Tools for ePub

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editing_for_authors
Editing for authors: because every writer needs a good editor.

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I thought I'd start a discussion of some of the tools for creating an ePub file from a word processor document for people who want to self-publish ePub books or create them from your own files.

Long ago, when ePub was still the Open Ebook format, I used to hand-code the book using BBEdit Pro. I still use BBEdit Pro for tweaking (the free sister of [URL="http://www.barebones.com/products/bbedit/"]BBEdit TextWrangler[/URL] can do the same thing, but it lacks the very handy tools palette; still, if you're on a Mac TextWrangler is a fabulous text editor for using GREP or tweaking files using the powerful search and replace options).

I want to recommend a book: Liz Castro's Epub: Straight to the Point. It's from Peachpit Press, but you can also buy an ePub version from Ms. Castro's site. Her blog is a good source of updated information about ePub.

Apple's Pages the iWork wordprocessor/document layout program does a clean and very easy conversion from Pages to ePub via Share -->Export. Apple even provides a free template and instructions for creating ePub books.

Pages works very well if you have a fairly simple ePub book. It's a good way to get an ePub bundle (ePub documents are really a bundle of files) that you want to tweak by hand.

Lately, I've been using Scrivener 2.x for Mac to create ePubs; it's a simple export, and Scrivener allows you to make some nify and very professional styles in your ePub without hand-editing CSS or xml/html.

ePub Reader is a free Firefox plug in designing to allow you to read ePub books in your browser. It's a great way to do a quick check to get an idea of how an ePub book will look on the screen. It also creates a "library"--which allows you to look at an "exploded" or un-bundled ePub and see how a book was made, or access the CSS to modify it.

Calibre is a free multi-platform ebook conversion tool that handles ePub quite well; it can be complicated, there are lots of options, but it can do a very good job.


Stanza is a reader, but it too is awfully useful and multiplatform. Stanza for computers does epub conversions.
 

Old Hack

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That's really useful, Lisa--thank you.
 

AllisonK

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Thanks for the tips! It will come in handy soon when I get ready to do the ePub version of my novel. Right now I'm cleaning up an HTML version for Kindle's DTP, and will probably look to convert it to ePub after that for the other ereader sites. I'll look into Calibre and see if it will work for me. (I have a PC, so most of the Mac software doesn't apply to me, sadly.) I don't want to use SmashWords if I can help it. Since I don't use Word (I use OpenOffice and Works), I suspect my files aren't going to play nice with their meatgrinder. Besides, I'm a control freak: I'd much prefer to code/format my book personally rather than trust an automated system to do it. :)

I've also read that you can export to ePub in InDesign, but I have a feeling that only applies to the later versions of the software. I have CS2, which is probably too old. Does anyone here have experience with that? I may have to do some googling...
 

Carradee

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The one issue I'm having with creating EPUB files is that the table of contents is getting placed before the title page. Not all that big a deal, really, but anybody know how to fix that? (I have TextWrangler, Scrivener, Calibre, and Stanza.)
 

Al Stevens

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My procedure:
  1. LibreOffice to write and convert doc -> html files.
  2. Notepad++ to tweak html and embedded CSS.
  3. Mobipocket Creator for html -> prc (Kindle format).
  4. Calibre for .prc -> .epub
  5. Sigil to edit .epub files
  6. GIMP for cover design.
  7. Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing website to publish
All the software is free.
 

Al Stevens

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The one issue I'm having with creating EPUB files is that the table of contents is getting placed before the title page. Not all that big a deal, really, but anybody know how to fix that? (I have TextWrangler, Scrivener, Calibre, and Stanza.)

Use Sigil to edit the epub file. You can change the order of internal files. Move the toc html file to where you want it.
 

Al Stevens

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I have a book that Calibre won't convert from .prc to .epub. It hangs up. Only on XP, though. It works on my wife's Windows 7 computer. The developer hadn't a clue. All he said, was, in effect, "that's a complex book." A programming text with lots of code, headings, graphics, etc.
 
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James D. Macdonald

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I'd see if you have a registry conflict.

Can you create a new user account and try it there?

Multiple other people have reported the same bug.

I cured it by uninstalling MSIE 9.

I made it come back by reinstalling MSIE 9.
 
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Sargentodiaz

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My procedure:
  1. LibreOffice to write and convert doc -> html files.
  2. Notepad++ to tweak html and embedded CSS.
  3. Mobipocket Creator for html -> prc (Kindle format).
  4. Calibre for .prc -> .epub
  5. Sigil to edit .epub files
  6. GIMP for cover design.
  7. Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing website to publish
All the software is free.

I had OpenOffice, then read that I should upgrade to LibreOffice. I did and the whole thing was a mess! Mainly because I didn't convert my OO files back to Word.

My problem with Libre is the help menu function. I took me back to the website and I could never seem to find what I was looking for.

Now, on the other hand - I re-downloaded OO and found their community forum. I did my best to ask an intelligent question and one of the "moderators" [from Germany] gave me one of the rudest and most ignorant replies I've ever seen anywhere on the internet - except for US Message Board.

Now, I'm wondering if I shouldn't consider going back to Libre and suck it up about the help function.
 

Sargentodiaz

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That is super-handy and something I didn't know about, thanks!

this really makes me shake my head.

Way back in the early 80's I had an Apple II clone. I also joined an Apple Users Club and we even had access to Electronic Bulletin Boards. Several people had Macs and I often thought I should upgrade.

But, I didn't.

And, when in the late 90's I decided to buy a computer again, I went with that pc company with the Holstein cow pattern - can't for the life of me think of their name. When that crashed, I went with a Dell and now have an HP/Compaq.

I often find myself wondering if I should've gone with a Mac.
 

Al Stevens

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I had OpenOffice, then read that I should upgrade to LibreOffice. I did and the whole thing was a mess! Mainly because I didn't convert my OO files back to Word.
Hmm. I did not have that problem when I switched.

Now, I'm wondering if I shouldn't consider going back to Libre and suck it up about the help function.
I have that same complaint about LibraOffice. But I cheat. I goggle "OpenOffice tutorial" along with a keyword that identifes the issue. The two programs are almost the same. That won't last forever, though. (I also kept OO installed and can use its help function.)
 

Sargentodiaz

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Well, I finally did what I should've done when I first downloaded OpenOffice - I downloaded the pdf tutorial!!!!
So far I've gone through the first four and it's getting easier to do. Once I've converted what I need, I just might try LibreOffice again.

It's kinda neat to find all sorts of new features in OpenOffice.
 

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I thought I'd contribute what I've done twice now.

I just bit the bullet and did up the stories in HTML, and used Calibre to convert to ePub et al. The results are really clean.

The first story took three days and a lot of crying and two calls to a technically-minded friend.

The second story took a day, and no tears. The day included doing the cover and going over every line of the book with a nit comb.

Because I have no technical chops whatsover, I followed this guy: http://guidohenkel.com/2010/12/take-pride-in-your-ebook-formatting/

The actual how-to starts at Part V, but the first four parts help us non-technical people to understand the framework.

Reading the comments helps as well.
 

davidw

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I thought I would throw my own creation into this ring as well:

http://www.liberwriter.com

Currently, it's Kindle-only, but we're working on ePub. Being web-based, it also makes it very easy for us to give assistance to those who need a bit of guidance, as we can log in and edit their documents.

It's a fairly new venture, so there's still plenty I'd like to add to it, but so far our customers are quite happy, and I'm having a lot of fun with it.
 

Laer Carroll

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I go in the other direction. I create an EPUB with Sigil. Then I use Calibre to create a MOBI file. It takes about a minute.

I did this for two reasons. The Amazon tools for creating a MOBI file are pretty primitive. Also you have to manually create the toc.ncx file. Sigil creates it automatically.

Works for me, for five books so far.
 

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I thought I would throw my own creation into this ring as well:

http://www.liberwriter.com

Currently, it's Kindle-only, but we're working on ePub. Being web-based, it also makes it very easy for us to give assistance to those who need a bit of guidance, as we can log in and edit their documents.

It's a fairly new venture, so there's still plenty I'd like to add to it, but so far our customers are quite happy, and I'm having a lot of fun with it.

I just signed up for this, it looks amazing.