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How We Publish the Communiqué as an Ebook
2014, Q1 (March 17, 2014)
By Rick Sapir, Chapter Webmaster

There's no doubt that mobile is here is to stay. While having a mobile-pretty (a/k/a adaptive or responsive design) makes the Communiqué easier to read on your phone or other mobile device, there are some advantages to having a self-contained ebook.

In 2010, we began releasing the Communiqué as an ebook. The Carolina Chapter was the first (and as far as I know, remains the only) STC community releasing content in ebook format. If your community produces ebooks, I'd love to hear about it!

It is a remarkably easy process.... here's how:

Step 1: Create a single file of all the articles.

You'll notice that each Communiqué edition has a Print button. This automatically generates single HTML file of all the articles in a specific edition.
Printing an edition of the Communique.
Printing an edition of the Communique.

Our site's multi-print feature means I can even create a "custom" edition with whichever articles I select.
Printing an custom edition of the Communique.
You can easily add or remove articles to print.

Once the printer-ready page is generated, I simply use the the browser's default Save As... feature to save the edition as a single file. By making a single file, any cross-links (such as from the table of contents) become relative links within the file. When I convert the file to an ebook, the links remain as relative links (instead of being hyperlinks that open a new browser window).

Step 2: Build the ebook.

Using Sigil, a free and open source EPUB editor, I open the generated HTML file.
Although active development on Sigil has recently ended, it is quite robust and remains one my favorite ebook tools.

At this point I've technically created the ebook (in EPUB format). I just need to use the Save as EPUB option, but there's still a little work to be done. Using the editor in Sigil, I:
  • Remove all the extraneous HTML code (such as JavaScript, embedded metadata, etc.)
    Deleting extra scripts
    This JavaScript code is not needed for the mobile version.

  • Simplify the CSS
    Editing the CSS
    A simple CSS file for the ebook.

    For the Communiqué, I keep a copy of the CSS file and simply copy/paste it into Sigil. You may need to delete any extraneous .css files (in the Styles folder) that were included when you saved the original page as a file.

  • Add page breaks between each article, breaking the single HTML file into separate files for each article.
    Adding page breaks
    Each article is now a separate 'page' within the EPUB.

  • Add semantic cues to specific files (such as the title, TOC, and copyright page
    Adding semantic cues
    Assigning the Table of Contents.

  • Finally, I validate the EPUB.
    Sigil screenshot showing validation
    A valid EPUB

You can learn more about the EPUB specification from the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF).

Whew! We now have an ebook (in EPUB format) that can be posted to Carolina Communique site.

Unfortunately, the Amazon Kindle (one of the main players in the ebook field) doesn't readily read EPUB file (read more: http://www.wikihow.com/Read-ePubs-on-Kindle-Fire).

Fortunately, it is easy to convert an EPUB to a MOBI file (the native format for Amazon Kindle).

Step 3: Create the MOBI file.

The Amazon Kindle Previewer is PC application that, among other things, can be used to create and validate MOBI files.

Simply open the EPUB. The Amazon Kindle Previewer will automatically convert the ebook to a MOBI file and then save the file.
The Amazon Kindle Previewer application.
Converting EPUB to MOBI.

And that is how we produce the Communiqué as an ebook!


Rick is an STC Associate Fellow and board member of the Carolina Chapter. Rick can be reached at webmaster at stc-carolina dot org or @ricksapir. End of article.

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