Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Word Processing an eBook

Previously I tried creating an ePub eBook from a word Processing document using LuLu's new conversion utility. There were a few problems with this as I had used exactly the same word processing file I had used to create the paperback book. So I took a copy of the paper-book and started editing it to make the eBook version.

The image I had on the title page did not show up on the eBook. I had an image in the background on the page, but you can only have simple in-line images in ePub. So I changed the image to in-line. At the same time I sued a lower resolution version fot he image, as the eBook readers have much lower resolution than a printed page. Using the high resoolution imaqge just wasted space (this one image took as much file space as all the text of the book).

The Lulu software generates a table of contents for the book, so the one I ha for the printed version was redundant (and refereed to no-existent page numbers as eBooks don't have pages. So I dented the table of contents.

I found if I set the WP document to B6 size (4.92 x 6.93 inches), with margins of 0.43 inches and text at 12 point, the WP document looked about the same as the resulting eBook. The page sizes in the word processing document are ignored by the conversion process, as eBooks do not have fixed size pages, but it helps to have the document you are working on look roughly like the final result will be.

Ebook readers do not do a good job of fully justified text, so I changed the format to left justified and the Lulu converter does not support hyphenation, so I made the text left justified.

The converter turns each level 2 heading into a new chapter, whereas my book had heading 1 for chapters. I thought this was a side effect of conversion of the content from the Moodle Learning Management System. But I found I had incorrectly entered the headings in Moodle. So I went back and manually changed all the level 1 headings to level 2, level 2 to level 3 and so on.

The copyright page of the book had run on under the title page, as the copyright page has no heading (and the conversion process ignores page breaks, eBooks having no fixed pages). It was not clear what to do with the copyright page. In theory this information is contained in a separate file in the eBook, but the reader may never think to look there. So I created what is in effect the first chapter of the book called "About the Book" and put the copyright information there.

With all that done the eBook looks reasonable. But eBooks using the current ePub standard (and the Kindle format using by Amazon), look like very dull web pages, without advanced formatting. In that way they mimic black and white paperback books, but it would be difficult to produce something like a children's story book this way. The new version of ePub based on HTML 5 may fix this, but backward compatibility with low cost eBook readers will be a problem.

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