ePub Revelation

Sometimes things we think things are a lot more complicated than they really are. Sometimes things that look difficult are surprisingly simple.

To wit: ePub generation.

It’s all very nice to create a perfect .mobi file at Amazon, download it to disk, and murmur contentedly, “Now I have a perfect .mobi file!” It’s quite another thing to realize you also need an ePub file if you’re to publish through Nook, iTunes, Smashwords, or at any of various specialized marketing sites such as AllRomanceEbooks.

Often has my good friend the eBook designer urged upon me the difficulty of converting Word docs to Mobi and ePub formats. How hard this is! That’s the message.

To pay someone $50 or $100 for a single ebook, emitted about once in a year or maybe once in a lifetime: that’s one thing. But Camptown Races and Plain & Simple have been publishing eight to ten books a month. Even at our calmer, more conservative pace, we’re publishing four a month.

That represents a lot of dollars to place ebooks on lesser sites that Amazon’s.

Gasping at the potential cost, I sought to find a way to convert our copy to ePub format in-house, rather than having to hire the job out.

The search led me to Scrivener, that widely loved word-processing-cum-formatting platform. Among its many admirable characteristics, it allows you to convert your completed bookoid to ePub.

I downloaded a free trial subscription. Even though I needed only one of its features — ePub conversion — it appeared that this was the simplest and most reliable system for accomplishing that one, lonely desire.

Scrivener is a complex and sophisticated piece of software. It’s not something you just turn on and start using. Its  designers present you with a set of tutorials, which naturally I started working on right after I downloaded the freebie.

The tutorials are organized in five segments. To get through just one of them, the simple introductory section, took me over an hour!

At a bare minimum,  we’re looking at five hours of plodding through online lessons, just to start using this thing in all its complicated glory. That’s when all I want to do is convert an already completed and formatted file to ePub!

Today I revisited an old Google search: convert Word to ePub. I came across a promising tool called Online-Convert and also learned it’s pretty well reviewed by random users on the Internet.

Assessing how the product would look to future readers posed a problem: I would have to get the ePub file into my iPad’s “Bookshelf” function so I could see it in an ePub reader. I do not know how to do that, do not want to know how to do it, and would have to persuade my equally stubborn but Mac-Knowledgeable son to come to my house to make all this happen.

Time passed, during which I decided the path of least resistance must be to learn to use Scrivener. (Yea verily: that is the challenge involved in getting a reluctant offspring to apply tech skills to an aging parent’s needs and desires.)

But lo!

A new discovery: FireFox has a new add-on that allows you to read an ePub in the browser!

How perfect this is, I do not know. It’s decently reviewed by vocal users on the Web. And at first blush, it does let you see the general qualities of a converted file.

First I loaded one of the short, simple Racy Books into the thing by converting a .mobi file to ePub.

The result: a live table of contents that works accurately, very plain-vanilla but readable enough body content, and a good enough cover image.

Next: upload the complex and difficult 30 Pounds / 4 Months cookbook, replete with heads, subheads, sub-subheads, bulleted lists, and footnotes(!).

In about 30 seconds, Online-Convert produced an ePub version.

Only two problems presented themselves:

  • Chapter headings were set Roman in the original template, and so they appear disappointingly unemphatic in the ePub conversion.
  • B-level subheads are seen as chapter headings, triggering a page break before each subhead.

Easy to fix, both of them. And of course, neither headache presents itself in a plain, straightforward work of fiction.

Think of that: This one online tool saves me at least five hours of learning-curve shenanigans, plus the cost of having to purchase a challenging new computer program.

Lhudly sing huzzah!

Comin' Our Way

Comin’ Our Way!