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Old 02-11-2013, 01:01 AM   #1
Craig223
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Need Help Creating an E-Book

Just joined the site, so hello to everyone.

Iím here because Iím struggling with an assignment Iíve been given. I hope this is the right place to post about this.

Sorry in advance for the length of the post, but I want to include everything I think might be relevant. (Plus, the more I say, the more clear will be my modest level of understanding of computers, e-books, etc., which hopefully will lead folks to simplify their responses to something that wonít thoroughly befuddle me.)

I work for a group of about 300 physicians. I handle their various writing projects, such as a monthly newsletter, random brochures, etc.

Iíve just completed one of the most ambitious projects so far, a guide for cancer patients that the oncologists will distribute to their patients. I created it in Microsoft Publisher, and I also have it in pdf, since itís easy to convert to that. Itís about 125 pages.

Now the president of the group has decided that itís so expensive to print that (plus binder, tabs, etc.) that heíd like to make it available to patients as an e-book instead (or in addition, so they can have their choice and hopefully most will choose the electronic option). So Iím now charged with making it into an e-book.

I come into this knowing basically nothing about e-books. I donít own an e-reader or whatever theyíre called, certainly have never created an e-book.

Several hours of Googling led me to the following initial impressions (which may all be completely wrong; feel free to correct me on any point): ePub is the most common format for e-books, but many devices cannot read such files, as is true for all the alternatives. Many recommend simply leaving it as a pdf, which evidently just about all devices can read fine. If instead I choose to convert it to ePub or some such file type that is specific to e-books, I gather that that has certain drawbacks/consequences, including that it eliminates the pagination and basically makes it all like itís one page so that individual devices divide it up however fits their size, it has only a very limited number of fonts and font sizes, it has only the basic keyboard letters and numbers and most common symbols, and it can unpredictably screw up graphics and text boxes and such.

Again, Iím not saying all that is accurate, but thatís what Iíve read so far online.

Basically it sounds like it would be a nightmare trying to convert my Microsoft Publisher document to a file format like ePub. It has different fonts, headings of many different sizes, plenty of graphics and text boxes that Iíd want to keep on their current page, occasional less common symbols (like, say, the copyright symbol), and on and on. It was very much created to be a print document.

I reported all these early findings to the president of the group. His response is that what I read about the pagination issue is wrong, that whatever device he reads an e-Book on the pagination stays the same. He says pdf files are just very user unfriendly, that he hates trying to read a pdf, whereas an e-Book is a breeze and much more intuitive. As to it not converting well, his response is that heís willing to pay me to go through it page by page and line by line to clean up however it messes up the spacing and fonts and such. And for that matter to do so for multiple file types, since if neither ePub nor anything else will work for everyone, his solution is to make the book available in two or three or four electronic formats and patients can choose the one that best fits their device.

He also brought up the issue of how to even get the electronic version of the book to people. What heíd like to do is have it available (in multiple formats) on the groupís website, so people can click to download it from there. (It would be free; weíre not charging patients for it.) But heís under the impression that some formats, like the one Apple uses for its devices, are proprietary and you probably have to direct people to their website and maybe even pay to make it available there. So thatís another thing I need to research.

So in summary, I need advice on at least the following:

1. What file type(s) should I change a Microsoft Publisher book to in order to make it so that everybody or almost everybody would be able to read it on their device, it would be as user friendly as possible as far as the reader experience, and it would enable me to keep it as close in appearance as possible to the print version of the book?

2. What do I then do with that file(s) so that people can readily read it on their device?

Thanks so much for any guidance you can give me.
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Old 02-11-2013, 02:27 AM   #2
AlexBell
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Welcome to the forum.

There are probably almost as many ways of producing ebooks as there are readers of this forum, and some of the advice and opinions expressed here have both proponents and opponents - including what I've just written.

My opinion, for what it is worth, is
- It is best to start with a Word document
- The Word document should then be marked up to valid XHTML
- And then packaged up to valid ePub format for Sony, Kobo, Nook, and iPads
- Then the valid ePub can be converted to mobi or azw3/KF8 for Kindles
- I suggest that you take pains to remember that ebooks are not print books.

I've obviously grossly over simplified the process - there are many different on ways of achieving the main steps in the list above - but it's a start for discussion.

I think most people would agree that pdf is the world's worst document for conversion into ebooks, and most people would agree that ePub and mobi or azw3/KF8 are by far the most important output formats.
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Old 02-11-2013, 02:49 AM   #3
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Most of the stuff you mention can be done in an e-book. Things like symbols, fonts and images. There are some restrictions though and especially for the fonts you must be sure you have the rights to distribute the embedded font.
Some stuff may not be available for all formats. For example on the mobi format for older Kindles.

Text boxes will usually not play nice and are very hard to do. And, your president is wrong and you are right. Pagination is being done on the fly and is dependent on the reader and font-size. That makes dealing with text-boxes and images hard.

There is also something called fixed-layout where you would not have issues with the pagination. However, only few readers can handle those.
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Old 02-11-2013, 04:31 AM   #4
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For a starter, just create a PDF, but with a reduced page size. Instead of setting the paper size to A4 or US-letter, set it to something more similar to the real screen sizes, 9◊12 cm (3.5◊4.7 in) is a popular size. Reduce margins to a minimum (1-2 mm) and the PDF should pretty readable in most ebook readers. Depending on the kind of book, this may require an extensive reworking of the layout.

The advantages of the PDF are that it's easy to create, you probably already have all the tools and skills for that, and that it should look the same in every device (just remember that there are many devices with no colour).

Then you can concentrate on creating the ePub (or mobi), which, as a first approximation, is similar to creating a web page with very few bells and whistles. If the book relies on many text boxes, fixed pagination and relative positioning of images, then a "standard" ebook is probably not the most adequate choice. If, however, it like a normal novel, with a single text flow and some interspersed images between paragraphs (or can be conveniently rendered as such), then conversion is straightforward.
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Old 02-11-2013, 04:45 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Craig223 View Post
His response is that what I read about the pagination issue is wrong, that whatever device he reads an e-Book on the pagination stays the same.
You probably refer to different things which "pagination".

If "pagination" means what is being displayed on the screen at a given time, then you are right, it is not fixed. Change the device, screen size, margins, fonts, etc. and the content on the screen changes.

If "pagination" means the correspondence between "page numbers" and the text, then the president may be correct. Depending on the device or software, the reading program may assing (somewhat arbitrary) page numbers to the text, which are fixed and are not related with the screen display. You can then say "go to page #" and get always to the same part of the text.
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Old 02-11-2013, 06:27 AM   #6
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I follow the same path as Alex. The tools are free (other than Word) and there are many resources on MobileRead to help you.
If there is a person in your organization that works with the website, their html skills will be of great help.
My workflow is:
1. Create the document in Microsoft Word, using only the stylesheets for formatting.
2. Save the document as a filtered web page.
3. Import that file into Sigil.
4. Clean up and create the epub file in Sigil.
5. Convert the epub file to a mobi file using Amazon's Kindle Previewer. This creates the file for Kindles.
This is just one of several workflows you can use, but it is a simple, inexpensive, and efficient method to create ebooks.
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Old 02-12-2013, 11:24 PM   #7
Craig223
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I really appreciate the feedback so far. Slowly but surely I'm getting a sense for what I'm up against and how I might want to proceed.

I had a fairly long talk with one of the two main people who is putting the website together. His take is that PDFs are fine for people to download from the website, so he doesn't think it would be worth all the extra labor to try to convert what I have to an e-book format. He said that as far as the president of the group's concern that PDFs are unappealing and awkward to read compared to an e-book, that's likely because he's downloading them to his tablet as a PDF whereas if he pushed a different button the same file on the same tablet could be read more like an e-book.

He did say that moving forward if we want to do future content as an e-book that we would need to take that into account from the start, and so my approach would be very different from what it was this time when I was basically creating a print booklet. He says it's much easier to create an e-book from the beginning than to go back after the fact and convert something else to an e-book, which makes sense.

The president may or may not go along with his suggestion that we leave this one as a PDF, so right now I don't know if I'll need to try to convert what I have to an e-book file type. If it turns out I do, I think the responses in this thread will get me going in the right direction. Not that I currently know how to do all the steps that have been suggested, but at least I have the general approach now, and I can try to teach myself each step, in part by searching this site. Or maybe I'm being too optimistic that I'll be able to do that, but we'll see.
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Old 02-14-2013, 04:47 PM   #8
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Welcome

If this is not a one off exercise, there is an alternative, if your employer is willing to spend some money on software. Its called Jutoh - http://www.jutoh.com/ and there's a free trial version.

You don't need any technical knowledge about creating ebooks as Jutoh does it all for you and it will create multiple formats in one go. The user interface is like a scaled down version of MS Word including the ability to create you own styles. The current output formats are: EPUB, Mobipocket (requires add-on), Open Document (ODT), Text, HTB, MP3, HTML & Smashwords OpenDocument.

Once you've created your ebook you can check how it will appear on an eReader using the vendors PC software e.g. Reader Library for Sony devices, Kindle for PC from Amazon etc.


Also a suggestion for checking the output, which ever method you use to get there. Ask if any of your workmates own ereaders or other mobile devices and would they help test your output. I'm sure between all of them you should end up with a representative sample.

Whatever you decide good luck and I hope it all goes well.
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Old 02-16-2013, 09:09 AM   #9
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There is currently no "automagic" method of converting a complex publication to epub. The programs that claim to fail dismally on all but the most simple material.

But you don't need an epub. Export as PDF from your Publisher documents. Upload them to your webspace and put links on your web site. That's all you need. PDF is as near to a universal format as makes no difference. The tiny number of web site users who might not have the reader installed as standard can download it for free. There's no reason to complicate the issue with providing alternative formats.

If you want to display pages directly on the site, export a JPG as well and place it as a graphic in the usual way.

You could consider learning a better design program than Publisher. All that "easyness" is very restrictive.

Last edited by exaltedwombat; 02-16-2013 at 09:13 AM.
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Old 03-12-2013, 12:34 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jellby View Post
For a starter, just create a PDF, but with a reduced page size. Instead of setting the paper size to A4 or US-letter, set it to something more similar to the real screen sizes, 9◊12 cm (3.5◊4.7 in) is a popular size. Reduce margins to a minimum (1-2 mm) and the PDF should pretty readable in most ebook readers. Depending on the kind of book, this may require an extensive reworking of the layout.
This is precisely my experience when providing my textbook in pdf format. It's a book on computer programming, so lots of equations, line figures, and computer code listings. I wrote it using LaTeX, which produces beautiful typesetting but is mostly irrelevant in epub. Students complained that the margins wasted screen space on their small mobile devices, and the binding gutter caused each page to "hop" from side to side. I made them happy by producing a second pdf that had uniform 0.1" margins. (A little arithmetic in LaTeX settings keeps the pagination between the pdf and paperback versions the same. BTW your president is wrong about pagination in the sense of a page number identifying the location of text to all readers.)

Quote:
Then you can concentrate on creating the ePub (or mobi), which, as a first approximation, is similar to creating a web page with very few bells and whistles. If the book relies on many text boxes, fixed pagination and relative positioning of images, then a "standard" ebook is probably not the most adequate choice. If, however, it like a normal novel, with a single text flow and some interspersed images between paragraphs (or can be conveniently rendered as such), then conversion is straightforward.
After spending many hours researching how to convert my book to epub in Spring 2012, this is precisely my conclusion. I ended up leaving my book in pdf because I realized that an epub version would be a different book, not just a conversion of the paperback.
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