View Full Version : Just getting started!

01-31-2011, 10:05 AM
Hi all

I'm completely new to ePub, although I was a typesetter in a previous life, and have found this forum very interesting reading. My immediate background is prepress print production, so a lot of the information on here is a little alien to me.

I get the impression a lot of the software, particularly the preflight/validation and editing tools are at a very early stage of development, I can draw parallels of when pdf first started to be used in print production and the first software tools were released.

Another thing that's surprised me is the amount of open source and 'home grown' tools used for epub production, i'm surprised that people aren't charging for these applications. Are these tools actually good enough and worthwhile?

I would be interested in any feedback or comments, am I wrong in my views or accurate?

Thanks in advance

01-31-2011, 11:42 AM
There are few tools available to create epub 'out-of-the-box'. The most expensive one is Adobe Indesign. Even that one has flaws.

Besides, coding epub by hand, which isn't as hard as it sounds, is another option. Fortunately there are some very handy coders who make our life easier. The most easy to use and best imho is Sigil. Why? Because it is easy and gives a lot of control.
Some people will mention Calibre, but that one is better for library management. You can do conversion, but your result may vary.

Other application that can create epub are Atlantis Word Processor and there is also a plugin for Open Office.

Sure, it is still in it's early stages. However, I do think the drive has to come from small coders. Big companies are not (yet?) interested.

01-31-2011, 12:34 PM
Another thing that's surprised me is the amount of open source and 'home grown' tools used for epub production, i'm surprised that people aren't charging for these applications. Are these tools actually good enough and worthwhile?

Of course they are. It surprises me that you are surprised, isn't TeX free and open source as well?

I actually think the lack of "professional" tools is a good thing, as it somehow prevents the proliferation of bloated, non-compliant ebooks that work only in some specific device and break awfully when the font or screen size is changed. A more handiwork process enhances semantics and simplification, rather than looks and using every feature.

But anyway, the ePUB format is very simple once you know HTML+CSS (which is very simple itself), so the tools to create it can be very simple too, which does not mean they don't help or they are not powerful enough.

Also the ePUB format (or at least its spreading) is very recent, so it's not strange that whatever tools there are are in an early development stage.

01-31-2011, 01:43 PM
Sigil is an excellent tool for creating ePUB and if you need to convert something Calibre is a great tool as well. Check our wiki for ePUB for more details on this format.


01-31-2011, 03:01 PM
There seems to be a widespread misapprehension that "free" tools are worse or amateurish. In fact, these days, in general, the reverse is true. Commercial software is generally geared towards the ignorant, try to be everything to everyone (thus bloat), and are often defective by design in ways that make the user have to pay more money if they want even mundane "extra" features, or prevent them from learning things that might help them be less dependent on them in the future, and/or prevent their software from working on conjunction with software not made by them.

Firefox and Chrome are open source and better in most ways than their commercial counterparts, IE and Safari. Apache and WordPress are free software, yet there is nothing even close in quality in the commercial world. The list goes on.

But the worry about the ePub format, and thus the tools for it, not being very mature is a more reasonable complaint. There's some truth to that. However, from what I've seen calibre and Sigil produce ePubs that are at least as high quality as the ones produced by, e.g., InDesign. Perhaps that would change. But for the moment, the only argument I could see for preferring InDesign would be if you were already using it typeset the print version of the book. (And in general, I think it's overrated; I think TeX's typography is at least as good, and it's free.)

But also keep in mind that ePub is somewhat different than most "new" technologies, since it's built around pre-existing technologies: XHTML files with XML metadata wrapped up in a .zip file. There are open source tools for all those pieces that are old (many older than their commercial counterparts), stable and very well-tested.

That said, I still think the best way to produce an ePub is to edit the XHTML and XML pieces in a text editor and then zip them up, rather than using any specialized software.

02-01-2011, 11:01 AM
I think that the eBooks market being very young, the big software companies don't see yet a big enough market to put a lot of resources on software to do this. The lack of availability of books (those that exists are all DRMed) make these kind of software not very "popular" for the general public.

But with the new eReaders coming out, we are starting to see a new market appear. But the lack of software available means that most people have to code their own. That is what I did with mine, thinking that there was something missing and instead of waiting for someone else to do it, I did my own. I did this for fun and think that sharing what I created with other people so that it may be useful to them also. (Check my sig if you are interested in trying it, A good compliment for Sigil & Calibre).

It is clear that a big company like Adobe, that could have 50 persons working on a piece of software would be better in time than someone doing all the work by himself, but right now there are none and if programs like Sigil & Calibre are so popular now, than maybe not one big software company could compete with them. I think it is great news to have popular free & open source software, that way we will have feature we want & need and not features that can make money $$$.

02-03-2011, 07:42 AM
Actually, I doubt that if a company like Adobe would put 50 persons on it, there would be a better piece of software. Experiences from the past rather suggest that it would be a big piece of bloatware with some good parts...
In general I try to stay away from the 'big' programs and rather go for the smaller, preferably, open source programs. They tend to be better for my needs and support the features I use.