When I set out to create an EPUB creation tool I talked to a seasoned EPUB editor and he told me that my idea wouldn’t work. EPUB 3 is too complex, support is bad, you need all kinds of CSS hacks too get it right. The point is that reading systems do not have full support for all EPUB 3 features and what’s more, they ignore and replace some aspects. The reason for this is that they want to make sure all ebooks are looking good on their systems and they want to reduce the risk of badly produced ebooks spoiling the reading experience on their systems.
The result is that the best advice you can follow as a self-publishing author is, keep it simple. As long as you keep your layout simple you won’t need elaborate CSS hacks to work around the limits of reading systems to get the result you want. Keep your ambitions low and let reading systems take care of getting it right.
That’s why I only added simple styles to Eboocz. There is no point in trying to create awe inspiring stylesheets. Pearls before swine. The reading systems will trample your CSS under their feet, and turn and tear your style into pieces. Don’t bother. Discussion closed.
On the IDPF epub-revision Github page there recently was a short discussion about what to do about this problem. The suggestion was to define a minimal default stylesheet in the epub spec which all reading systems are required to implement. To me that sounds like a very good suggestion. It would also make life for EPUB creation tools a lot easier. If EPUB creation tools implemented these required minimal specs the result would be that self-publishing authors would be able to spend a lot less time on polishing their ebook stylesheets.
To me that sounds like a win-win-win-win situation. It would benefit reading systems, ebook creation tools, self-publishing authors and last but not least, ebook readers. In a sense this is a no-brainer. My advise would be, IDPF, go for it! Make life easier for everybody. And to reading system developers I would like to say, go for it! Make life easier for everybody. Join the IDPF effort and help define this minimal default stylesheet in the epub spec. You would make a lot of self-publishers extremely happy. And isn’t that what we’re here on earth for, making each other happy and making the world a better place. What are we waiting for?