Adobe Improves ePub Export from InDesign, But Still Has a Ways to Go

By Ron Bilodeau
May 21, 2009 | Comments: 22

So Adobe has finally released the latest update for InDesign CS4 (6.0.2).
Basically, before this update was released, the ePub export functionality was broken.

Here is the latest blog post from Adobe about the update:

With this update, I am happy to report, that most of the major issues have indeed been fixed. More importantly, Adobe has also made major improvements to how ePub was exported in CS3. It is that much closer now to being able to generate "valid" ePub right out of InDesign CS4.

With that said, we still have a ways to go.

For example:

  • The encryption.xml file that can be found in the META-INF directory in the finished ePub file. This file does not seem to have a real purpose and if removed, does not seem to affect the ePub in any way. I would like to see Abobe get rid of this.

  • Some refining needs to be done to the figure optimization settings. They are not terrible, but this could be much better.

  • Font handling and embedding needs to be improved.

  • I am finding some bugs with cross-references being translated to ePub hyperlinks.

More to come . . .


What's really making me crazy is header conversion. I do layout for fiction paperbacks and I'm trying to use the digital editions export tool to make ePub files for eBooks.

All of my "paperback" layouts have a header along the top with the book name and the page number (yes, they are a paragraph style). But when I do the ePub export, the header disappears... except for the page number, which kind of "floats" along the right margin throughout the eBook.

My first preference would be to have the header added back in, so the name of the book is visible at the top of each eBook screen view. If that's not possible, then at the very least I'd like to get rid of the entire header so that the page numbers from the header don't show up, either.

Any ideas?


Hi Sheri,

I think I understand where you are coming from.
Unfortunately, the use of Headers/Footers/Folios are all Print (or PDF) elements.

The reason that they are being dropped is because there is no place for them in an ePub/XML environment.
The whole idea behind the ePub format is the ability to be flexible enough to flow (in an organized fashion) in any size reader window.
From a tiny cell phone/blackberry screen to a large full screen display like a browser or Digital Editions.

Your Headers are a perfect navigational tool for someone reading the physical printed book or a PDF because the flow of each page is permanent.
Even when reading as a PDF, you can zoom in on the page to see things more clearly, but that will never change the content on each page.

When that same content is made into an ePub file, it is meant to be read using any number of ePub reader applications, such as Digital Editions (on the computer), Stanza (on iPhone/iPod), Sony eReader, etc.
Depending on the user and application, these readers can be set to any custom size that the reader chooses.

I am assuming that you are viewing your ePub files using Digital Editions on your computer (correct me if I am mistaken). Digital Editions can be resized to your preference and also display your content in multiple columns. This ability to change the dimensions of your reader causes the content to re-flow in order to fit.
The smaller your reader window, the more pages your content takes up; The larger your window, the fewer pages are taken up.

As for the page numbers that you are seeing in your eBook reader:
These are built into the reader application, not your ePub file.
Not all eBook readers offer page numbers, but I know that Digital Editions does. These numbers are static and will move and change depending on the physical size of your viewer screen.
I'm not sure if there is a way to turn those page numbers off. If I find a way, I will let you know.

I hope this helps to explain why your headers are being dropped. If you need me to clarify something more, please don't hesitate to ask.

Here are some suggestions for you:
Include an ePub TOC when you export your file. What this does is creates an interactive TOC within the eBook reader that allows the user to click and navigate directly to the content that they seek.
If you are unaware of how to set this up, I will be happy to help you out.

Also, the use of variables and cross-references within your InDesign files will all translate to clickable links within your ePub files, which can be extremely useful for reader navigation.

Again, I hope this is helpful to you and good luck to you.


Hi Ron,

Thanks for answering my question. Actually, I was using the Sony eReader software. I have a PRS-505 eReader, and I use it to "test" my ePub files so I can make sure they look good before uploading them for distribution.

I understand about the header disappearing, but I was wondering about the page number embedded in the print publication files. In the Sony eReader software, the page number from the print pub "moved" along the right side of the page, and had no correspondence to the actual "e-page" number displayed in the page bar at the bottom of the screen.

However, this software just re-installed to a new revision on my PC, and I've noticed that the floating page numbers along the right margin are totally gone. The software does keep track of the page you are on (which is fine), but it is no longer displaying the page numbers from the headers of the print publication in the ePub document. I didn't make any changes to my ePub document, so I can only assume that this problem was a bug and that the software revision from Sony fixes the bug.

Thanks again!


The encryption.xml file is giving me grief. I can only get a valid file running epubcheck when I delete it. However, I have a project which is using an alternate character (the ROTATED FLORAL HEART BULLET) from Garamond Premier Pro and it only displays properly in Digital Editions when the encryption.xml file is present!

Looking at the file it is nothing but references to the fonts.

I've been reduced to trying to modify the file by chopping out bits epubcheck disqualifies, but in the end DE and ePub seem to be at loggerheads with this one file.


Hi Ron, I just ready your very helpful reply to Sheri and think you cleared a lot of things up for me as well. Just to clarify, is it safe to say that if you were trying to convert Indesign Magazine layouts to a portable digital file format, EPUB would not be able to maintain the integrity of the original design/layout no matter what you did? Should I be looking into a PDF workflow?
I really appreciate your time.

Hi Jill,

For the most part, that is correct.
Unless your magazine layout is very simple (more standard book-like), then PDF is going to be your preferred digital format.
The eBook format is specifically designed to be flexible enough to adapt to any environment (ie. from small cell phones to iPhone/iPod screens to browser windows scaled to any size using single or multiple columns, etc). All of these variables are specified by the human reader and the application, not your ePub file.

Typical magazine layout/design relies heavily on the actual layout to convey the intended message and therefore is best suited for an interactive PDF.

So, to answer your question:

  • If the visual layout of your printed page needs to be retained, then an interactive PDF is the preferred digital format.

  • However, if the content can be flexible, then you may be able to get away with the ePub/eBook format. It will be more complicated to set up, but definitely possible.

I hope this helps.


Hi Glenn,

I feel your pain.
You are doing the right thing by removing the encryption.xml file. As you have seen, it is only read by Adobe Digital Editions and actually causes your ePub file to be invalid for all other platforms.

Your next step should be to follow these steps by Liza Daly (Threepress Consulting):

If after trying this, it still doesn't work, I would recommend trying to find another OTF font that includes the same glyph.

Good luck and please let me know how it works out for you.



Is there a way to automate in exporting .indd files to .epub using getJSObject() in javascript?

Sorry for the delayed response.

This is a great question, but unfortunately I do not have the answer.

I have not done any javascript testing with InDesign with respect to ePub.

However, I do plan to start playing with actionscript and javascript at some point in my testing. I will keep you posted with anything that I do find. And I hope you do the same. Good luck.



Nice, all these pitfalls and watchouts in InDesign...
May I add another spoiler ? Any accented characters
like é or ü get mangled into something like A°¥.
And it's already in the HTML, generated by InDesign !
So no character set declaration can cure that :-(

I have noticed that as well, Peter.
Very frustrating.
Also, if any of those accented characters appear within the ePub TOC, it will break the TOC from that point forward.

Some day.


I understand that the epub format is supposed to support video. I can't find any settings for this and when I place a Quicktime video in InDesign - it disappears in the epub when viewed in Digital Editions. Any clues here?

Great question Sage,
I personally have not worked with video or audio files yet within ePub, but hope to soon.

With that said, here is what I do know:
Digital Editions does support audio and video. However, with all the differences between that different eBook reader platforms out there (ie. Digital Editions, Stanza for the iPhone, Sony E-Reader, Kindle, etc.), it is doubtful that what works in one will work in the other.

When I start testing this area myself, I will be sure to post my findings here. In the meantime, here are some resources that may be helpful to you:



I am using CS4 to export to ePUB. My navigation bar keeps disappearing and the images even though set and relinked to maximum keep coming up pixelized. Thye are jpgs saved to maximum format.
Any idea why this is happening... I created the navigation elements in PS and made them jpgs. Converted them to buttons and put the interactivity on them in ID .
Any help would be appreciated?

Hi Patrick,
I feel your pain.
First of all, the image optimization engine that is built into the ePub export function is not very good at all. I would recommend optimizing your images in Photoshop (with a maximum resolution of 150dpi) and then choosing "Original" from the Copy Images drop-down option in the ePub export window. You will get much better quality this way.

As for the interactivity of your buttons: That kind of interactivity is not yet supported by very many (if any) eBook readers. Audio, Video, Buttons, and animations set up within InDesign are only exported as SWF or PDF. Those elements are not designed to work within the ePub world (yet).
Here is my suggestion:
Instead of setting up your buttons as "interactive buttons", use the hyperlink or cross-reference panel to create your links. That type of interaction is supported in most (if not all) eBook readers.

The type of interactivity that you are attempting to include in your ePub is "technically" supported by the ePub spec, but is not supported by any of the readers. And because so many of these things have not been standardized yet, Adobe has not built it into the functionality of the ePub export from ID (there is no way for them to know how).

Check out the Threepress Consulting Blog ( for some really cool experimentation with interactivity within ePub.
Liza has really been pushing the limits of what ePub can do using JavaScript.
Again, almost none of it is currently supported by any popular readers, but it is included as part of the ePub spec. So it is only a matter of time.

Good luck.

I'm finding that non-breaking hyphens break in an EPub export. "NoBreak" is not recognised either. Any solution to this?

Check out the Threepress Consulting Blog ( for some really cool experimentation with interactivity within ePub.
Liza has really been pushing the limits of what ePub can do using JavaScript.
Again, almost none of it is currently supported by any popular readers, but it is included as part of the ePub spec. So it is only a matter of time.

Good luck.

I am having the same "nobreak" on recognition as Marie Black, anyone know how to fix this?

Thanks for the link Ron Bilodeau to threepress. Very good link

Great information. I'm still trying to learn how to use InDesign properly... they could improve the usability in my opinion.

Thx for sharing this info. InDesign is already a great program, but has definetely a lack of usability.

Like you said, the could improve it

Hi there, i'm from spain so i hope you can understand my english.

I work for a company that makes educacional books and now we want them to be available in e pub. The InDesign layout is very complex and have lots of objets, but after some days of frustration editing css and html, i got a nice result in 3 books, the reflow is correct and images, tables and lists run right.

My question now is, how do i encrypt the html content? Does the file encrypt.xml have anything to do with it?

Thank you.



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