Thursday, March 24, 2011

How to Make an eBook Anyone Can Read with ePub

In a recent post I talked about how all of you would-be eBook authors should know your file formats, or at least be somewhat familiar with the most commonly used ones. As an author, you want to make your work as accessible as possible, which means making your content able to be read on as many devices as you can. Since it is Read an eBook Week, and Lulu is giving away three Apple iPads, I thought it might be useful to provide a how-to tutorial for the most universal eBook format: ePub.
Many new authors might make the mistake of thinking that if they have a portable document format (PDF) of their book it means that it can be read on an e-reader or other mobile device. While in many cases the PDF can be opened, the text is far too small because it is a static or unchangeable image. ePub makes it so your text is resized to fit the screen of any given device. Since the text in ePub format can be changed in terms of size, font and color, reading an ePub book becomes a much more personal experience for the reader. Sounds great right? But how do you make an ePub book?
You really have three options: let Lulu do the work for you with our conversion services, use a conversion program like (Xilisoft iPad PDF Transfer, eCub, 4Media PDF to EPUB Converter</b>, Google ePub Toolkit, etc.), or you can do-it-yourself. If you decide to do-it-yourself, I’ve added some great directions I found over at

What You’ll Need:

* A text editor (like Text Edit or Notepad) that can edit text files, HTML, and XML.
* A program that can create .zip files (which should be built into OS X or Windows).

Alright, first you’ll need to get all of the files together that you will later put into your master .zip file (called a container).

A Closer look at ePub files (*Be aware that file names are case sensitive*):

A .epub file has at least the following files/folders in it to function:

* mimetype – Typically a plain ASCII text file that has the line “application/epub+zip” in it. This file tells a reader/operating system what’s in the .ePub file. This file must be the first line in the zip file, and cannot be compressed.
* META-INF folder – Contains at least the container.xml file, which tells the reader software where to find the book in the container (typically in the content.opf file detailed below).
* OEBPS folder – Recommended location for the book’s actual content

1. Images folder – Contains any pictures used in your eBook.
2. content.opf file – An XML file that lists what’s in the container in the order they will appear, the manifest, spine section (which lists the reading order of the contents), and any metadata like author name, genre, and publisher. Any additional metadata will need tags similar to these required ones:
* dc:title – The book’s title.
* dc:language – The language the book is in (here is a list of language codes).
* dc:udebtufuer- Every eBook has a unique ID code (UID). If you’re unsure what to use, try using your ISBN.
* toc.ncx file – Table of contents arranged with navpoint tags. Make sure the UID matches whatever is in your content.opf file because some readers won’t display your book properly if it doesn’t. The play order values found in this file must also be in order and will return an error if the order skips over a number.
* XHTML files – The book’s literal contents are listed in these files which are like HTML files with closing tags associated with each element. It is up to you how you arrange your content but having a separate .xhtml file for each chapter tends to look better on e-readers.

Now that you have all your files in order, you can make the .epub container that houses all of them.

How to Make the Container File

* First create a new .zip file
* Copy the uncompressed mimetype file into the .zip file.
* Copy all of your other files (which should all be located in an OEBPS file) into the .zip file.

1. The .zip file structure should look similar to this:
– mimetype
– container.xml
– images
- content.opf
– toc.ncx
– stylesheet.css
– content.xhtml
* Change the .zip file extension to .epub.

Once you are done with these steps, you should have a readable eBook in a format that works on most readers. Now, all you should have to do is upload your work to Lulu.

Making Your eBook Available for Download
In the Publish section, click the ‘eBooks’ button.
Click the ‘Start your eBook‘ button.
Enter a title and author name. Select your project’s availability. Click the ‘Save &
Continue’ button (any of these options can be changed at anytime).
Upload the file you want to use by clicking the ‘browse’ button, searching your computer for the file you want to use and then clicking the ‘Upload’ button.
If you upload multiple files to create an eBook, you will have to select a size for Lulu to create your eBook.
Click the ‘Make Download-Ready File’ button to convert your file into an eBook.
Download and preview your file and then click the ‘Save & Continue’ button.
Create your cover and click the ‘Make Cover’ button. Then click the ‘Save & Continue’ button after the page reloads. Learn how to create a cover here and see What the eBook cover for.
Fill in the Description fields and click the ‘Save & Continue’ button
Set the price for your eBook and click the ‘Review Project’ button (eBooks with DRM cannot be offered for free).
Review your project. Click the ‘Change’ button for any section that needs adjustment. If everything is to your liking click the ‘Save & Finish’ button.
Once you click the ‘Save & Finish’ button you should have a book that is ready to share with the world in cutting-edge fashion – something any reader on the go will appreciate.
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