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Things to think about before you begin the ebook conversion
It is well worth checking to see if the software you are using for your
writing has an export or save-as option for ebooks. We can expect to see this
appearing in future versions.
Also check the advice about preparing your source
document with what to take away and what to add. There is advice if you need to look at what the
different source documents have to offer but it is best to get back to the
source files (but don't forget to identify all of the typos and changes that
emerged at the proofing stages of your book).
convert – It depends on where you start
Introduction: The free software that is available (and new programmes are appearing
every month). Last updated Nov 2011
|Calibre – It is recognised as the 'standard' at present.
|Mobi (xp and 2000 only – last updated in 2008)
|Open Office writer (free from
Oracle) has added a plug-in called writer2epub that you can invoke (it runs
on the web) to convert and edit your document.|
|e-Scape is a way to make ePubs from an Open
Office Writer file (extension *.odt). They have a style guide for the
documents. Export the file as XHTML which can be opened in eScape.
http://www.infogridpacific.com/igp Export file as XHTML (File-Export-Save
As Type- XHTML).|
|There is a free word processor called
which offers facilities to save and export ebooks. This software is rather
intrusive and might dislodge your favourite word processor!|
|There are others: eg http://www.bookdesigner.ru/
that cross the language barriers.|
One size does not fit all - A common
conversion path is to use Calibre and then edit the files using Sigil. Input
files at present come in so many shapes and formats and we have developed a
lot of bad design habits. It is time to tidy up our acts.
But Open Office can handle an excellent array of file types and has the
benefit of being a cloud-based piece of software.
Ebook conversion software overview
The software that is available is supplied under
various licences which generally permit a free download and non-commercial use.
for the source file converters. Experienced users might use Sigil directly.
Sigil offers a code tidy and code check option and is the foremost editor for
this brave enough to delve into the structure.
Calibre: Manages your ebooks and was designed to let you switch formats.
This was invaluable when there were multiple formats. It still has an
Mobi: This was the format adopted by Amazon and new versions are no longer
provided. (Windows xp and 2000 only – last updated in 2008.) But it has an
excellent PDF to ebook converter.
- Sigil: With the backing of Google, this piece of software is having
resources invested in it so that Google Editions will have an extensive
library of material available for reading.
has many converters for source files along with advice.
Amazon offers some ways to preview your files. Kindle
Direct Publishing (KDP) gives access to some tools to check what your file
will look like on their various models (did you know there was an A4 sizes
kindle?) and will introduce you to the new reality that you no longer have
control of exactly how your book will look.
Open Office users might find e-Scape useful
http://www.infogridpacific.com/igp Open your file
in Open Office then Export it as XHTML as the source file for e-Scape.
The ability of Open Office to accept most files makes it an attractive
platform now that writer2epub is available.
Once you have converted your file:
|Check the Meta Data: All ebook converter software
lets you add and edit some meta data. If you have prepared your source file
properly then there is a good chance that you will already find much of the meta
data in place. Make this the first, rather then the last, to-do item as many of
the files will take their lead from the meta data when it comes to assigning
names to the files that make up your ebook.
|Many conversion packages will search the web for
metadata – If the book has been published - Just enter the print book ISBN. The
software will search the various data bases such as Amazon and let you pick the
data-set that is most complete. |
|TIP: If you plan to provide new ISBNs for your ebooks
you can change this once the matching metadata has been loaded. You should not
use the print isbn for the ebook but it is s good way to access existing
|Add a Cover Image: You can add a cover image. The
image should be JPG, PNG or GIF (600x750 pixels).
|If you fill your metadata from the web, it will also
offer you the cover image if it finds one. (Note that some of these have
watermarks to identify their source.)|
|This ability to pick up covers seems to have stopped working as well
as it used to (Nov 2011) so you will probably need to provide your own file.|
|Create Sections: (not compulsory) Sigil lets you create a new xhtml
file by clicking on ‘Chapter Break’. So you can have a file called Cover Image,
publishers page, a TOC file and then separate chapter files. BUT, you
might as well leave this to the conversion software because, from the reading point
of view, these breaks will be seamless. If your file is likely
to be streamed to mobile devices then breaking the ebook into small files gives
a degree of future-proofing. If the user has to download and store the whole
file before they start to read, it might put them off. Once you have put in the
breaks, Sigil will slice the file into chapter sections or wherever you inserted
From the users point of view, the way the file is sliced is irrelevant. The TOC
will work just as well if there is one file or many files.
In practice, Sigil creates too many files! You might find the chapter title
and the content in separate files. You can move the content into the chapter
title file but then you need to edit or recompile the TOC and other hidden
|Create a Table of Contents: If the document is
imported from html, it may already have this heading tags (eg <h2> ) and the
table of contents wizard will use these.
|In Sigil you can review in the TOC editor under
Tools and select which one you don't want to appear in the Table of
Contents. If you edit the files, remake the TOC!|
|In Calibre you need to make sure that you have set the
<h2> tags in the text or you have used the word ‘Chapter’ on its own line, so the software
can create a table for you (probably!). If you use both the tags and the word
'chapter' on separate lines you might end up with a lot of chapters! (You
can get Sigil to remove these).|
|If you decide to look at the text code, it might look something like
<h1>Table of Contents</h1>
<p style="table_style"> (this assumes there is a CSS
style with this name in the container for this ebook)
<a href="file2.html">Chapter one</a><br/>
Outputting your ebook: Once all the files have
been converted they need to be packed. (See what the package contains).
Calibre has an idiosyncratic way of saving files. There are many
options but you probably find your output in folders named for the author. If
you drill down through the folder you will find the EPUB and/or Mobi files which
can be moved (or copied) to a file location that makes sense to you.
The advice is to make you file into EPUB format first as you can tweak the
content. It is an open secret that the Kindle (Mobi) and EPUB formats are not
|You can save files as an EPUB file and it will compress
all the information automatically.
|Sigil has more options, it let you see the code of
your xhtml documents and proof-read the code for your ebooks. |
|Sigil also has menu option to check that
the file is correctly formatted before making the ebook file. It gives you a
list of any errors which you can check and correct. |
|The Kindle is the most important ebook reader in 2011
but does not use the EPUB format at present. It is possible to convert from EPUB
format to the Mobipocket format that Kindle can read, using Calibre.
Amazon will however accept EPUB for publication. So you can submit EPUB files and
Amazon will convert the
documents to the Kindle format. |
|You can use any or all of the ebook readers to check
the look and feel of the file and Kindle offer a downloadable format checker. After that you can send it to your ebook reader.
This is an important step when you are developing your ebooks. |
yourself several days to experiment before you publish your ebooks. The book
will be full of surprises and while you seek 'perfection' on one platform you
will find you loose it on another. Settle for the good!|
Editing with Sigil
TIP: If you can see that there are styles you
want to get rid of or some other consistent change you can use the search and
|So you could for example replace <br class="nameN"/> with </p> and
the style statement (nameN) is replaced with a paragraph end marker.|
|If you decide on some manual editing you might need to turn the automatic
code checker off (the icon looks like a little brush) since you will be denied
access to other services until you have corrected the error.|
If you want to use Amazon’s Kindle Publication system (KDP),
these are the steps: You might want to check
this list first as there is some information you need to prepare.
- Open Mobipocket Creator.
- Select "HTML Document" from the section "Import from an Existing File".
- Browse to the HTML file and press "Import".
- This will open the book editing function. Click on "Cover Image."
- Click "Add a Cover Image" and browse your files to locate the book cover.
- Select your book cover and click "Update" to save your cover.
- Select "Build" from the Menu.
- On the Build page, click "Build."
- Wait for the Build Finished message.
- Next, click the circle next to "Open folder containing eBook" and select
- Mobipocket created a My Publications folder in your Documents folder.
- The file will be in PRC (.prc) format which you can upload into the Kindle
Direct Publishing. But first you need to check the look and feel.
- Now verify how it will read on a Kindle Device using the Kindle Previewer.
The Kindle Previewer can be downloaded and used to identify areas which may
require further modification.
- Once installed, open the application, click "File" and then "Open Book" to
browse and select your eBook.
- Mobi emulates the Kindle device (and others devices such as the iPad and
PCs need the
Kindle readers enabled by setting up an account inside Amazon).
When you are ready, you can set up a publisher account and upload your eBook for sale on
Note on the MOBI format
Although it also conforms to the IDPF standards, the
final step is to encrypt the OPF so that editing is no longer possible of the
text in the final container. This is popular with holders of the digital rights
and means you must rely on Calibre, Kindlegen or Mobitext to output a workable
file (But not Sigil).
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