Tuesday, March 23, 2010

ePub success

Well, I got the novel up, anyway:


I goofed around with Calibre's extensive settings for quite a whole day. I really feel like all of those lovely settings should be more... umm... useful.

...and they would absolutely be if I was doing this for all of the dozen or so different ebook readers that are available.

It's just that I'm sort of focused (for now) on the iPad.

I ended up using Sigil to make my final version and focused on Stanza as the reader to test in. The desktop version of Stanza is still in beta and was a little disappointing. Once I got the file on my iPhone, however, things started looking up.

I also tested the ePub file in the Sony reader (it looked great) and I tried to look at it in Kindle, but I couldn't figure out how to get the stinkin' file to show up. Jeeze. What a pain.

Sigil has a clean, simple interface, it allowed me to easily put page breaks where I wanted, I could add meta data with ease, and (as a bonus) I was able to successfully pop in an image.

The reason I kept going back to Calibre is because I was getting thrown by the table of contents (TOC) feature. I'd open the ePub doc in one of my reader software packages and I wouldn't see the TOC as I was expecting to. Once I rationalized to myself that a TOC really wasn't that critical to a novel and that they actually sort of get in the way of reading the real content of a book, everything sort of fell into place.

...Then, of course, I realized that the software readers I was using to test the file all had the TOC hidden under a button. I'd been making the TOC just fine all this time.


I think the time I spent on this was ultimately valuable, though. I wound up going with HTML as my source. HTML is really pretty easy to keep clean from a coding perspective. You don't have to worry about what kind of weird formatting is getting tossed in by our friends at Microsoft.

That said, I'm pretty sure that I could convert a Word document or Rich Text Format document pretty well at this point.

These are my bottom-line learnings:

  • Keep your source files simple and straightforward in terms of both format and coding. The software readers just don't support complex layouts right now.
  • If you use images, use non-interlaced PNG files rather than JPGs (since the JPG format is, actually, copyrighted and some of the readers don't support it).
  • Put in good metadata. Spend some time thinking about the metadata before you are sitting there staring at the dialog and wondering what to type.
  • Don't try to convert from PDF. As I searched for hints, the one recurring theme was that PDFs convert really poorly to the ePub format.

Now it's on to converting the illustrated children's book... and after that I should probably (*ahem*) start writing again.

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