Learning about Ebook Development

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This is an update of a Medium article published a few years ago which aimed to pull together places to learn more about the how-to of ebook development work. As always, please comment with corrections, additions, an compliments.

There is a well-established community of ebook developers who write, teach, counsel, and gather to commiserate. Here are some places to access their knowledge base.

Tutorials

Webinars and tutorials are available in numerous places. In each case, the resources below have several service areas. For my purposes here, I am going to focus on resources for ebook developers.

The Book Industry Study Group is another publisher service org with an excellent webcast archive and events such as Make Information Pay. Their events listing is here.

Lynda.com has many in-depth how-to videos on creating EPUB. You can sort these videos by the software version or by keywords like “EPUB”. And – hot tip! – many of you can access their entire library of content through your local library.

Websites

In addition to EPUB Secrets, InDesignSecrets is a great place to learn about the EPUB export from InDesign. They have an excellent list of resources, and an EPUB specific forum.

While not a website per se, this article by Colleen Cunningham is comprehensive listing of still-relevant resources for going from InDesign to Ebook.

Jiminy

French ebook developer Jiminy Panoz needs a subheading to himself. He has a fantastic, broad-ranging, and very detailed collection of R&D work on ebooks. He writes about his explorations on Medium. And open sources publishes his code to GitHub. Follow him on Twitter as well for a slightly profane but always smart and entertaining feed.

Conferences

Ebookcraft is a Toronto conference for which, in the interest of full disclosure, I am a member of the steering committee. Our goal is to focus rigorously on the issues around and the craft of ebook development. You can watch videos of the 2017 talks here, and read blog posts by this year’s speakers here.

PePcon is an annual print and e-publishing conference held in a different American city each year. They have targeted talks on various issues in publishing in addition to a pre-conference bootcamp, and a post-conference day of deep-dive workshops.

Since ebook work doesn’t happen in a silo (ideally), web development workshops and conferences can be useful to this community. Of particular interest is the Event Apart series. It is on my personal wishlist to make it to one of their conferences this year or next.

News and Blogs

In order to keep current in this shifting-sands ebook development business, it is important to watch the news for changes in what’s supported, new ereaders, adjustments to the spec, etc. Here are some places to do that.

The best place to get ebook development news, tips, and support is at the #eprdctn hashtag on Twitter. There you will find an engaged set of devs who are willing to commiserate with you, help you solve a problems, or offer solid advice on how to dull your pain and frustration.

Nate Hoffelder runs The Digital Reader blog that includes original news pieces and a daily roundup of useful digital publishing links.

Paul Biba, former editor of Teleread, has a Twitter stream that is another excellent source of digital publishing news.

Tools

As ebooks are really just a zipped collection of HTML and CSS, any decent code editor can be used to edit the pieces of the EPUB puzzle. BBEdit, Coda, TextWrangler, Sublime Text, and Dreamweaver are a few well-known editors. In each of these cases, you will need to unzip and zip up your EPUB file as you edit. eCanCrusher is one tool from Rorohiko that makes this process a little easier.

I use oXygen to edit the insides of my EPUBs. One of the many advantages of this tool is no zipping/unzipping is required. It is not free, which is an understandable factor for many developers.

Many developers use Sigil, a free open-source tool for editing EPUBs. I can’t speak to it’s pros and cons effectively, I’m afraid, having never used it. Please chime in if you are a regular user.

And any ebook developer worth their salt uses EPUBCheck constantly (here and here), and follows up with running their ebook through FlightDeck.

This is a very select list of tools, partly because the tools any developer chooses are idiosyncratic choices. There is a fuller listing of tools with which to develop ebook in this Digital Reader post.

Books

I strongly recommend that you have an HTML/CSS resource ready for consultation. I have a well-thumbed print version of Liz Castro’s HTML5 and CSS3 on my desk.

A slightly out-of-date but still relevant book is Liz Castro’s EPUB: Straight to the Point. If you are new to ebook development, it is worth tracking down.

Matt Garrish’s excellent Accessible EPUB 3, while a few years old, is still a must have for any ebook dev bookshelf. He is also co-author with Markus Gylling of EPUB 3 Best Practices, a a terrific reference guide.


What am I missing? Please feel free to comment here, or poke me on Twitter to let me know what I have forgotten and I will revise this article in real time.

3 Responses to “Learning about Ebook Development”

  1. Maryse says:

    Thank you very much for a nice wrap up of tols and references!
    I use Sigil (tried a few others, but I always come back to it, especially now that it supports ePu3) and Flightdeck (which I absolutely love!). My biggest complaint in eprdctn is actually INDD, with it’s abundance of extra code!

  2. Jean K says:

    My favorite EPUBCHECK in a wrapper so I can avoid the cmd line:

    https://www.pagina.gmbh/produkte/epub-checker/

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