Recently we had the pleasure of converting a print book to an ebook. In the early days of eBook creation, physical books were literally scanned, and images of their pages were shown in eReaders. Things have changed.
Today new ebooks are, in their essentials, little websites. Ebook reader interfaces are like web browsers, and eBooks themselves are built out of XHTML files. (XHTML is a very narrow, strict version of HTML.)
Taking a manuscript and making it usable as an eBook is a multi-step process. First, you have to remove a bunch of stuff your word processing program generates in the background, then you need to lay it out in a series of simple, clean, HTML/CSS documents. In much the same way website developers have to deal with the vagaries of various browsers and viewport sizes, writing HTML and CSS for eBooks requires knowledge of the limitations of different eReaders and their display capabilities. Ebooks, even more than websites, allow the viewer to control aspects of the display such as font, font-size, page background color (white, black or sepia), and whether the text is broken up into screen-sized pages, or just flows continuously. Font options, by the way, are few. Newer Apple devices allow for greater variety in font choices and will even honor choices made by the book designer; Amazon Readers do not. The bottom line is, if you already have a print book, the eBook will be able to reflect some of the overall design scheme of the print book, but can’t be an exact replica.
Once the HTML version is completed it gets converted into an EPUB file, which can then be adapted or converted by Amazon, Apple (iBooks), Barnes & Noble, and others, to be readable on their specific devices or via their software.
Many people, manuscript in hand, head over to Amazon to create their eBook and quickly discover the process is more complicated than they expected. There are “how-to’s” available, and, like so many things on the web, you can do it yourself if you have the time and motivation to figure it out. Or you can call us!