eBooks for Course Packs

With the rise in popularity of eBook readers like the Kindle, the Nook, the Sony eReader, the Kobo and many others - most of all the iPad - there may be some benefit to formatting course reading materials as eBooks.

Fortunately most eBook devices use the same format, known as "ePub" (one important exception is the Kindle, which uses its own proprietary "mobipocket" format). Even better, an ePub document is essentially a web page formatted in a particular way, so if you have already been posting your reading material online, you may be closer to creating ePub files than you think. 

Many eBook readers also display PDF documents, but there are important differences between "ePub" and "PDF" documents. PDFs are significantly more difficult to read on some devices. Apple Computer has posted some information on when to choose which format but it boils down to choose ePub when the text is most important, and choose PDF when the page layout is most important.

Here are a few tools for creating or converting ePub documents from other files. 
  • Calibre (free for Mac, Windows and Linux): Calibre is meant as an eBook manager for organizing your own eBooks (similar to iTunes), however it also easily converts files to eBooks and will convert ePub to the Kindle "mobi" format. To create an eBook with Calibre add a document to your library, then click the "convert" button and choose the desired "output format" ("mobi" for Kindle, "ePub" for just about everything else). You can add ePub files, PDF files, and "RTF" files among others. To convert a Word document to an eBook, first "save as..." in Word and choose "Rich Text" as the file format, then add the RTF document to Calibre. 
  • Apple Pages (part of iWork, Macintosh only): Apple released an update to Pages in late August that adds the ability to export a Pages document in the ePub format. To create ePubs, first make sure you have the latest version of iWork (click "Software Update..." under the Apple menu or in System Preferences), then download the sample template. Replace the text in the template with your own content, and use the provide "styles" to mark the parts of the document  (view the "style drawer" to see them). Apple has additional instructions on their web site.
  • Adobe InDesign (part of the "Creative Suite" for Macintosh or Windows): InDesign is a high-end (and very expensive) page layout program used for professional magazine, book and newspaper production. If you are already familiar with using InDesign you may want to use its eBook features. Most people will be better off using the free or inexpensive (and easier) tools above. 
  • Sigil (free for Mac, Windows, and Linux): Sigil is an open-source ePub editor that gives you more control over the document, it also allows you to edit existing eBooks. It can be difficult to use, and it helps to have some technical xHTML experience. 
For more resources, the Lexcycle "How to Create eBooks" has a list of software and web sites that either create or convert eBook documents. The MobileRead Wiki also has a page on eBook Conversion.

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This page contains a single entry by Joseph Delaney published on September 1, 2010 10:43 AM.

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