Embed Paragraph Styles in Object Styles, then Export to EPUB

InDesign’s Object Styles contain multitudes of possibilities to streamline EPUB export.

At the InDesign Conference in Denver last week, I saw a demo that used Object Styles to automatically style unformatted text. Follow these steps:

  • In Object Style Options, choose the Paragraph Style to assign your desired style. Then select “Apply Next Style.”

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  • Here are the Paragraph Styles. Para style h1, with Next Style calling for textLeft:

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  • Then, textLeft calling for text as the Next Style:


  • You can go on and on with these Next Style callouts.

Here’s a block of text. The text container has an Object Style of None.

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  • Select the Text Object Style, and all your planning work pays off. (I assigned odd style definitions just to point out how InDesign did a good job of assigning styles.)

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And in case you missed it, that green text means that there’s a nested style in the Para style textLeft.

And if you include GREP styles? They’ll be assigned as well.

All this style sheet work is great. But what’s it mean for ebooks?

Well, when I’m working on a project that bypasses print and goes straight to EPUB, I still use InDesign as the delivery vehicle.

Using Object Styles as outlined here can make my workflow more straightforward (depending on the project, of course). There’s less need to page through a document to assign styles. And as long as I faithfully style-sheet my project – and assign export tags to every paragraph, character, and object style sheet — I’ll have a predictable export.

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One inconvenience: while you can include Alt Text in an Object Style, you can’t assign an epub:type. That needs to be assigned frame by frame using the Object Export Options dialog.

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Kindle Previewer on El Capitan

Did you install El Capitan and now your Kindle Previewer doesn’t work as expected? Are you getting a Java error?

Here’s the solution:


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This is one of those errors that has been around for a while but doesn’t happen until you install a new OS (or reinstall one) so it’s hard to remember what the problem is and how to fix it.

Here’s a much more detailed path as described by Amazon:


And, here are more tips for fixing issues caused by upgrade to El Capitan:


How to Sideload a Kindle file to iOS: iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch

If you sideload a .MOBI to to your iOS device, you’ll be disappointed; functionality and appearance are terrible.

In fact, you don’t sideload a .MOBI. What you want is a file with the . AZK extension (book.azk).

It’s a mildly convoluted task. Here’s what you need:

  • iOS device (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch) with Kindle App installed
  • computer with Kindle Previewer installed (get it here)
  • computer running iTunes
  • USB cable
  • an .EPUB or .MOBI file, or the content.opf from an EPUB package

Here’s what to do:

  • Launch Kindle Previewer. Under Settings, choose Kindle for iPad or Kindle for iPhone from the dropdown menu:


Sidenote: if you have a file open within Previewer already, choose Devices from the Menu and select Kindle for iOS.


  • Drag an .EPUB, the content.opf of a package, or a .MOBI into Kindle Previewer. Wait a second, and you’ll see this screen:


  • Click on “here,” or browse to the file on your computer. It is usually placed in the same work folder as the .MOBI, source .EPUB, or content.opf.
  • Note: you will not usually see an actual preview in Previewer; the screen will remain white. You might see a preview if your book includes media files (a video, for example).
  • Tether your device to your computer running iTunes.
  • Open iTunes.


  • Find your device (top)
  • Choose Apps (middle)
  • Browse down to File Sharing (bottom); find the Kindle App
  • Drag the .AZK file into Kindle Documents
  • The book will be available on your device.

InDesign’s EPUB export: Style Sheet Control

This is the first in a series of posts exploring how style sheets export to EPUB. This first discusses Nested Styles; subsequent posts will look at GREP styles, and then styles called out in the Object Style definition.

We all know that thorough, consistent use of paragraph, character, and object style sheets goes a long way to providing a successful EPUB export. Using them is pretty straightforward: create a style, apply it, and map it to the CSS you’ll be using or creating during export (in Edit All Export Tags, for example). Do this for all styles, and the InDesign content exports smoothly to EPUB.

You can tell at a glance if a text block has a paragraph or character style sheet assigned: just click on it and you’ll get a readout in the style panel. (And if you get that annoying + sign, clear those overrides as soon as you can).

What happens if you use Nested Character Styles? Depending on the style definition, those aren’t necessarily obvious at a glance, nor do you see them indicated in the style panel when you click on a bit of text. You have to dig into the Paragraph Style Sheet definitions to find them.

This Paragraph Style (co) has a nested Character Style that makes the first word bold and a color (leadin). Here’s the Nested Style dialog for the Paragraph Style co.

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You can plainly see below that the first word has the style applied, but the Character Style panel doesn’t register that fact. It thinks there’s no character style applied (None).

How will this export to EPUB? I mapped the Character Style leadin to a CSS style, also name leadin. Here’s the markup for this paragraph:

So, yes, the export does grab the Nested Style and apply it as desired.

In the next post, we’ll look at how Paragraph styles called out in an Object Style carry through to EPUB export.

And, how about GREP styles: do they all behave as expected on export? Stay tuned.

Kindle Previewer puzzle

This morning I wanted to make a quick MOBI of a project, so I dragged its EPUB over Kindle Previewer, with Settings on iPad (where I had left it when I used Previewer last):

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And this is what I saw at the end of the conversion process:

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That’s right! I got a preview of the Kindle for iPad file!

I’ve never seen a preview in Previewer of the iOS conversions. Have you?

It’s worth noting that the same worked with using just the content.opf.

I then tried on several other books, but this was the only time I was given a preview.

The only difference I see in this book is that it contains a video, where the others I tried don’t.

If anyone has see this behavior from Kindle Previewer, let me know. I’d love to get to the bottom of it.


Diacritical Support: The Whole World, and Nook

I’m evaluating an EPUB project that is seemingly pretty straightforward, if long. It’s a dictionary, 1700 pages, 85,000+ entries.

In looking through the pages, I realized that all those diacriticals that help pronunciation, including popular items like the schwa, the bilabial implosive, and the bilabial trill, might pose a problem for some EPUB readers.

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I was confident that iBooks and KF8 would do well, but what about the Nook? This book will be sold through Barnes and Noble (it’s a major market for this publisher), so it must “work” perfectly.

A colleague provided a link to the International Phonetic Alphabet in Unicode, and I created a simple EPUB3 document. Here’s a look at part of the markup:

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Here’s a screengrab of the iBooks (iOS9, iPhone) version:


The iPad is just as responsible; it displays all elements. I opened the file in the Kobo app on my iPad, and all’s well there.

I threw the EPUB into Kindle Previewer for a quick test there, and all seems fine.

But the Nook. What about the Nook? Well, from the Nook app on my iPad:


See those boxes? The first 3 items are not displayed. The rest of the book follows suit: some displayed, many not. And it’s the same for the Nook HD, the Simple Touch, and the iPhone app.

Even the simple and ubiquitous schwa (ə further down the list) gets boxed out; no display.

I went to Twitter, and @TzviyaSiegman helped by saying that the Nook runs Adobe RMSDK (the Adobe toolkit for EPUBs), which does not support these characters. She also mentioned a similar problem with Arabic. (As a side note, I launched the book in Adobe Reader 4, and was happy to see all my symbols. Tzviya tells me that ADE4 is based on Readium, which you can read about here.)

A Font Solution?

Keith Snyder (a fine detective and epubsecrets.com contributor; @noteon) suggested embedding a font.

So I went looking, and came across this writeup on The Linguistic Mystic, which led me to a font, Charis, which I downloaded. An open-source, true type font. I loaded it into my EPUB, enclosed the entities in a span calling on the embedded font, and here’s the result:


Now I’ll submit the EPUB to the editorial team to make sure all needed diacriticals display properly, and I’ll send the license to the lawyers to make sure we’re allowed to use it. There’s nothing like some crowd-sourced solution building!

There might well be other issues with this huge book, including working from a complex XML document, and a gigantic number of cross-references, requiring massive scripting and perhaps risking markup overload. More to come.


Link Roundup

Who Cares How You Read? Just Read.

I saw this headline and said Amen. I’ve never thought the container matters so much as what’s being contained. I certainly enjoy beautiful book design; I just bought Patty Smith’s new memoir (M Train) in hardcover, partly because of the beautiful jacket and binding. But I’d be (almost) as happy reading it on my iPhone in scroll mode. I mostly want to read the book. And so I was happy to read this from Laura Brady.

Who’s reading on what? Smartphone use is still on the rise.

For those who are determined to know who’s reading on what, the Pew Research Center recently published a survey on smartphone/tablet/e-reader ownership. Fewer people own an e-reader now than in the past. This makes designing and developing ebooks even more scattered. Read it here.

New Nook Glowlight Plus

Nate Hoffelder at The Digital Reader has tested the new Nook Glowlight Plus. He likes it, but not enough to keep. Read his take here.

Ebook frontmatter

Joshua Tallent continues his Digital Book World series on best practices for frontmatter in ebooks. Do you know which print-only items you can safely remove from your copyright page? Read it here.

Best Practices for Accessible and Discoverable ebooks

Here’s a link to a webinar (available through Jan 21, 2016) that included George Kerscher,  the president of the IDPF. The need for and implementation of accessible ebooks is growing; the webinar focuses on building content models and workflows to support that growth.

Quick-look Tools for Mac-based ebook developers?

Nate Hoffelder of the Digital Reader has a writeup of a couple of tools that can open EPUBs and MOBIs. Read about them here.

Trouble with Kindle Previewer?

If you work on a Mac running OS X 10.11 El Capitan (or have just installed Kindle Previewer on an older Macintosh operating system), you might get an error when launching Previewer for the first time. In fact, you probably won’t be able to launch it.

Apple stopped including the legacy Java 6 runtime back with OSX 10.7 (Lion), so this problem occurs with Mountain Lion, Mavericks, Yosemite, and the new El Capitan.

Here’s the link:


Quit any other applications running Java before installing. This should do the trick.

EPUB Links for the week

New Nook Glowlight released (it’s waterproof)

Barnes and Noble has released an updated Nook Glowlight. Nate Hoffelder barely got to use his new device before BN rolled out a software update. Read about the update and early impressions  here.

The state of the print vs ebook battle

NPR talks to booksellers and publishing gurus for their take on the  print / e-edition balance in the marketplace. Between the lines is an acknowledgment that ebooks are not here to conquer, but to be part of the ecosystem. Read and listen to it here.

Used correctly, InDesign pays dividends

So says Laura Brady of Brady Type, in this interview conducted during the Frankfurt Book Fair last week. Always an evangelist for well thought-out workflow, Laura emphasizes InDesign’s native responsiveness : it can generate multiple formats, as long as you plan ahead. Read the interview here.


InDesign Conference is coming soon!

From November 16-18, InDesign users and experts from all over the world will gather in Denver for the annual conference (read all about it). There’s a day that’s all about EPUB and ebooks, led by Chad Chellius, Anne-Marie Concepción, and me.

And new this year, InDesign will share the spotlight with The Photoshop Conference, an event designers won’t want to miss. Colin Smith, David Blatner, and Russell Viers are among the speakers.

ebookcraft March 2016

This important annual conference in Toronto covers the ebook landscape: design, standards, and best practices. A day of workshops leads into a full day of ebook-production-based sessions. You don’t want to miss this; it always draws the best in ebook makers.

 Digital Book World conference registration opens

Next year’s DBW conference will be held March 7–9, 2016 in New York. Register here.