Into the Technical Vortex: Producing a Kindle Ebook

Well, I’m in the mix now. I’ve signed up to create the Kindle edition of Uncommon Threads, the anthology released last June by my writing group, the Loudoun Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers. So, I’m deep in the throes of researching how to professionally produce Amazon’s mobi format for Kindle ebooks, as well as the epub format for other vendors.

I’m a software architect for my day job, in which I build large-scale web applications for various clients. At the end of the day, ebooks are HTML. which is something that I’m an expert in. Quite frankly, I think there’s a lot of substandard advice on the web regarding how to produce ebooks.

Or, to put it another way, it’s easy to produce an ebook. It’s much harder to produce a professional caliber ebook that will work on the wide range of readers and reading applications that are available in the wild.

My personal approach is evolving based on my research and experimentation. Right now, it appears as if my process is going to be something like this:

  1. Set up the ebook in Scrivener.
  2. Export to HTML.
  3. Massage the HTML.
        — Remove extraneous HTML elements.
        — Add custom CSS style sheet.
        — Organize HTML and images.
  4. Import HTML into Calibre.
  5. Export to epub format.
  6. Import epub to Amazon.

We’ll just have to see how this all works out. In a way, this is a dry run for producing my own ebooks in the first quarter of 2016.

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  1. Posted January 8, 2016 at 4:31 PM | Permalink

    I’ve gotten Calibre 2.48 installed on my Mac. This is a replacement for an earlier edition of Calibre that I’d installed in 2013 (Calibre 0.9.21). So, a much needed upgrade. And, in fact, the tool is much, much better than it was before.

  2. Posted January 26, 2016 at 12:00 PM | Permalink

    Making good progress. I have the entire book in HTML now, and organized to my satisfaction. I’ve got a reasonably small, embedded CSS style sheet that does all the formatting that I need it to. I was assisted in the enterprise by the book, Zen of eBook Formatting, by Guido Henkel.

    For the ebook, I’ve dispensed with a few niceties that the print edition had. I’m not doing initial drop-caps with custom fonts for stories; ebook flow across devices isn’t solid enough to support that. I’m not doing any custom fonts; again, lack of reliable support across devices. I’m not doing different separators for different stories, e.g. – everybody gets “***” as a scene break separator.

    Also, moving Copyright Acknowledgements to the end.

    Footnotes are being set up in their own section. Clicking on a footnote number in a story takes the reader to that number within the Footnotes section. Clicking that same number within the Footnotes section will take the reader back to the story. Added a note to that effect at the top of the Footnotes section, as well.

    Next up, the graphics.

  3. Posted January 26, 2016 at 12:04 PM | Permalink

    For graphics, I need the Title page, plus I’m doing the two Section pages as graphics, including the verses on the graphics. It’s the only reliable way to have the Section pages as a single unit that can’t be separated by readers. Plus, each of the binary circle sub-chapter markings from “The Darkest Evening” will be graphics as well. I’m going to include the group photo from the back cover of the print edition as an extra black and white photo at the end of the book (right before the Copyright Acknowledgements).

    The Title page will be color, but the rest of the graphics will be black and white, so it should be possible to compress them pretty nicely.

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