Readium+MathJax: Ebooks with live math notation take a step closer to reality
Many educators are interested in distributing classroom materials in ebook form so their students can read them on the wide range of electronic reading devices that are now available, including Apple iPads, Android tablets, dedicated ebook readers, as well as laptop and desktop computers. They may also be interested in making a little extra money by offering their works in various educational ebook stores. For those whose work includes mathematics, there are some interesting new developments that I want to report.
EPUB is the de facto standard ebook format. The latest version, EPUB 3, specifies that mathematical notation should be represented as MathML, thereby making math notation a lot more functional than with the usual static equation images. Math can be zoomed for easy reading, made accessible to students with vision and learning impairments, and can be copied into other applications for calculation and exploration. And, of course, MathType can create MathML for use in ebook authoring systems.
Readium is a reference implementation of an EPUB 3 ebook reader created by IDPF, the organization that created the EPUB standard. And, thanks to recent efforts by the MathJax Consortium (a project in which Design Science plays a leading role), it now includes excellent MathML support.
Readium is not intended to be distributed to end-users. It is only a technology demonstration project. However, it proves that math support in ebooks is possible. We expect that makers of ebook readers, such as Amazon Kindle, Barnes and Noble's Nook, Apple iBooks, and so on, can model their own MathML support on this work. MathType users who are interested in publishing in ebook form should demand EPUB 3 support from the makers of both authoring tools and ebook readers, referring to the Readium project as proof of what is possible. If any of you discover good places to give them feedback, please share them with others in comments to this article.