What's it all about?

In Summer 2009, Andy Allsopp participated in LEL: A 1400km international ultra marathon cycling event, played out between the capital cities of England and Scotland.

In early 2010, a record of his attempt was published as a paperback, now made available through Amazon UK (and US), or worldwide through LULU.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

EPUB: One step closer

Got dragged into the whole Apple marketing machine last week, and started trying to produce an eBook version of Barring Mechanicals for distribution in their new iBookstore.

The result? Well, currently approval, and an estimated 6 week wait whilst they scurry through the text checking I'm not saying anything nasty about deitys, prophets, boobs or Steve Jobs.

The release of the iPad has seen a serious attempt to get iBookstore up and running with a wider set of content, and its a privilege to be part of that. Lulu makes the process relatively painless, once you've got a compliant ePub file for submission.

What the world doesn't tell you is that getting a 'compliant' ePub is a bit of a rollercoaster, and the guidance isn't really mature enough to get you through using anything other than trial and error.
For those looking to follow suit, here's the broad process I followed:
  • Find your market (in my case, someone with an iPad who wanted a copy and was prepared to help me make it.)
  • Lift all the text out of your original files, and put them into individual HTML files, validated as XHTML1.1. 
  • Import them all into your (nascent) editor of choice. (I used eCub on the PC).
  • Battle with what passes for Unicode on the PC until everything is in UTF-8.
  • Run a validator against the source, and remove all the 'bold' and 'strong' tags.
  • Double check every opening p tag ends with a corresponding slash p tag.
  • Move all the formatting into CSS.
  • Add alt-tags for every image.
  • Build, and mail a copy across for approval.
That gets you to stage 1, whereupon you'll find everything compiles nicely, but the text flow is a bit odd. It'll work on Adobe Digital Editions, but not so on all devices. Adobe Editions will report some 'issues', but won't tell you what they are.
Anyway, once your friendly iPad owner has had a run through, you'll find yourself going back through the text of each chapter, removing all the extended characters that Dreamweaver helpfully pasted, and replacing them with their HTML equivalents. Then you'll swap all the apostrophes and double quotes. Then the dashes. Then the ellipses. Then go back through and realise the PDF export you based the whole thing on gets confused about the numbers 1 and 3, and sometimes omits or replaces them with random characters.

The result will work better, but you'll then want to do the below:
  • Learn about ePubCheck and the command line.
  • Learn about validation, link checking, case sensitivity, character sets.
  • Resample all the images so that they're max 760px on a side.
  • Go through a few more revisions, moving footnotes into javascript alerts, then back into the main text (as not all readers handle the script) then into a glossary, then into individual files with 'back' links appended to each.
  • Lose a few days to arrive at a ePubCheck 1.0.5 compliant file, that passes all checks with no warnings, no flags, no errors.
  • Publish the file to Lulu, build new cover art, buy the 'iBookstore' distribution package.
  • Submit it to Apple and wait.
Net result for me was that although the file is fully compliant with the ePub standard and recommended validators, it doesn't meet the 'apple' standard, as the table of contents references filenames that have 'spaces' in. Next step is pretty simple...
  • start over with all new files.
Its an interesting process, and only marginally more challenging than, say, riding to Edinburgh and back.

Takes a touch longer too. :)

Hopefully it'll be worth it though. Then we have to DRM or not to DRM...

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