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Toward Better eBooks

Takashi

So you are interested in going the DIY route—making your own eBooks and not having to pay BB eBooks for the service. Great! We at BB eBooks are firm believers in the culture of fostering open standards to bring about a new paradigm in the way we write and read. Let’s all learn from each other to make eBooks a more enjoyable experience for everyone. Learning how to design eBooks requires, most importantly, careful attention to detail. It also requires some knowledge of HTML/CSS, along with a good understanding of how an EPUB file is packaged. Getting into more advanced topics such as regular expressions and programming scripts will help you save time and prevent errors. Please have a look at some of the apps, tutorials, and other resources below to help you out.

The eBook Design and Development Guide

eBook Design Development Guide Cover

For complete access to all the templates, tips, and tricks that BB eBooks uses for eBook production, please consider buying the eBook Design and Development Guide at Amazon for only $6.99. In it you will find comprehensive HTML, CSS, and Regular Expression tutorials, as well as a step-by-step workflow for turning a sloppy manuscript into a beautiful eBook that is only available in this guide. A PDF version is available upon request following purchase.

Apps/Tools from BB eBooks

Tutorials:

HTML:

CSS:

EPUB/MOBI:

Smashwords:

Video Tutorials:

Other:

Recommended Tools

Along with your word processing software that you use, here are some additional tools recommended to begin designing your eBook. Don't worry, they are all free.

  1. Text editor (Notepad++ [free], TextWrangler for Mac users [free]
  2. Adobe Digital Editions (previews EPUB files [free])
  3. Kindle Previewer (previews KF8/MOBI files [free])
  4. KindleGen (Creates KF8/MOBI files from EPUB [free])
  5. Gimp (for image design [free])
  6. Photoscape (Windows) or Picasa (Mac) (for resizing and editing images [free])

Note: Many of the big publishing houses, some small presses, and a few self-publishers like to use Adobe InDesign. It is an expensive software package used by many professionals. You do not need this program to make a professional eBook. As a matter of fact, its process of converting fixed-layout content to HTML is less than desirable.

The State of eBook Development

Unfortunately, the state of eBook design and development is very poor at the moment. Writers, editors, tech geeks, and publishers are at the mercy of the titans of the tech worlds (i.e. Amazon, Apple, and Google). The eBook ecosystems they have established are analogous to living in a nuclear weapon silo set in some bad ‘60s movie—very top-down command and control with little knowledge-sharing across platforms. They all have their own ideas of what the eBook experience should be for their customers, and they don’t pretend to listen to your feedback. The EPUB standard is an open-source standard similar to what HTML is for the web, but the big tech companies like to put their own proprietary spin on everything, which hampers improvements to eBooks. Digital Rights Management (DRM) is further exacerbating the problem for everyone. We're not trying to beat up on the big guys, but it’s a sad state of affairs.

Luckily, there are some great people looking to improve the situation. O'Reilly publishes all of their eBooks DRM-free, and they have fantastic technical resources. The eBook Ninjas have an excellent weekly podcast on all things eBook. The Publication Standards Project, which endeavors to produce a more open-standard of eBooks for future generations, seems extremely promising. There's also great interaction and tech tips at places like the MobileRead wiki. So don't be too distraught. We're all in this together. The written word is far too important to be left in the hands of a few large tech companies.

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Learn how to design, develop, and create an eBook like a pro for all markets. Available at Amazon for $6.99.

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