Welcome to ePUBSecrets!

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We are officially launching the ePUBSecrets blog today, a new blog to help you with all things ePUB. This blog was the brainchild of David Blatner and Anne-Marie Concepcion, the fine folks behind InDesignSecrets. As speakers and trainers of designers, production staff, and editors, they have answered many questions about how to make error-free ePUBs. Their hope is that this blog will document steps you can take to make better ePUBs and provide you with a public forum to discuss best practices and issues facing those who create ePUB files. David and Anne-Marie asked me to come on as the host of this site to post content and recruit other ePUB designers/creators/compositors who want to contribute. If you want to contribute future posts, please e-mail me at matthew@epubsecrets.com with your contact information and ideas.

We are working on a comprehensive list of ePUB resources that will provide links to everything you need to create professional quality and publishable ePUBs. This page will grow as new tools become available, so make sure you check back regularly to see what’s there.  If you have suggestions or know of great tools or sites that aren’t included, please bring them to our attention.

We hope that this site will become a trusted location for the best tricks, tips, and secrets for making high-quality ePUB files. We will be examining ePUB2 and ePUB3 specs, creating ePUB files using InDesign and other programs, CSS, fonts, HTML/HTML5, embedding audio and video, using RegEx/GREP to make changes to files, and anything else that might help you produce better ePUBs. To reach this goal, we would appreciate it if you could take a minute to add a comment to this post letting us know what help we can offer you. We will try to answer all your questions in future posts.

What do you want to know about creating ePUBs? Where do you need help?

45 Responses to “Welcome to ePUBSecrets!”

  1. I welcome your effort, and good luck!

    Query: Apart from the iPad “fixed” format which defines the size of the viewport and page…I am trying to get photos and captions to fill but not overflow pages. The best I have come up with is to adjust the width of the image to make it fit on the height. Since each of the 7″ color pads (Kindle Fire, KOBO VOX, Nook) has its own specs, could I use viewport size to create separate ePUB editions to match each of the devices? Is there another solution? I am assuming that we can’t yet have one size/file fits all.

  2. matthew says:

    The best solution would be media queries in the CSS file if these tablets supported them. The iPad had been the only “reader” on which media queries in ePUBs worked. I haven’t tested the new devices yet, but I’ll let you know what other eBook production people who have say.

  3. Nice website! Looking forward to visiting often. I’ve always appreciated how Matthew describes complicated issues in a clear way.

  4. I think I want an e-reader for Christmas. Not necessarily a Kindle though as I already have lots of EPUB files on my PC.

    • Matthew says:

      Price of a Stamp, what readers are you considering? Nook, Kobo, Sony Reader? Are you looking at an eInk black and white device or a color tablet? Make sure you test drive a few to see which you like best. Best Buy is a good place to start. They should have all of them to try.

  5. Keith Snyder says:

    I’d really like to know best practices if not making separate .epubs for different readers. What will fix the centered table bug in ADE without breaking on Nook, what will fix the Nook hierarchical TOC bug without breaking on KindleFire, etc.

    • Matthew says:

      We’d all like to be able to make one ePUB that worked perfectly everywhere. Unfortunately, at the moment all reader devices and software do not support all of the ePUB2 spec or even the same parts of it. This means we sometimes need to make choices of the least common denominator vs. separate files for individual vendors. That being said, I have a work around for the Nook hierarchical TOC that I will post on that might help you there.

  6. Diane says:

    I have found that most sites and books regarding the creation of ePubs assume a higher level of knowledge than I currently have.

    I need someone to begin at the beginning with a step-by-step process. Do you know if David Blatner or Anne-Marie Concepcion plan to include this here or perhaps write a book about it?

    • Matthew says:

      Diane, just let us know where you are starting. Are you using InDesign, and if so, which version? I strongly encourage you to buy a copy of Liz Castro’s book ePUB: Straight to the point, preferably in ePUB: http://www.elizabethcastro.com/epub/
      By buying the ePUB, which is DRM-free, you can actually open Liz’s ePUB files that make up the book and see what she has done.
      Anne-Marie Concepcion also has some lynda.com sessions on making ePUBs from ID CS 4, 5, and 5.5 (which you should use if possible). See the Resources page on this site for links.
      Would if be helpful if we ran an ePUB primer, defining all the parts of an ePUB, whay their function is, and how to create them? It is one of the items on my list of future posts.
      What else would be helpful to you?

      • Diane says:

        Thank you for your reply, Matthew. And thank you for this site!
        I could probably write a mini-novel regarding what I could ask you 🙂
        I do have Liz Castro’s book. Some parts were helpful, but other sections were over my head. I have also viewed videos on Lynda.com, which were great and helpful.
        I have succeeded in creating almost two dozen eBooks (both ePub and mobi) over the past few months, but wasn’t sure if I was going about them in the most efficient way, and I want to be sure my customers receive the best possible product.

        • What I do now:
        I am using ID CS4. All the books I export to ePub are from one file (not an ID book file). I meticulously make sure the correct paragraph and character styles are applied. For some books, I may use images for the chapter openers, and also for break-in-thought icons, etc. (Basically, I try to get the ePub to look as close to the printed book as possible). The InDesign prep is usually the most time-consuming part for me.
        After export, I use CSS codes in various areas, for one, to split up chapter pages. I understand that CS5.5 could automatically do this. Is CS5.5 more beneficial in other areas?

        • Issues:
        I’ve had many issues with numerous things, but usually found answers online. Do you plan to have a troubleshooting section here?

        One problem I’ve had – I’ve tried a couple of different codes for the cover area (in the XHTML file), but it seemed that no matter what I did, I still have to fuss with the cover size (adjust in Photoshop, reimport into InDesign and reexport to ePub), because the cover would be too small, be cut-off, or having white margins. I’ve discovered a third code, which worked like a charm, but I’ve only recently tried using it one time. I’ve deduced that it could be because my cover and book text are all in the same XHTML file, but I could be wrong about that?
        Two other question I’ll throw out there:
        – are you considering covering anything regarding converting ePub to mobi? And if not, do you know of any resources you can point me to?
        – do you know anything about exporting a PDF to ePUB, or know any resources regarding this?

        BTW, even though I am familiar with much of an ePUB’s guts, I agree that an ePUB primer would benefit your site.
        Again, thank you so very much.

  7. Marty says:

    I just heard about the site through the InDesign Secrets podcast. I just want to say congratulations and thanks in advance for starting hosting the site.

    I think one area where I need strengthening is GREP. Another is workflow ideas about working on both a print and epub version simultaneously for the same title.

    Thanks again!

  8. Diane says:

    In my previous post of questions, the most important for me at this time would be whether you knew of any secrets regarding how to generate a somewhat “clean” ePub from a complicated PDF (e.g., with sidebars, pull quotes, images, etc.)? Thank you!

    • Matthew says:

      Diane, there are many different ways to convert a PDF to ePUB. Do you have Adobe Acrobat Pro? If so you can save the file as a Word document and convert to HTML from Word. This is generally the preferred method of converting the PDF to HTML. When saving as HTML choose Save As “Web Page, filtered”. You can also save the PDF as HTML or XML using Adobe Acrobat Pro. Once you have to book in HTML, you should be able to build your ePUB. If you don’t have Adobe Acrobat Pro, you can cut and paste the content into an ePUB template if you have one built. You will need to do some hand coding. Some people have suggested running it through Calibre to produce a rough ePUB that you can then clean up for publication. If you have a large number of backlist titles to convert from PDF, I would suggest finding a conversion house to help. I’m going to do a PDF conversion to ePUB myself, and I’ll post what I discover.

      • Diane says:

        Thank you Matthew! I do have Adobe Acrobat Pro and will try your suggestions. Will look forward to your post regarding what you may discover while doing your PDF conversion to ePUB. Thanks again.

      • Matthew says:

        Diane, I have found that tagging the structure of the PDF using the TouchUp Reading Order tool under Tools/Accessibility and then outputting as either HTML or XML1.0 creates much better content to convert to ePUB. Make sure all text in the PDF that you want included in the ePUB is tagged; tag heads, tables, and figures appropriately. You still will need to bring the content into an ePUB container. Converting to HTML will also create a simple CSS that can at least serve as a strarting point if you don’t already have an ePUB template created with standard CSS.

  9. I agree with everything that Matthew said in regards to PDF > EPUB conversions. Before you do the Save As Word step, you *must* use Acrobat Pro’s less-than-friendly Accessibility features (like the Touch Up Reading Order dialog box) to drag selection rectangles around every object on every page and identify them as “text,” “table,” “figure,” etc.; *and* in the right order.

    Think of an untagged PDF as a scanned image or photograph. The program doesn’t know what’s a chair, what’s the floor, what’s a vase of flowers, etc. in the picture, it just knows the pixel size and count and color value, line by line. Acrobat doesn’t know one blurb of text is a caption and another chunk of text is the title for the feature article, etc; it just knows these are some text objects, paths, and images, all on the same page.

    If you have a complicated PDF as you describe, this could take 30 minutes or more per page. And you will still have a lot of work to do regarding styles and such, after you do the save as Word step.

    In other words … depending on the project, you might consider just copying/pasting text and images from the PDF into one long flowing story in InDesign. (Or, consider that this might not be a candidate for a reflowable EPUB. Distribute/sell it as a PDF instead.)

  10. Rebecca Horn says:

    Matthew:I have CS5.5 Premier suite; I’ve downloaded Adobe Digital Editions app; on new iMac; been Mac user 20 years+.

    I want to convert a book to an ePub. Simple layout; all copy. Paragraph palette used on everything (and I understand I need to change bolds, itals, etc., to Character Styles); watched a tutorial by Gabriel Powell. Adobe has always been so simple for me. But this has me stumped.

    Everytime I do the Export > EPUB, set my preferences, hit okay, InDesign 5.5 crashes.

    Anyone out there give me some hints?

  11. Matthew says:

    Rebecca:
    This might be a good exercise in figuring out the InDesign to ePUB workflow. One resource I would recommend right off the bat is Liz Castro’s ePUB Straight to the Point and From InDesign CS5.5 to ePUB and Kindle, both available as DRM-free ePUBs here: http://www.elizabethcastro.com/epub/
    Liz does a great job walking you through the process in these two books.
    First, have you had any other issues with ID CS5.5? If it is crashing, I’m wondering if you have an installation issue.
    For the sake of this discussion let’s assume all is fine with your install. You have your book created in ID. Can you give me an idea of how it is structure. Is it one file, or do you have separate files for each chapter? Have you used articles or text or image anchoring anywhere in the book? Do you have a dynamically created TOC or a TOC page you created?

    • Rebecca Horn says:

      Thanks for replying so quickly! When you mentioned installation issue, that prompted me to test the ePub on my ID CS5 version (duh). Seems to work great. I actually do not use 5.5 right now, even tho I have had it installed for several months. So, first time I attempted ePub, I used 5.5 because of enhanced features. And after it crashed, didn’t go to the obvious…CS5.

      For the sake of this discussion/exercise I will answer your questions about my book:

      It is one file, 180 pages (but plan to create separate files for chapters)
      No anchoring, no images.
      Original has TOC page that I formatted, and I do plan to create a TOC that best suits the reader

      The document uses Paragraph styles on everything, so I will need to give Character styles to itals, bolds, etc. I also noticed in the ePub I did in my CS5 just now, Glyphs may need attention.

      How am I doing so far? Do I have a decent start to an understanding of ePub?

      Looks like I will be reinstalling CS5.5 when the need arises.

  12. Matthew says:

    One thing to keep in mind is that InDesign CS5.5 is much better at creating ePUBs that CS5 and previous versions. The markup will be much cleaner with CS5.5 and you have the ability to add a full metadata set.

    • rebecca horn says:

      thanks for the heads up. im sure i’ll be back. will also get the books.

      • rebecca horn says:

        decided to reinstall ID 5.5, but that didn’t work. my crash report says:

        Exception Type: EXC_BAD_ACCESS (SIGBUS)
        Exception Codes: KERN_PROTECTION_FAILURE at 0x0000000000000000
        Crashed Thread: 0 Dispatch queue: com.apple.main-thread

        at beginning of report, so wondering if this has anything to do with it. i have sent in the reports.

        oh, well, since i have a simple book, at least i have ID 5 to fall back on.

        maybe i need to reinstall my entire Premiere Suite 5.5?

    • rebecca horn says:

      matthew: another “duh” moment. there are updates that are suppose to fix my problem, so doing that now. geez

  13. Michele says:

    Is it possible to create graphics with a transparent background that won’t show up as a white patch when the reader chooses sepia? We tried .png, but the white background returns after exporting to ePub.

    • Matthew says:

      What are you using to view the ePUB? Are you viewing it on an iPad or another reader app or device? PNG definitely is the way to go for images with transparency, but all readers may not support transparency in mages the same.
      I found this for iBooks and iPad at http://infogridpacific.typepad.com/using_epub/2010/04/more-epub-best-practices.html:

      Images

      Images that have any unused or transparent areas should be PNG format with transparency

      This creates a mismatch with ADE as it does not support transparency with PNG but would have to be regarded as a generally good recommendation.

      To ensure proper viewing of images in content, use the HTML img tag instead of wrapping images in svg:img.

      Probably OK, but they should support images in svg as that is a requirement. Haven’t tested this one yet.

      Are you using InDesign 5.5 to export the images and choosing .PNG? See here for more information on doing so: http://help.adobe.com/en_US/indesign/cs/using/WS8c5bc4f64c7a4a3d44f3b18d12dbcdf377a-8000.html

      Kindle hasn’t support transparency, even in PNG images, so you will get the white space if you are converting ePUB to Kindle files.

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