ePub is great. There are more and more text editors and layout apps that export to it than ever. There are more devices out there that read it than ever. More and more, when I share rough drafts of my work, I share it in ePub. That’s because I don’t really know anyone who doesn’t have an ePub reader on their phone, tablet, computer, or, yup, eink device. They have almost no data footprint, and they seem futuristic somehow in the way PDFs never did.

But like anything, there are good ePub docs and bad ePub docs. There are expensive ways to produce them and cheap ways, and going expensive doesn’t necessarily mean getting quality results (it usually means getting a catch-all app that does 1000 things you don’t need).

If you know your HTML really well, you can basically handroll epubs, but that’s a somewhat laborious process. Unfortunately, almost all automated workflows have sacrifices and bugs. Pages makes epubs that get rejected from the iBook store, even if you use their ePub style guide. InDesign allows for beautiful layouts, but even in 5.5, wrangling an ePub out of a file laid out for print is hair pulling, and the file doesn’t pass validation no matter what I try. To date, the only app I’ve made an acceptable looking ePub file out of is scrivener. I’m not terribly surprised—scrivener is the only app I trust with my own books. Scrivener is not without it’s problems, and the interface for exporting to ePub is drawn out and probably too complicated for some, but it’s the best thing going today.

Oh, as for the folks out there without a device that reads epubs, the best app I could recommend at the moment for reading on the desktop is the Sony Reader software. It has come a long, long way in the last year, and is actually quite pretty and robust. It happily saves highlights, and allows you to select and copy text from any book (even drm ones). Handy for the book-loving blogger.

For Kindle owners, epubs can be converted to mobi incredibly easily. When I make my digital files, I simply save to ePub in scrivener, then go back in and save to mobi.


December 1, 2011