iBooks, Kindle, ePubs, oh my!

December 15, 2010

by Beth

It seems that there is an iPad in my future. I own a Kindle. I’m looking into publishing some materials from some of our websites for these formats. So, here goes my research!

Learn about the formats:

Start with Wikipedia information: A Comparison of E-Book Formats

Learn about the Readers:

E-books readers include:

  • iBooks: this app for iPhone, Touch and iPad can use ePub formatted books. Maybe others, but this one for sure.
  • Adobe Digital Editions: Free download from Adobe; handles pdf and ePub for sure. Other formats have not yet been explored.  I’ve got this one my iMac desktop.
  • calibre: Free download for Windows, Mac and Linux. This is a jewel of an application. It manages and e-book library and also does the conversion from many formats to many formats. You can bring in pdf (not so great), or html or word docs, etc and create ePub or mobi (Kindle) etc output.
  • Kindle: I have really enjoyed my Kindle 2 which can read the amazon format (azw — a type of mobipocket), mobi files and pdf’s.
  • Nook and Nook Color: I’m pretty sure this uses ePub, but I’ll have to look further.

This is all wonderful information. But, I want to create my own e-books, so I had to continue my research to understand how one actually creates the content in the proper format.

Some basics to consider:

  • PDF often does not convert to either .epub or .mobi gracefully because PDF is wonderful for materials where presentation and layout are important. This formatting just doesn’t translate well to the text focused e-book formats. So, it is good that many of the e-book readers will read and present native PDF files.
  • Page numbers are irrelevant for e-books in general. Because the text flows and can be resized by the reader, pages are not really that defined. So, if you want that paged layout and care deeply about it, then go with PDF.
  • If you want to use wordprocessing files as input, this is great. Just keep it simple. Inline your images. Use specific styles.

Tools for creating your files:

I’m a mac user, so I was delighted to discover several tools that run on the Mac:

Calibre not only provides a reader and  library management, but it can do the conversions for you! And, it can be set up as a content server.

Pages, the wordprocessor in the iWork suite can export to the ePub format. Apple even has a document to help you get started with this (Creating ePub files with Pages)

For more ePub formatting power, look into the opensource project called sigil.

There is a nice summary here at Lexcycle. (I’m not in to reinventing the wheel or stealing content, so live with the plethora of links!)

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About the Author


Marathoner (hey! I did complete the Nashville Rock'n'Roll Marathon! -- never again!), peregrino (Via Frances, Camino de Santiago de Compostela 2013), techie behind famvin.org for over 20 years now, mother to David, Marie and Daniel, Mémère to Lily, Ella, Genevieve, Henry, Avery, Luke and Claire, Catholic Christian (when I get frustrated and want to leave the RC I find myself asking "But where would I go?"), Auburn Tiger (War Eagle!), retired from Auburn University Libraries, and after 44 years, I'm still married to JP.

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