ePub Conversion escapades


The conversion of Creating Flow with OmniFocus to an ePub format was significantly less trivial than I had anticipated. I thought it would be a simple conversion from the Pages document. The much touted Pages ePub export tool seemed like a given path to easy ePub creation. While the built-in ePub export function is extremely useful, it is likely better thought of as a starting point than anything else.

I thought I’d mention a bit about the extended ePub conversion process as it may come in handy for other independent authors.

Before I begin, I should mention that there are professional services that do this sort of work. It is nice to do things oneself, but there is, of course, the opportunity cost in doing it. In the end, I am happy to have done it on my own, to have learned an interesting process, and to have been able to format the book to my liking. Much of Creating Flow with OmniFocus has been about the independent self-publishing process and a journey of do-it-yourself in the days of technology. (I guess that’s another post.)


The Conversion


As noted above, the first step taken was converting the text to ePub from Pages.  Importing the resulting ePub file directly into iBooks, I was left with a poorly formatted text.  The chapters all ran together without page break.  Spacing of the text was off, and any apparent idiosyncrasies that did not appear in the PDF became plainly evident. In addition, many aspects of the ePub file seemed to lack any rhyme or reason in translation between the Pages formatting and the resultant coding of the ePub conversion.


Programs and Resources used


It quickly became apparent that the immediate conversion would not work. A nice resource I found is a Wiki site called MobileRead.

In the end, there were several programs, in addition to Pages, which proved useful in the translation. All of the following are free programs though donations are encouraged:

1 – Calibre – Calibre will convert most any format of text into most any other.  It is specifically geared towards eReaders.  The direct translation of the PDF of Creating Flow to the ePub was readable, but not great.  It is a direct converting program.  This means “garbage in, garbage out.”

2 – Sigil – Sigil actually goes into the coding of the ePub file.  One can arrange chapters, code headings, insert images, adjust meta-data (such as title, publisher, etc.), and more.  It seems to be a young program with room for improvement, but it is also very useful.

3 – TextWrangler – More than for just ePub conversion, TextWrangler is useful for any type of coding.  It is a simple editor specifically geared towards coding.  There may be many computer languages for which it is useful, for all I know. Over the years, I’ve used it for html, css, php, and now ePub conversion.  In the present case, it was useful for copy-pasting code, making adjustments, saving alternative copies, and copy-pasting code back into the working ePub file.


In addition, you can consider as programs iTunes and various readers such as iBooks and Stanza in order to test the file.

These programs provide the tools, but the work of coding and adjusting of css is the tedium of the work involved. So, if you are scared off by the prospect of coding, this would be the place to stop. I would encourage you, however, to learn some coding skills as increasingly I think it is a useful life skill to develop. It is useful for not only ePub files, but for website work in general. A good place to start would be http://w3schools.com/.  As with any learning process, if you can start it in some form of play, it will be enjoyable and more likely to stay with you.


Coming up …


In the next post, we’ll look at adjusting colors, headings and page breaks, dealing with the Table of Contents, and creating links.