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Using epub:type

The epub:type property enhances the value and accessibility of ePub3 files. This article discusses how IPG:Digital Publisher processes IGP:FoundationXHTML to apply comprehensive epub:type properties  Updated: 2012-11-13


This article explains how IGP:Digital Publisher uses the selector values in IGP:FoundationXHTML (FX) to automatically map epub:type values to any flow or fixed layout ePub3 generated format.

The ePub3 specification includes the epub:type properties definition using a controlled vocabulary. Both the values listed and the usage approach are vague enough to make it of limited value in its current form. iBooks has put in support for the epub:type note property which is at least a start.

The big idea is great but there are glaring spaces, ambiguous terms and some term usage that rigidizes tagging and potentially increases production costs.

One of the most important uses of the epub:type attributes is accessibility. The good news is that IGP:FoundationXHTML addresses all of the semantic and structural definitions in the IDPF vocabulary except the ambiguous ones. FX also rigorously supports accessibility for both the practical accessible factor and because it makes an excellent file with long-term values.

If you are making ePub3 files by hand, or with desktop tools, don't expect anything exciting with ePub3 reading systems too early. This requirement more or less means that your content originated in a controlled XML environment (like IGP:Digital Publisher), or you have laborously entered the epub:type statements by hand.

If you are lucky enough to be using IGP:Digital Publisher this all happens automatically.

IGP:FoundationXHTML to epub:type Map

This list shows how IGP:FoundationXHTML (FX) structural, presentation and styling semantics easily maps to most epub:type property values. This epub:type values are inserted automatically so you don't have to when the FX content is used to generate an ePub3 fixed or flow format.

IDPF vocabulary terms that are not used in IGP:Formats on Demand have the reason stated and are highlighted bold.

Main structures

FX never nests sections therefore these epub:type statements will always have the section group and descriptive item included. 

FX Selector epub:type value

Cover-rw : epub:type="cover"

frontmatter-rw : epub:type="frontmatter"

body-rw : epub:type="bodymatter"

backmatter-rw : epub:type="backmatter"

Document divisions

FX Selector epub:type value

Volume-rw : epub:type="volume"


Unit-rw : epub:type="part"

Article-rw : epub:type="chapter"

Chapter-rw : epub:type="chapter"

Lesson-rw : epub:type="chapter"

Section-rw : epub:type="division"

Topic-rw : epub:type="chapter"

Not used : subchapter Defined as a major sub-division of a chapter. Presumably a section defined by a heading break... or not.

Epigraph-rw : epub:type="epigraph"

Conclusion-rw : epub:type="conclusion"

Afterword-rw : epub:type="afterword"

Not used : warning This term is too general and not a formal structure.

Epilogue-rw : epub:type="epilogue"

Foreword-rw : epub:type="foreword"

Introduction-rw : epub:type="introduction"

Prologue-rw : epub:type="prologue"

Preface-rw : epub:type="preface"

Not used : preamble Too general and not a formal structure.

Not used : notice "A notice". This term is too general and not a formal structure.

Document reference sections

Lists-of are treated very loosely in the current version of the vocabulary.

FX Selector epub:type value

Landmarks-rw : epub:type="landmarks" This is an FOD generated file

ListOfTables-rw : epub:type="lot"

Index-rw : epub:type="index"

Colophon-rw : epub:type="colophon"

Appendix-rw : epub:type="appendix"

ListOfEquations-rw : No suitable term available.

ListOfFigures-rw : epub:type="loi"

ListOfIllustrations-rw : epub:type="loi"

ListOfMaps-rw : epub:type="loi"

ListOfPlates-rw : epub:type="loi"

TableOfContents-rw : epub:type="toc"

Glossary-rw : epub:type="glossary"

list-glossary-rw : epub:type="glossary"

term-glossary-rw : epub:type="glossterm"


Bibliography-rw, References-rw : epub:type="bibliography"

list-reference-rw p : epub:type="biblioentry"

list-bibliography-rw, list-reference-rw : epub:type="bibliography"

Preliminary sections and components

FX Selector epub:type value

imprint-rw : epub:type="imprint"

errata-rw : epub:type="errata"

Copyright-rw : epub:type="copyright-page"

list-acknowledgements-rw : epub:type="acknowledgements"

list-permissions-rw : epub:type="other-credits"

TitlePage-rw : epub:type="titlepage"

Not used : epub:type="imprimatur"

list-of-contributors : epub:type="contributors"

HalfTitlePage-rw : epub:type="halftitlepage"

Dedication-rw : epub:type="dedication"

Complimentary Content

Not used : help To be evaluated.

sidebar-rw : epub:type="sidebar"

Not used : annotation Currently not used in the manner described.

margin-note-rw : epub:type="marginalia"

Not used : practice This is for education content but is an orphan.

list-notes-rw : epub:type="notes"

note-rw :epub:type="note"

footnote-rw : epub:type="footnote"

list-notes-rw p : epub:type="rearnote" 'A rearnote' is a note in a backmatter section, otherwise it is identical to a note in referencing and behaviour.

list-footnotes-rw : epub:type="footnotes" Only use when footnotes are accumulated in a section end structure.

list-notes-rw : epub:type="rearnotes" (only applied in backmatter notes section. Is not applied to chapter notes).


FX Selector epub:type value

informal-header-rw : epub:type="bridgehead"

HalfTiltle-rw h1 : epub:type="halftitle"

BookTitlePage-rw h1 : epub:type="fulltitle"

title-sub-rw :epub:type="subtitle"

Cover-rw title-block-rw h1 : epub:type="covertitle"

Document text

Not usedconcluding-sentence

keywords-rw : epub:type="keyword"

Not used : topic-sentence


FX Selector epub:type value

Not used : annoref

ref-note-rw : epub:type="noteref"

ref-footnote-rw : epub:type="noteref"


FX Selector epub:type value

Generated : page-list  - created in format generation

pb-rw, pagebreak-rw : epub:type="pagebreak"


FX Selector epub:type value

table-rw : epub:type="table"

Not used : table-row

Not used : table-cell


FX Selector epub:type value

ul, ol, dl :epub:type="list"

Not used : list-item

Final ePub3 Format XHTML

The final XHTML packaged into the ePub follows this pattern for each of the elements that receive epub:type statements.

<section class="body-rw Chapter-rw" epub:type="bodymatter chapter"> ... </section>

Where elements can be associated with an html5 <aside> element, IGP:Digital Publisher provides a checkbox option in the DPI ePub3 packaging option. In this case the referenced items are created as a copy of the referenced item.

Optionally referenced items can be removed from their flow position in text. In this case you may have to use DPI Section Reordering to remove notes, indexes or glossary pages from the package.


If you have a controlled XHTML production environment and your content is being consistently produced, you will probably be able to create epubs with reasonable epub:type attributes.

If you or your service provider are creating your ePub3 files with desktop tools such as Sigil or InDesign, you wont be able to provide these attributes easily until they step up to the plate with an association or insertion mechanism.

High value digital content is about structure, presentation, processing, interactivity and more.


IDPF EPUB 3 Structural Semantics Vocabulary

IDPF Accessibility Guidelines

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