Thursday, June 30, 2011

Final Steps

I've given the words themselves one more going-over--by printing it out and scribbling corrections on the pages, funnily enough. It was a little trickier making the corrections directly in the HTML code, but I kept an eye on the results in my favorite browser and reloaded with each change to make sure I didn't bork anything.

Unfortunately, I still did bork something, but it was undetectable until I converted the results into ebook form. Since I'd been using Calibre for conversion, I also took advantage of the ability to construct a Table of Contents that certain ebook reading devices can access. This requires using HTML tags at the start of each chapter and then telling Calibre which ones to detect and use accordingly. Initially, I'd used 'a name=' tags so I could also construct a working Table of Contents within the book itself. This did odd things to the TOC when I read it on my iPhone (it kept duplicating each chapter heading each time the book was opened) so I swapped over the the ever reliable 'h1' tag after a quick lesson in how to tweak the CSS code to make it look a little less out of place. This played nicely with iBooks, but resulted in the MOBI version being unopenable on the Kindle app I've been testing my drafts on. So now I've forked the code, if you will, and saved one version for iBooks (with h1 tags intact) and another for the Kindle (with h1 tags removed.) Both are now fully functional on my iPhone and iPad on three different reading apps and I think we're about ready for prime time.

As it is, I needed to construct two separate versions anyway since I'll need two different ISBNs to identify them. After sniffing around and finding how much a pack of ISBNs cost, I've cut a deal with Lullwater Press to obtain the ISBNs and put the books out under their imprint. (Note that "cutting a deal with Lullwater Press" is a formal way of saying "Um, Dad, I need some ISBNs, can you help?") Were I not in such deprived financial circumstances, I would have sprung for the $250 for a block of ten ISBNs myself, but it's not an option right now.

So I'm this much closer to joining the ranks of the e-published. No telling what comes next.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

No Excuses

So a little HTML hackage in TextWrangler and some Calibre magic have provided my ebook with a workable Table of Contents that links directly to the chapters. The nice thing about HTML as an ebook writing medium is that you can check the formatting in short order by firing up your favorite browser and opening the file with it. This way I was able to test my tags and fix them instantly instead of loading things onto the iPhone and then finding out that they were borked.

It's still a rather short work, some twenty-odd pages on the iPad, but this is a how-to book rather than a novel, so I can hope that its utility will make up for its brevity. I'm not planning on charging more than a buck or so for it anyway.

I think the next steps are one last going-over for revision, finalizing the cover and then getting it set up on iBooks and Amazon. Yikes.

Ebook Progress

After a long pause and much procrastination, I've resumed work on hashing out my wee little ebook. A few things I've learned:

1. Calibre works wonders for rendering .odt files into something resembling an ebook. So far I've done a few test drafts that I've been able to look at on my iPhone and iPad in three different reading apps (Stanza, Kindle and iBooks) to catch and mend the flaws and glitches.

2. Optimal size for an ebook cover image is 600 x 800 pixels. This allows it to play nicely with the Kindle and looks fine on iBooks as well. My test cover was originally rendered as 6000 x 8000 pixels (slow going, but still functional) and then scaled down to fit. PNG looks better than JPG, by the way.

3. Get rid of the double space after the period. It looks funny when rendered on a page, even an electronic one.

4. Make sure there are no gaps before the page break, or you may wind up with a blank page in the middle of everything, depending on how the pages come out.

5. Don't break your brain worrying about widows and orphans, because every page is going to come out differently depending on the size of the screen and which end is up.

I'm thinking about doing an HTML rendition so I can get under the hood to tweak the code directly and then running that through Calibre to see how it looks. I'm glad I picked such a short book to start this experiment with--I think if I'd tried this with my novel I'd be close to dead by now.

I'm going to resume the practice of excuse notes on this blog until the thing is complete and available for sale to the public. Which means I'd better get some work done on it if I don't want to write an excuse note for today.