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As far as I know, many ebook readers may also play music. Does it make sense to create an ebook which contains (internal) link to audio snippets? Does the ePub standard allow it?

(snippets would be copyright-free; moreover they should be internal links, so that the ebook is self-contained)

[EDIT] What I am interested in is to have links to music excerpts, not a soundtrack going on while the book is read. Just to clarify it: think at an ebook about music theory. I may talk about Aeolian cadences, explain what Aeolian mode is, add a picture of an Aeolian scale... and a link which if clicked on plays an Aeolian scale.

  • FYI - At least one fairly popular ereader does not support sound. The Kindle Paperwhite is not audio capable. – James Jenkins Feb 10 '14 at 11:44
  • Can you clarify your question, do you want to include a separate MP3 (or other format) file along with the epub file when the book is downloaded? Or are you asking if a sound file can be part of an epub file? – James Jenkins Feb 10 '14 at 11:47
  • While some ereaders don't support audio, that's not a reason not to enrich the experience with sound. It should probably not be necessary to enjoy the work. – Raphael Feb 10 '14 at 12:39
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It's great to hear about a project where the audio would actually add substantively to the content of the book--that's too often not the case. In your case, I'd say yes, it does definitely make sense to add the audio, as it is directly relevant and helpful to understanding the subject. It is also perfectly allowable in the epub 3.0 specification, though support is optional rather than mandatory--not all reading systems will have support, but there is a standardized method for those that do support it.

Outside of the epub world, things are a little less rosy: Amazon sells files with audio built in, but only supports multimedia on their iOS apps. In addition, last I checked they weren't accepting multimedia-enabled files through KDP (their self-publishing program), even though the instructions for making such files are clearly available in the Kindle Publishing Guidelines. In order to sell a multimedia file through Amazon, you'll need to be able to talk directly to Amazon--if you're a mid size or larger publisher, you probably have a contact you can speak with about that.

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The EPUB 3 standard clearly specifies audio capability:

EPUB 3 supports audio and video embedded in [content documents] via the new [HTML5] audio and video elements, inheriting all the functionality and features these elements provide. (For information on supported audio formats, please refer to Core Media Types [Publications30]. For recommendations on embedding video, refer to Reading System Conformance [Publications30].)

One particular feature is to synchronise audio with text, so you might not need links:

Another key new multimedia feature in EPUB 3 is the inclusion of Media Overlay Documents [MediaOverlays30]. When pre-recorded narration is available for a Publication, Media Overlays provide the ability to synchronize that audio with the text of a Content Document (see also Aural Renditions and Media Overlays).

Since there are readers without audio (or even EPUB 3) support, adding audio is a design decision. Do you use sound only for flair or is the book barely enjoyable without it? Does it make sense to offer an alternate version?

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EPUB 3.0 has support for Media Overlays, which allows you to synchronize text and audio.

My first Ebook reader had audio support, but my newest (bought 5+ years later) doesn't. It is not a feature that plays a part in selecting a device which is primarily for reading. Although there might be some novelty in having sound snippets in a particular book, in general it would probably be like 3D and Movies: it doesn't make the story any better and the effect doesn't compensate for the headache that it gives. If I really wanted to read/listen to such a book I would probably such a book out on my PC.

If it makes sense completely depends on the added value. If it is just for novelty I would definitely say "no". Please also consider that apart from the people which do not have a device capable of rendering the audio, there are those who might happen to have such a device, but are not able to use it: the audio impaired part of the population (who are more dependent on book entertainment than others who can listen to radio/television).

If the audio is spoken text, another group that will not be able to fully appreciate the addition are those non-native speakers, capable of reading the book in the language it is written in, but not fluent enough to understand the spoken word.

A last comparison you might do for yourself: how many websites which support audio do you visit? (I am not talking about YouTube which is more just a wrapper around video/audio). That might be an indication of how useful adding audio to reading material is considered by you (and the general public if you observe the number of web sites with audio support).

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