After 13 years of using the CHM (Compiled HTML Help) as the de facto format for the Windows OS, the MySQL Documentation Team has decided to drop it and adopt the EPUB format. This is a great move not only because EPUB is now the industry eBook standard, but also because this will save the team a huge amount of time and resources in trying to compile CHM, which can be very finicky, and be often broken, so would need some manual intervention.
The MySQL manual is a very large (over 1.6 Million words), complex piece of documentation, but the team has done a great job. Due to the sheer amount of information involved the file size comes in at a whopping 15MB. Because of this, and that some of the internal chapter sizes are larger than the recommended size (300KB) for EPUB, the navigation will definitely be a little sluggish on portable devices.
I tried the manual on several different eReaders with mixed results.
Adobe Digital Editions (DE)
In DE the book opened fine and once I had resized the view port, the manual was very readable. The formatting (CSS) on some parts of the book was a little iffy, but then DE is known to be quite funny about how it displays certain things.
Sony Reader Touch
On trying out the MySQL 5.1 manual on the Sony Reader I found that it would just not open, throwing a “Page Error!” I haven’t looked in to the details as to why, but I’ll bet that the large internal files (the appendix is over 2 MB) has something to do with it.
When I first saw the announcement over at the mysqlf Blog [http://blogs.sun.com/mysqlf/entry/farewell_chm_hello_epub] I was at my local coffee shop so first opened the manual directly on my iPad.
The first app I tried was the Stanza Reader; it took a few moments to download but then opened quite quickly. I noticed that page turning between chapters was a little slow (again because of the file size) but after this, things were pretty normal. To get all the tables and code blocks to show I had reduced the font size a few notches, and also turn to landscape view, but every page I then looked at was perfect.
After Stanza I then tried out the iBooks app. Again, after reducing the font size the pages viewed perfectly. The only problem I found with with iBooks is that it was very sluggish on every page turn. This would probably become quite annoying after a while so I’d recommend sticking with Stanza—don’t worry, it’s a free app.
It’s still early days for the EPUB format and eReaders, especially when it comes to technical documents, but the MySQL Documentation Team has done a great job and I’m sure over time their EPUB documentation will get even better.