Monday, 16 May 2011

Technology is the spawn of Satan.

I think it worked.

Someone, probably a lot of someones, have spent a lot of time adding features into word processors. Then a totally different lot of someones came up with the idea of ebooks. How do I know it was a totally different lot?

Because in order to get from word processor to ebook, you have to turn off almost every function of the word processor, strip out all the codes and redo the formatting from scratch. Even then, one stray bit of code can wreck the whole thing. My teeth have never been so thoroughly gnashed.

So finally, the thing has gone through. It's that short story book again and I really hope I can forget that one now because I want to get on with the next one. It won't be on official websites until and unless it gets through all the agonising process that's yet to come, but it should be available in most formats here in the meantime. I tested the Kindle version and the chapter breaks work just fine. That part wasn't hard at all.

Right. Time for a rest from that stuff. I'll just glue the hair back in and de-gnash my teeth...


Fausty said...

I ask this question from a position of ignorance, because I don't know how Kindles work, but could you not save your word-processed document as a PDF?

Adobe offer this as a free service, online.

Leg-iron said...

The PDF is easy, already do that. Smashwords convert into a whole range of ebook reader formats (for free) but it has to be a Word file, but you have to strip out most of the Word formatting first.

Designed by Satan. Or worse, could even have been Mandelson.

Dioclese said...

Despite 25 years in IT, I remain completely baffled by e-book readers. I downloaded a file off Pirate Bay and it's basically just a HTML file.

What the fuck do these book readers do then - just presumably take a PDF or HTML document and dislayit a page at a time. I googled 'e-book reader file formats' and nobody out there wants to tell me exactly what they do or use.

Cynically, I suspect that the secrecy is to support the £100+ price tag!

There is a printer driver for Word that outputs to file in PDF format. It works very well and is completely free. You can get it at

John said...

I have a Kindle, and love it. Jessica's Trap was formatted a bit badly, but it didn't detract from the story. I did my own conversion of Tales of the Old and New from the PDF to Kindle mobi format using Calibre - a free ebook library organiser and converter. The best way to stop MS Word messing everything up is to save in HTML format, Calibre can then convert that into anything you like. You can read PDF's on a Kindle, but you lose the ability to change fonts, sizes, line spacing etc.

Shinar's Basket Case said...

There is a saying among programmers "If its not broke then it doesn't have enough features yet".

James Higham said...

Makes a person wonder whether it's all worth it.

Chuckles said...

Get a copy of Calibre, tis open source type free, and allows you to play with the formatting to your hearts content.

Dan said...

As Chuckles says, the free application Calibre (written in Python, I believe, so the code at least ought to look fairly neat) is a pretty fair ebook conversion system.

Most of the time, you can throw a word processor, pdf, ebook or html file at Calibre, and get it to digest this and output the file in whatever format you see fit. It usually makes a pretty fair job of it, and will do both epub files and mobi files, which are compressed text and pictures files which work on ebook readers.

Ebook readers need these special formats because they are trying to do quite a lot with as minimalist a hardware set as possible. They don't want a format which has to be uncompressed in its entirety to be read; they want to just be able to save the read-to position in a metadata file, and to just open the relevent page and the next few in memory, to save on CPU and RAM.

Word, on the other hand, is trying to hit some entirely different targets. Most people never use more than very basic functions in Word, so Microsoft keep the simple functions relatively constant from version to version, but alter the proprietary .doc format from major version to major version to keep the corporates upgrading their software. They also change how the complicated Word stuff operates, so corporate customers have to buy new training course material every so often; maintaining the monopoly, in other words.

To get around these layers of crap, save the document in Rich Text Format (RFT) to throw away most of the layers of cruft and misdirection that Word likes to include, and convert it using Calibre. That works, works well, doesn't support macro viruses and is understood by everything on the planet.

petem130 said...

Seems like a lot of work when the time could be out to better use.

I worked as a consultant with a book typesetter and part of the time was used to develop and automated conversion for test in various formats into the ebook format of choice.

If you'd like to speak to them I'm sure they'd be happy to do it for you. They do loads of ebooks and know what they're doing. give a look. They might prove useful for you in other ways.

Leg-iron said...

It was my first attempt, so perhaps I shouldn't have gone the whole way with hyperlinked contents page and so on, but it worked in the end.

The reason I'm trying to get it perfect rather than good-enough is that if it's perfect, Smashwords will assign an ISBN and distribute it through the Ebook retailers for free. Income without spending.

Which is useful with books because you never know if you'll sell any, so absolute minimum upfront expenditure is important.

Some places require an ISBN or they won't sell the books, so getting that for free is ideal.

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