Author Topic: Designing ebooks in Calibre or otherwise  (Read 404 times)  

Online BillyDeCarlo

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Designing ebooks in Calibre or otherwise
« on: February 23, 2018, 07:03:15 AM »
I've seen comments here from folks who create their ebooks using Vellum, Calibre, etc. I took advantage of a discount at Joel Friedlander's book design template site to get a nice two-way (print/ebook) series template to use for all of my sci-fi series books. He has an author series (Asimov, Hemingway, etc) and some nicely formatted templates for different genres and for MS Word, InDesign, etc. Their tech support has been pretty horrible, but that's another issue.

The problem I've had is that the books look great in MS Word, and come out great when I upload them to CreateSpace for the paperbacks, but I can't seem to get the same heading/body fonts when I create my ebook by uploading to KDP or using Calibre. I do make sure the fonts are installed in my system, embedded in the Word doc, and installed in Calibre. I'm windows, not mac, so Vellum isn't an option.

I'm wondering if it's worth the trouble - do most folks want/use their own fonts for reading ebooks, and do most ebook readers for epub/mobi use user fonts by default. When I read, I normally don't pay much attention to it unless the font is annoying me, then I change it. If this isn't worth worrying about, how do you 'design' your ebooks, what factors go into that, and what constitutes a 'beautiful' ebook as I've heard the term bantered about? Is there some list of ebook design criteria that should be followed? Calibre is not very user friendly, for sure.
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Offline Deke

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Re: Designing ebooks in Calibre or otherwise
« Reply #1 on: February 23, 2018, 07:07:42 AM »
I've found the easiest process is use Draft2Digital. You can upload one file and download a variety of formats.

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Offline KelliWolfe

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Re: Designing ebooks in Calibre or otherwise
« Reply #2 on: February 23, 2018, 07:47:34 AM »
I've done hand-crafted fancy formatting and barebones formatting and I can't tell that the readers even notice or care. I've never had any kind of feedback to indicate a preference for one or the other and as far as sales go it doesn't make any difference at all. Now I just stick with basic formatting and the generic fonts supported by all devices. I figure that when I'm reading a dead tree book I don't think about it's font and layout and such. I just read.

I've got a standard format for my books in Word. When I'm creating a new ebook I just use a copy of one I've already done and modify/copy-paste as necessary to create the new one. Then I use Jutoh to create the ebook. I use store-targeted links in all my books, so I have separate versions for Amazon, B&N, Google Play, iTunes, and Kobo. Takes less than an hour to do a new ebook set from scratch, usually a lot less if I'm not having to update book links. With the barebones formatting it's easy to copy and paste the text into my Createspace template and have that done and ready to upload in under an hour.

Get rid of Calibre. It is not an ebook creation tool. It is an ebook library management system that also creates ebooks - and not very good ones. You can't count on them passing EPUB checks, because the developer deliberately did some wonky things to suit the way he wanted the books to come out rather than conforming to standards. I highly recommend Jutoh, but there are other good tools out there. Almost anything is better than Calibre.

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Re: Designing ebooks in Calibre or otherwise
« Reply #3 on: February 23, 2018, 08:00:13 AM »
Billy, I think you answered your own question with regard to the fonts. Amazon has the fonts it likes, and readers don't really care. They're used to picking one of the Amazon choices and off they go.

As for Calibre, my experience is that it works great if you properly format the manuscript using styles in Word. I spent a lot of time researching conversion tools before settling on Calibre, and it's DOCX to EPUB converter was generally well regarded. It's worked great for me, but as I say, I don't try to format in Calibre but with Word. Best of luck to you.

Online Bill Hiatt

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Re: Designing ebooks in Calibre or otherwise
« Reply #4 on: February 23, 2018, 08:27:53 AM »
From Calibre Help (emphasis added):

"Calibre does not guarantee that an EPUB produced by it is valid. The only guarantee it makes is that if you feed it valid XHTML 1.1 + CSS 2.1 it will output a valid EPUB. calibre tries hard to ensure that EPUBs it produces actually work as intended on a wide variety of devices, a goal that is incompatible with producing valid EPUBs, and one that is far more important to the vast majority of its users. If you need a tool that always produces valid EPUBs, calibre is not for you. This means, that if you want to send a calibre produced EPUB to an online store that uses an EPUB validity checker, you have to make sure that the EPUB is valid yourself, calibre will not do it for you in other words you must feed calibre valid XHTML + CSS as the input documents."

In other words, Calibre is designed for readers organizing their book libraries, not for writers creating a file format for publishing. (Epubs that don't pass validation tests tend not to be accepted by distributors.) This is confirmed by Calibre's list of features, not one of which relates to publishing.

Sure, many people do use Calibre successfully, but publishing is not what it was designed for. I think it's safer to use tools that were actually designed for publishing.

D2D's epub creation is said to be a good free alternative, though I haven't used it myself. It's worth trying out, and one can do that even without using D2D as a distributor.

My personal preference is Vellum, mostly because it can make paperback creation so easy. Scrivener always worked well for me with ebooks--I never had a single problem producing a workable epub or mobi with it.

As far as whether or not readers notice fancy features, the answer is probably not. That said, a few may stick with the publisher's font choice, in which case Vellum does produce a prettier book. I wouldn't use the drop-caps option, though. It doesn't degrade well on older ereaders that don't support it.

Vellum has limited configuration options, but it's cheaper in the long run than hiring a formatter, and it's relatively trouble free. (The occasional bug is fixed quickly.) 


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Online BillyDeCarlo

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Re: Designing ebooks in Calibre or otherwise
« Reply #5 on: February 23, 2018, 08:30:04 AM »
I've been playing around some this morning with this. I think what my approach might be is to upload the MS Word .docx to D2D, choose one of their styles (pretty nice), download the epub, fix up the small problems it causes (mostly spacing, things mushed together on my front and back matter) with Jutoh (downloaded but not installed yet), then re-upload the fixed up epub to D2D and let it build me a mobi to upload to KDP and epub to upload to Google Play (the only two I do direct outside of D2D's stores).

Sound like a plan (that'll work)? Thanks for the input.
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Offline KennySkylin

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Re: Designing ebooks in Calibre or otherwise
« Reply #6 on: February 23, 2018, 10:36:16 AM »
I probably wouldn't try to set some unique main body text font. Most readers let people choose what they want, so if you set something non-standard it will probably either: A) be completely ignored by the device because it just uses the device default fonts or reader selected font anyway B) annoy readers who don't like the text font you used. Not really worth the trouble I would think. Custom chapter title fonts could be changed for good effect though, but some devices might just ignore them too and fallback on whatever the default serif and sans-serif fonts it uses. Plus most readers probably won't even care about custom fonts. Might not be worth the trouble of taking all those steps IMO.

Offline KelliWolfe

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Re: Designing ebooks in Calibre or otherwise
« Reply #7 on: February 23, 2018, 11:01:55 AM »
I've been playing around some this morning with this. I think what my approach might be is to upload the MS Word .docx to D2D, choose one of their styles (pretty nice), download the epub, fix up the small problems it causes (mostly spacing, things mushed together on my front and back matter) with Jutoh (downloaded but not installed yet), then re-upload the fixed up epub to D2D and let it build me a mobi to upload to KDP and epub to upload to Google Play (the only two I do direct outside of D2D's stores).

Sound like a plan (that'll work)? Thanks for the input.
You're making way too much work for yourself. Just create a well-formatted .DOCX file in Word and generate the EPUB from it with Jutoh. And don't bother creating a MOBI for KDP. KDP imports EPUB files just fine. If you're not using vendor-specific links, the single EPUB you generate from Jutoh can be uploaded everywhere, and you're all done.

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Online BillyDeCarlo

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Re: Designing ebooks in Calibre or otherwise
« Reply #8 on: February 23, 2018, 11:02:10 AM »
I wonder if I can just create the paperback from the PDF that Draft2Digital exports, since I like the style I used in their importer. It would need to be touched up a bit. Is there a good PDF to MS Word converter? I can probably use Jutoh for that too. I'll check into it.
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Offline Gessert Books

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Re: Designing ebooks in Calibre or otherwise
« Reply #9 on: February 23, 2018, 11:35:45 AM »
I wonder if I can just create the paperback from the PDF that Draft2Digital exports, since I like the style I used in their importer. It would need to be touched up a bit. Is there a good PDF to MS Word converter? I can probably use Jutoh for that too. I'll check into it.

You should not attempt to edit a finished PDF by converting it to a Word format. It introduces new problems that can be very time-consuming to correct.

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