Easy ebooks with eCub EPUB creator

Recently the TeleRead blog discussed the need for an ePub desktop word processor application that would allow authors and non-techies to easily (and cheaply) write and save their work in the EPUB format. There are a number of OpenOffice proponents but otherwise there is no solution yet.

So what are your options?

One possible sollution could be the free eCub EPUB creator, “a simple .epub creation tool” written by Julian Smart that allows you to import XHTML or text files and export these into an EPUB formatted file. Okay, so you won’t get any nice WYSIWYG editing tools but the basic editing (notepad style) is enough to make basic adjustments from within the programme.

Versions are available for Windows, Mac, Linux, FreeBSD and Solaris – there is even a portable version for use on USB devices.

I tried a quick test project which had 13 HTML, 2 images and a CSS file. I filled in all the appropriate fields from within eCub, used the built-in Cover Designer, changed a couple of options here and there then hit Compile. Done and Dusted!

Here are the basic features of eCub EPUB Creator;

  • Creates unencrypted EPUB files from text or XHTML files
  • Edit text or XHTML files with its simple internal editor
  • Built-in (simple) cover image designer
  • Optionally creates title, content and cover pages
  • Command line execution options
  • Portable Mode (data and settings are stored locally)

When the eCub created EPUB file is opened in Adobe Digital Editions it views just fine, however, when trying to open the same file on my Sony Reader and iPod Touch it failed with, according to Stanza, an OPF error. I will need to do some digging around to find out why it fails on these two devices, but I’m sure there is a simple explanation.

It’s been just over a year since the official release of the EPUB spec and we are now starting to see some great tools released in aiding the creation, conversion and viewing of EPUB formatted books. This is certainly what the ePub community needs and I have a feeling we will only see more tools like eCub being created during 2009.

epubcheck and Adobe’s page-map

A couple of weeks back we had a new release of the epub validation tool as the old one was not validating documents properly. epubcheck-1.0.3 was released to fix the XMLParser as it was not allowing multiple validators to be added.

The error was first realised by Jon Noring who noticed that Adobe’s “page-map” attribute extension, which is used in the NCX , was being validated incorrectly. This extended markup can be used for mapping page numbers (to align with those in the paper book edition).

Jon Noring has posted to several communities about the page-map issue. Here’s a short extract (slightly edited); [Read more...]

EPUB Preflight (Style Checking)

Paul Norton from Adobe Digital Editions has now released the epubpreflight validation tool. This small utility is meant as a compliment to epubcheck and is used to check that your ePub files are suitable for Mobile devices. There are many guidelines that need to be followed when developing ePub for mobile devices that are not mentioned in the EPUB specs, so this is going to be a very welcome tool.

Here’s a list of things that epubpreflight currently checks for;

  • Content files that are empty.
  • Content files that are over 300KB.
  • Image files that are empty.
  • Image files that are over 10MB.

As you can see the list is rather small at the moment but this will grow in time. On the DE blog, Paul also mentions that he would like to see a set of configuration files that could test for specific platforms (ADE, PRS505, conversion to other formats, etc.)

It’s going to be a good number of years yet before mobile devices have the power to parse very large files (images, chapters, etc) so it’s going to be in everyone’s interest to see this tool developed.

Feedbooks RSS tool converts to EPUB

Feedbooks are at it again, now they’ve gone and updated their RSS tool to include conversions to the ePub format! I’ve been playing around with this and it’s a really cool app – you can even supply your own RSS feeds. The converter actually outputs to a number of different formats including;

  • ePub
  • Mobipocket/Kindle
  • PDF
  • Sony Reader (PDF)
  • iLiad

Hadrien, Feedbooks co-founder, posted that along with adding support for ePub and Mobipocket, the files will generate much faster and there is also an “API endpoint for developers to create applications (such as iNewsStand on the iLiad).”

[Read more...]

Online EPUB Reader – Testers Needed

Earlier today Liza Daly, creator of the tei2epub converter, posted the following notice to the ePub Community over at Yahoo Groups;

I’m looking for interested parties to help test an experimental platform for reading ePub-formatted books via the web. There’s minimal effort involved: just upload one or more ePub documents and try it out. If you encounter bugs (which is likely at this stage) I may ask for you to forward the ePub file so I can test it internally.

This is great news and exactly the kind of activity we need to encourage the adoption of the ePub format. I wish Liza all the best and very much look forward to the seeing the reader go live.

To all you tech heads out there, please get in touch with Liza and start digging out those bugs!

You can contact Liza using liza@threepress.org.

(Thanks to Liza for giving permission to use her email address in this article)

DocBook XSL now supports EPUB!

The Digital Editions blog is reporting that the latest release of the DocBook XSL (1.74.0) now supports output to the ePub format. It was only recently that the tei2epub converter was announced so it is great to have a converter from DocBook to the ePub format.

DocBook is a very mature XML master format that although is used mainly for technical documents, can also be used for simpler documents and prose like books, which could make it a useful master format for any public domain eBook projects.

This release of the DocBook XSL is an experimental release and is being made available for testing purposes. Any developers out there should certainly check it out and if you find any issues, report them back to the DocBook project.

TEI Converter for EPUB Developers

We are seeing more and more tools for creating ePub files being developed and the latest to join the throng is the tei2epub converter from threepress.org. This one however is aimed more for developers than the end user, unlike the BookGlutton ePub API.

tei2epub is being developed by Liza Daly and is written in XSLT, although it does utilise a little Python. I know nothing about Python but from what I can make out this is mainly for creating the actual files and final .epub container (which is actually just a renamed .zip file).

This converter really interests me as I already have my own converter (pg2tei) for creating TEI documents from plain text files, as found on Project Gutenberg. I recently started teaching myself XSLT so will follow the development of this for sure!

I don’t have a Python processor installed so haven’t ran any files through this, though I have taken a quick look at the source code and it looks quite straight forward. I believe this uses the official stylesheets written by TEI, so the tei2epub converter should be quite simple to follow, even for those of us whose XSLT skills are not yet well developed.

If you’re interested in both TEI and ePub then this is certainly going to be useful to add to your toolkit.

BookGlutton’s EPUB Converter unveiled

Earlier this month BookGlutton announced their ePub API. This neat little tool gives everyone an easy way to convert HTML files to the IDPF’s ePub format.

At present the API is in public beta and currently only converts ‘simple’ HTML files, it also lacks both image and CSS support. Still, don’t let this put you off, the potential here is great and is certainly another step in the right direction. As time goes by the API will certainly get better.

To show the kind of acceptence ePub is gaining this tool also caught the attention Keith Fahrlgren over at the O’Reilly Tools of Change Blog who certainly seems encouraged by this and feels that it is “the first step in lowering the barrier to entry to creating EPUB documents.”

Many other people around the net have shown a strong interest in the API, with most believing this is a first step in encouraging developers to create more ePub tools.

If you wish to try it out yourself go visit the BookGlutton ePup API page, there’s also some instructions there to help get you started.

New DAISY Pipeline Released

DAISY have announced a new release of their DAISY Pipeline, which now adds support for the Microsoft “Save As DAISY XML” transformer add-in, designed for Microsoft Office Word 2007, Word 2003 and Word XP.

Along with adding support for the add-in they have made a number of usability and performance improvements and also included an ePub/OPS validator.

For those who don’t know, ePub documents can include either XHTML or DAISY DTBook files natively. A DAISY DTB is most often used to make content accessible for blind and print-disabled individuals but can also be used as a master file for conversion into other formats, which is where the pipeline will come in handy for anyone wanting to create ePub books using DTB rather than XHTML.

The DAISY Pipeline is not for the faint-hearted but if you are serious about ePub and creating documents/eBooks accessible to print-disabled users, then this could be a very useful tool indeed.