an ebook predictably.

SVG is already supported in major browsers, and it can be frustrating not to see such features supported in ebook reading systems. But there is typically a lag between when something is supported in browsers and when the epub standard requires it -- and when reading systems decide to deploy that.

  • Thanks a bunch for your answer. I figured as much, because the internet was quiet on this topic. I made a very graphic intensive ebook, so SVG would have saved my download size, but I guess I'll have to roll with JPG on this one. – Wouter Chompff Aug 5 at 8:55
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As far as I can remember InDesign only supports 3 image formats when exporting to epub: jpg, png, and gif. So even if you place the svg files in InDesign they will be converted on export. If you edit the epub after exporting it you could replace the image files with the vectors. Of course, that doesn't do anything to make various e-reader apps recognize .svg

  • Thta's right. Only ancient versions of Indesign still allow for SVG export. – Wouter Chompff Sep 13 at 7:59
  • I recommend just setting your object export compression to 300dpi and choose gif to maintain transparency. That should be detailed (and small) enough for a good user experience on any device. – b_q Sep 14 at 14:40
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I'm constantly amused how the Web is "just now discovering" vector formats. HTML has no particular support for it, Word is even worse, and SVG format is just catching on. But vector has been a staple of desktop publishing since 1986.

An ebook is analogous to desktop publishing, not making a web page.

The traditional vector graphics format is PostScript. It is the core of Portable Document Format, aka PDF.

Because of that, PostScript format art drops very efficiently into PDF.

While you may make your art in particular platforms like Illustrator or Corel Draw, you should be exporting them in PostScript or some other vector format which your composition software can place. Then, the vector art will embed as vector art, won't suffer compression damage, and will look sharp at any zoom.

If your composition software can't handle this competently, then it's time for better composition software. I could do this in Illustrator/PageMaker in 1987 on a computer with 512K RAM and clocked at 7 MHz, so it must surely be possible today.

  • Wow, that's awesome. Two issues with this: my Illustrator doesn't seem to have a PostScript export format. Second issue, the program in which I design the ebooks: Indesign - doesn't allow for vector export when creating an ePub. – Wouter Chompff Aug 21 at 6:18
  • An ebook is actually a zip file of mostly html documents, css, and a few xml files. So no, it is not like desktop publishing, but is in fact much more like "the web" but more like a website, not a web page. Inkscape is a better option, as it is stable, free/open source vector graphics editor. That said, ebook readers are the target for ebooks, and those work best with jpg files which can be exported from vector graphics editors (actually svg --> png --> jpg) and then compressed. – jeffmcneill Sep 29 at 8:39

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