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Preparing ebook files

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Getting your source files in good order for ebooks

Your existing files probably have visible and invisible data that will cause trouble when you present them for conversion to an eformat. The key to a successful ebook conversion is getting a good ‘clean' input file, regardless of the file format or software you are going to use.

Formats for presenting files to the conversion software

  • The less formatting the better so most converters like RTF or TXT files
  • Word DOC and DOCX files need to be run through a converter as most epublishing software will not accept them directly.
  • PDF files work but they make rather messy ebooks which need to be tided up.

It might make sense to save the file as a simple .txt file and then restore the formatting afterwards. Another simple way to handle this is to copy your existing file into a few document, using Paste Special – pick the option for unformatted text. If you are starting from a pdf, try the copy & paste technique.

After that, you need to:

  • Remove all headings and page numbering.
  • Think about the use of footnotes and endnotes as they don’t really work in ebooks.
  • The text for any TOC needs to be removed and heading tags inserted to help generate a TOC for your ebook.
  • You also need to look at your tables and images. Try saving the file using 'web filtered' to extract and compress the images. (.jpg rather than .png).
  • Prepare your meta data. These are the pointers that will bring people to your writing. You might be surprised how much can be put into most text files.
  • If your book is still in separate chapter-files it probably makes sense to gather it into a single file with one set of metadata and some consistent styles. 
  • All word processors allow you to define a document style.  Explore the document styles available as these will define the way headings, paragraphs quotations, captions, notes etc. look. Do NOT hand format these.
  • Bold characters, italics and indents will normally translate into your ebook. However, bullet points and special fonts will not be transferred.
  • Justification does not translate well to ebooks. Because the reader can resize and reflow the text, unless the text is small the layout on the screen can look odd.
  • Chapters: converters recognise a page break as a new chapter. Make sure that the text flows through the book and only insert a page break if you want this to be a separate chapter or section.
  • Most converters will generate a Table of Contents if you have tagged the headings. Use the standard tags or styles (Heading 2 to Heading 4) to give the converter software a way to understand the structure.
  • Tables can be remade using XML but you might find it easier to them into images and insert these into the text. 
  • Images embed easily within your text. You may need to edit the file before you start converting to move the images because the discipline of pages no longer applies to ebooks .If you save the file as 'web filtered' or HTML, the images are adjusted and extracted from within the text.
  • Metadata: the benefit of adding this in the source file is that it will embed itself into the ebook.

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