Monday, 26 January 2015

The Epub is Open! Mine's a Pint, Please by Ruby Barnes

When it comes to e-books I'm definitely a Kindle kind of guy. I read on my old basic Kindle, on my iPhone Kindle app and sometimes on my laptop Kindle app. When it comes to e-book formatting of new releases (the bulk of that sort of work at Marble City Publishing Ltd falls at the door of Mark Turner who is me anyway), I use the KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) process to proof e-books. Those kindle editions of the Marble City books are as clean and shiny as I can get them. Hyperlinked contents pages (when they are needed), back matter with links to other titles, hyperlinks and QR code to the publisher social media platform etc.

But wait! There's a whole world of people who don't worship at the altar of Kindle. The ePub file is their staple diet. Nook, Kobo, iTunes, Google Play and a bunch of others all fire up on ePub files. Their readers deserve just as much care and attention put into the finished ePub product.

For indie-authors and independent publishers there are several ways to convert a manuscript from (what is usually) MS Word to ePub. The popular distribution hubs such as Draft2Digital and Smashwords have conversion software built into their process. There are also standalone software programs such as Calibre that offer ePub conversion.

The problem for me is how to view these ePubs to proof them. And also how to read ePub editions if a book I want to read is presented in that format. I do have an e-reader that takes ePubs - a Kobo Touch that I won online a couple of years ago. But it's not great to use, to be honest. I have an iPhone and various apps but that means side-loading onto my iPhone or emailing to myself. Not easy as I use a laptop which doesn't recognise the iPhone when I connect it. And my primary laptop has security restrictions that prevent me from installing e-reader apps on it (yes, it's a day-job machine). So proper review of ePub editions has remained a challenge. Until now.

If you use Firefox-Mozilla internet browser you may have periodically noticed the program telling you that it is "updating add-ons". My recent discovery (and forgive me if I'm the last to know) is that there is a new updated EPUBReader add-on for Firefox Mozilla. And it's great!

EPUBReader add-on for Firefox-Mozilla
Figure 1 - the EPUBReader Firefox-Mozilla addon

Once installed (and it installs without Administrator privileges!) it will add an ePub-Catalog entry to your browser Bookmarks. Any ePub file you download with your browser or click to open in your browser will feature in that bookmarked catalog.

 the EPUBReader ePub-Catalog in Bookmarks
Figure 2 - the ePub-Catalog in Bookmarks

The on-screen appearance of e-books with this add-on is similar to other apps I've used on our other computer (which I can't get near because the kids use it for gaming) but somehow clearer. If the e-book has an index then this is shown clearly to the left with a double page display to the right (these are the standard settings but you can set preferences).

layout of the EPUBReader add-on
Figure 3 - layout of the EPUBReader add-on
There's a save function which allows for saving of the opened ePub to a folder (local, cloud etc.)

While this is great for me when I'm reading an ePub for recreation, it's brilliant for the ePub formatting process. Currently I'm using Draft2Digital for all ePub markets. [Previously we've gone direct through Apple (needs a Mac), Kobo (horrible results) and via Smashwords (sometimes nightmares with their Meatgrinder) - and Barnes & Noble still doesn't give Irish residents a direct option despite Nook Press reaching Europe.] This Firefox-Mozilla add-on allows instant checking of the ePub file. Those intricacies of layout, style, spacing etc can be checked within seconds.

EPUBReader The Sadness of Angels by Jim Williams
Figure 4 - checking the formatting of The Sadness of Angels by Jim Williams

This is very helpful for texts which are relying upon layout to give a custom "look and feel".

Converting manuscripts to e-books can often be quite a challenge. Fonts and styles may disappear, white space in the original MS gets eaten up, page breaks don't occur where they are supposed to. Draft2Digital, for all its other benefits of ease and speed, is a particular culprit in these things. The EPUBReader add-on provides instant visual feedback on the success or otherwise of formatting efforts. This is particularly important if you want to add front or back matter in a controlled and managed fashion. (D2D hint - feature a section title in the Index in order to force a page change).

Marble City Publishing back matter on EPUBReader
Figure 5 - checking back matter in EPUBReader

So there you have it. A great way to read ePubs. A quick and easy way for authors and publishers to check their progress with ePub formatting. Maybe you knew about it already. Maybe you know of a better solution. Let us know.

8 comments:

Chris Longmuir said...

Thanks for the tip about the Firefox app, Ruby. I usually use Adobe Digital editions to check my epubs. Apart from downloading the software (free) it does not require a browser to work, it's just like any other software programme. I occasionally use the Sony 'Library' programme, which came with my ancient Sony ereader which I no longer use. I'm a Kindle gal. Great post.

Susan Price said...

Yes, great post Ruby, and thank you. I've linked it to our 'How-To Page' so it can be easily found at all times.

Lydia Bennet said...

so very helpful Ruby, thank you! one of many many tasks which seem to be building up like big buildy-up things but if I get to it, this will be the dog's danglers.

Kathleen Jones said...

Thank you Ruby! I use sigil to read epubs for proofing and sometimes adobe - I have a Windows 8 laptop that's very picky!!!

@Ruby_Barnes said...

Thanks folks. Sometimes these techy things can make life so much easier.

Sandra Horn said...

Thank you, Ruby - I might just give it a try if I can gird up my loins, take several deep breaths, sock back a pint or two of Dutch courage...seriously, your exposition has given hope to a rabbit like me.

Sandra Horn said...

Thank you, Ruby - I might just give it a try if I can gird up my loins, take several deep breaths, sock back a pint or two of Dutch courage...seriously, your exposition has given hope to a rabbit like me.

Reb MacRath said...

Thanks so much for trying. But there's really no hope for the Rebster at anything like this.