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Read EPUB format e-books into a data frame using epub or extract EPUB archive files for direct use with epub_unzip.


  fields = NULL,
  drop_sections = NULL,
  chapter_pattern = NULL,
  encoding = "UTF-8",


epub_unzip(file, exdir = tempdir())



character, input EPUB filename. May be a vector for epub and epub_meta. Always a single file for epub_unzip.


character, vector of metadata fields (data frame columns) to parse from metadata, if they exist. See details.


character, a regular expression pattern string to identify text sections (rows of nested text data frame) to drop.


character, a regular expression pattern string to attempt distinguishing nested data frame rows of chapter text entries from other types of entries.


character, defaults to "UTF-8".


additional arguments. With the exception of passing title (see details), currently developmental/unsupported.


for epub_unzip, extraction directory to place archive contents (files). It will be created if necessary.


epub returns a data frame. epub_unzip returns nothing but extracts files from an EPUB file archive.


The primary function here is epub. It parses EPUB file metadata and textual content into a data frame. The output data frame has one row for each file in file. It has metadata in all columns except the data column, which is a column of nested data frames containing e-book text by book section (e.g., chapters). Both the primary and nested data frames are tibbles and safe to print to the console "as is".

Be careful if file is a long vector of many EPUB files. This could take a long time to process as well as could potentially use up all of your system RAM if you have far too many large books in one call to epub.

On a case by case basis, you can always select columns and filter rows of a resulting data frame for a single e-book subsequent to visual inspection. However, the optional arguments fields, drop_sections and chapter_pattern allow you to do some of this as part of the EPUB file reading process. You can ignore these arguments and do all your own post-processing of the resulting data frame, but if using these arguments, they are most likely to be useful for bulk e-book processing where file is a vector of like-formatted files.

Main columns

The fields argument can be used to limit the columns returned in the primary data frame. E.g., fields = c("title", "creator", "date", "identifier", "publisher", "file"). Some fields will be returned even if not in fields, such as data and title.

Ideally, you should already know what metadata fields are in the EPUB file. This is not possible for large collections with possibly different formatting. Note that when "file" is included in fields, the output will include a column of the original file names, in case this is different from the content of a source field that may be present in the metadata. So this field is always available even if not part of the file metadata.

Additionally, if there is no title field in the metadata, the output data frame will include a title column filled in with the same file names, unless you pass the additional optional title argument, e.g. title = "TitleFieldID" so that another field can me mapped to title. If supplying a title argument that also does not match an existing field in the e-book, the output title column will again default to file names. File names are the fallback option because unlike e-book metadata fields, file names always exist and should also always be unique when performing vectorized reads over multiple books, ensuring that title can be a column in the output data frame that uniquely identifies different e-books even if the books did not have a title field in their metadata.

Columns of the nested data frames in data are fixed. Select from these in subsequent data frame manipulations.

Nested rows

The chapter_pattern argument may be helpful for bulk processing of similarly formatted EPUB files. This should be ignored for poorly formatted EPUB files or where there is inconsistent naming across an e-book collection. Like with fields, you should explore file metadata in advance or this argument will not be useful. If provided, a column nchap is added to the output data frame giving the guessed number of chapters. In the data column, the section column of the nested data frames will also be updated to reflect guessed chapters with new, consistent chapter IDs, always beginning with ch and ending with digits.

The drop_sections argument also uses regular expression pattern matching like chapter_pattern and operates on the same section column. It simply filters out any matched rows. This is useful for dropping rows that may pertain to book cover, copyright and acknowledgements pages, and other similar, clearly non-chapter text, e-book sections. An example that might work for many books could be drop_sections = "^co(v|p)|^ack"

Rows of the primary data frame are fixed. Filter or otherwise manipulate these in subsequent data frame manipulations. There is one row per file so filtering does not make sense to do as part of the initial file reading.

EPUB metadata

Use epub_meta to return a data frame of only the metadata for each file in file. This skips the reading of each file's text contents, strictly parsing the metadata. It returns a data frame with one row for each file and n columns where n is equal to the union of all fields identified across all files in file. Fields available for at least one e-book in file will return NA in that column for any row pertaining to an e-book that does not have that field in its metadata. If the metadata contains multiple entries for a field, such as multiple subjects or publication dates, they are collapsed using the pipe character.

Unzipping EPUB files

If using epub_unzip directly on individual EPUB files, this gives you control over where to extract archive files to and what to do with them subsequently. epub and epub_meta use epub_unzip internally to extract EPUB archive files to the R session temp directory (with tempdir()). You do not need to use epub_unzip directly prior to using these other functions. It is only needed if you want the internal files for some other purpose in or out of R.


# Use a local example EPUB file included in the package
file <- system.file("dracula.epub", package = "epubr")
bookdir <- file.path(tempdir(), "dracula")
epub_unzip(file, exdir = bookdir) # unzip to directly inspect archive files
list.files(bookdir, recursive = TRUE)
#>  [1] "META-INF/container.xml"                                                  
#>  [2] "OEBPS/0.css"                                                             
#>  [3] "OEBPS/1.css"                                                             
#>  [4] "OEBPS/@public@vhost@g@gutenberg@html@files@345@345-h@345-h-0.htm.html"   
#>  [5] "OEBPS/@public@vhost@g@gutenberg@html@files@345@345-h@345-h-1.htm.html"   
#>  [6] "OEBPS/@public@vhost@g@gutenberg@html@files@345@345-h@345-h-10.htm.html"  
#>  [7] "OEBPS/@public@vhost@g@gutenberg@html@files@345@345-h@345-h-11.htm.html"  
#>  [8] "OEBPS/@public@vhost@g@gutenberg@html@files@345@345-h@345-h-12.htm.html"  
#>  [9] "OEBPS/@public@vhost@g@gutenberg@html@files@345@345-h@345-h-13.htm.html"  
#> [10] "OEBPS/@public@vhost@g@gutenberg@html@files@345@345-h@345-h-2.htm.html"   
#> [11] "OEBPS/@public@vhost@g@gutenberg@html@files@345@345-h@345-h-3.htm.html"   
#> [12] "OEBPS/@public@vhost@g@gutenberg@html@files@345@345-h@345-h-4.htm.html"   
#> [13] "OEBPS/@public@vhost@g@gutenberg@html@files@345@345-h@345-h-5.htm.html"   
#> [14] "OEBPS/@public@vhost@g@gutenberg@html@files@345@345-h@345-h-6.htm.html"   
#> [15] "OEBPS/@public@vhost@g@gutenberg@html@files@345@345-h@345-h-7.htm.html"   
#> [16] "OEBPS/@public@vhost@g@gutenberg@html@files@345@345-h@345-h-8.htm.html"   
#> [17] "OEBPS/@public@vhost@g@gutenberg@html@files@345@345-h@345-h-9.htm.html"   
#> [18] "OEBPS/@public@vhost@g@gutenberg@html@files@345@345-h@images@colophon.png"
#> [19] "OEBPS/@public@vhost@g@gutenberg@html@files@345@345-h@images@cover.jpg"   
#> [20] "OEBPS/content.opf"                                                       
#> [21] "OEBPS/pgepub.css"                                                        
#> [22] "OEBPS/toc.ncx"                                                           
#> [23] "OEBPS/wrap0000.html"                                                     
#> [24] "mimetype"                                                                

# \donttest{
epub_meta(file) # parse EPUB file metadata only
#> # A tibble: 1 × 8
#>   rights                  identifier creator title language subject date  source
#>   <chr>                   <chr>      <chr>   <chr> <chr>    <chr>   <chr> <chr> 
#> 1 Public domain in the U… http://ww… Bram S… Drac… en       Horror… 1995… http:…

x <- epub(file) # parse entire e-book
#> # A tibble: 1 × 9
#>   rights         identifier creator title language subject date  source data    
#>   <chr>          <chr>      <chr>   <chr> <chr>    <chr>   <chr> <chr>  <list>  
#> 1 Public domain… http://ww… Bram S… Drac… en       Horror… 1995… http:… <tibble>
#> # A tibble: 15 × 4
#>    section           text                                            nword nchar
#>    <chr>             <chr>                                           <int> <int>
#>  1 item6             "The Project Gutenberg EBook of Dracula, by Br… 11446 60972
#>  2 item7             "But I am not in heart to describe beauty, for… 13879 71798
#>  3 item8             "\" 'Lucy, you are an honest-hearted girl, I k… 12474 65522
#>  4 item9             "CHAPTER VIIIMINA MURRAY'S JOURNAL\nSame day, … 12177 62724
#>  5 item10            "CHAPTER X\nLetter, Dr. Seward to Hon. Arthur … 12806 66678
#>  6 item11            "Once again we went through that ghastly opera… 12103 62949
#>  7 item12            "CHAPTER XIVMINA HARKER'S JOURNAL\n23 Septembe… 12214 62234
#>  8 item13            "CHAPTER XVIDR. SEWARD'S DIARY-continued\nIT w… 13990 72903
#>  9 item14            "\"Thus when we find the habitation of this ma… 13356 69779
#> 10 item15            "\"I see,\" I said. \"You want big things that… 12866 66921
#> 11 item16            "CHAPTER XXIIIDR. SEWARD'S DIARY\n3 October.-T… 11928 61550
#> 12 item17            "CHAPTER XXVDR. SEWARD'S DIARY\n11 October, Ev… 13119 68564
#> 13 item18            " \nLater.-Dr. Van Helsing has returned. He ha…  8435 43464
#> 14 item19            "End of the Project Gutenberg EBook of Dracula…  2665 18541
#> 15 coverpage-wrapper ""                                                  0     0

epub(file, fields = c("title", "creator"), drop_sections = "^cov")
#> # A tibble: 1 × 3
#>   title   creator     data             
#>   <chr>   <chr>       <list>           
#> 1 Dracula Bram Stoker <tibble [14 × 4]>
# }