Formatting your own Ebook – Q & A with David Cronin

We have now reached the end of this series that David posted on formatting and publishing your Ebook professionally. It is now time for the Q & A and if you have not read all the posts or specific ones of interest to you perhaps you might like to take the time this week  and then if you still have any questions make a note of them in the comment section.. David will then answer those here so that everyone who might have a similar query gets the answer too.

You should find most of what you need here but if not then you will find an email address at the end of the links. Thanks very much to those of you who have shared and commented on this series and glad that you found it interesting and helpful.

David Cronin

After over 30 years as a senior executive across the cable, telecommunications and cable television industries, David Cronin founded the Indie Publishing company Moyhill in 2004. Already involved with computers since the mid 1970s he quickly made the transition to book designer and publisher and the first book that Moyhill published in 2004, The Red Tailed Hawk, in Spanish won best digital print book in the UK that year.

If after reading these posts and the Q&A you feel you need more assistance to give your book a final polished format then you can contact him direct on

Making Your Own Ebook – Part Nine – Making a fresh start

Sometimes the only way to remove the formatting from an existing file is to make a fresh start by stripping out all existing formats, completely, and start the formatting again. But you want to do this in a way that does not disturb the text of the book and also is as fast as possible. In this post we will look at the detailed processes that you can use to do just that. The best approach is to read through the post completely then you will be in a position to decide which of the options will work best for YOUR book.

To make a “fresh” start you will want to mark all instances of formatting – Bold, Italics, Bold Italic, Headings of all kinds, indents, etc. so that when you transfer the plain text file back into Word you will be able to find all the instances and format them again using styles. The best way to do this is by “tagging” each instance.

The Tag and Replace Process:

  • Make a backup of your original file and put it in a separate directory for safekeeping.
  • Open the file in Word and Tag all the formatting in the file.
    (More on the details of how to do this below.)
  • Save the file with “Tagged version” in the name
  • Select ALL the text in the book file (Ctrl + a)
  • Open a plain text file using “Notepad”
  • Paste all the text into the Notepad File (Ctrl + v)
  • Once all the text is copied over, save that file also With “Tagged” somewhere in the filename. This file will have a “.txt” file extension
  • Close the original Word file
  • Open a New Word file
  • If you have already prepared a blank template for your book that is the file that you should open up – remember to save it under a new name so that your Blank template is saved elsewhere and available for use in other projects.
  • Go back to notepad and Select All (Ctrl + a) the text.
  • Back to Word and paste all the text into the new file (Ctrl + v).
  • Save the new file and include the word “New”, or a version number, in the filename.
  • Replace all the tags with formatting from your styles (More on how to do this below) and save the file with a new version number.

This process is the most “robust” approach and gives the cleanest file.

Manual Process

If you have a file that has only a small amount of formatting you can do the process manually, but this is time consuming and only works if there is not too much formatting.

  • Make a backup of your original file and put it in a separate directory for safekeeping.
  • Open the file in Word
  • Select ALL the text in the book file (Ctrl + a)
  • Click on the “Clear All” line at the top of the styles list and this will clear all formatting.
  • Save the file with “unformatted” in the title.
  • If you have already prepared a blank template for your book that is the file that you should open up – remember to save it under a new name so that your Blank template is available for use for other projects.
  • Go back to the unformatted version and Select All (Ctrl + a) the text.
  • Switch to the new template and paste all the text into the new file.
  • Save the new file under a new name.
  • Open the original Word file with all the formatting in a separate window and resize both instances of Word so that they are displayed side by side on the screen.
  • Either search through line by line in the original to spot the formatting, or use the find box to locate types of formatting.
  • When you find the formatted text format it with the new styles.

How to Tag the formatting in your file

When you read through the tagging process it may seem a bit complicated but when you have done it a few times you will see how fast and useful it is compared to manually searching and changing formatting.

Tagging the formatting in a file is a great option if you have a lot of formatting. It will save a huge amount of time. However, it does not make sense if you only have a small amount text styling. The Manual method may take less time.

All we are doing with Tags is putting a simple Text Marker before and after each type of formatting so that the format can be identified by the “Find & Replace” tool that is built into Word. Each type of formatting has to have its own individual tag so that it can be easily identified and not confused with other styles.

This approach works well for text styles – mainly because there are usually many more instances of Text Styles compared to Paragraph Styles – but it is generally easier to format paragraph styles like Chapter Headings and Paragraphs Headings by placing the cursor in the paragraph and clicking on the style to apply. Check out the section on Keyboard Shortcuts at the bottom of the post if you want to really speed up the manual process.

Here are examples of the tags you can use to mark the formatting in your book:

  • -STARTI- for italics
  • -STARTB- for bold
  • -STARTU- for underline
  • -END- to close any tag

Here are the search scripts to use to change formatting to tagged text:

  • -STARTI-^&-END-
  • -STARTB-^&-END-
  • -STARTU-^&-END-

You can use your own tags as long as you make sure that they clearly mark the start and end of each format and are easy to find. Don’t use short tags like “i” for italics or “b” for bold as Word will misinterpret them.

Also, notice the hyphens before and after the tags. This helps avoid confusion with real words in the text and makes them easier to remove later.

Replacing existing formatting with tags

You can set the tags automatically using the Find & Replace function. As an example let’s use Italics as the first format to tag.

To tag and replace Italic formatting

Open up the Find & Replace Dialogue (Ctrl +h). If the fullbox is not visible click on “More>>”  to open it fully.

  • In the Replace box, type in, or copy & paste, the search term
  • Click in the Find box but leave it empty
  • Click on “Format / Font / Italics” to set the Find script to Italics
  • Click on “Replace All” and all of your italicized text will have the tags applied.

Word 28 - Tagging Italics 1

Word 29 - Tagging Italics 2

Word 30 - Tagging Italics 3Here is an example of what the text would look like Before and After.

  • Before: This line has some words in italics. This is a test.
  • After: This line has some -STARTI-words-END- in italics. This is a -STARTI-test-END-.

When you use consistent tagging it is easy to replace the tags with the proper formatting with the Find and Replace function.

Tagging Bold and Underline

Repeat the Find & Replace process for Bold and Underline if you have used them in your manuscript. Paste in the appropriate Replace term from the list above and remember that when you go into the “Find” box it is best to click on the “Clear formatting” button before entering a new format to search for. It is easier to Copy & Paste the search script as this will avoid typing errors that might mess up your changes.

Word 31 - Tagging Italics 4Once the tagging is done you can remove all the text formats using the methods outlined in the “Tag and Replace” or “Manual” processes above.

Strip out the Formatting

The surest method is to Copy & Paste all the tagged text into a plain text processor, like “Notepad”. This will strip out all the formatting but leave all your tags. Then copy and paste the plain text back into a new Word document which has your Styles ready to apply. If you do not use “Notepad”, the built-in plain text processor in Windows, there are a number of FREE apps that are easily downloaded which will do the job also. I will post links for these later.

You can re-apply the styles using “Find and Replace” function in reverse. Then, once the text has been re-formatted you can remove the tags and you have a cleanly formatted file.

Re-formatting the text and removing the tags

This time we will be entering the “Script” in the “Find” box and the format in the “Replace” box.

Here are the search scripts to use to change the tagged text back into formatted text:

  • -STARTI-*-END-
  • -STARTB-*-END-
  • -STARTU-*-END-

The “*” is the wildcard marker and all it is doing is telling the system to apply the change to any text found between the Start and End tags.

Let’s use the Italic format again as the example process:

When you open the Find and Replace dialogue the first thing to do is to make sure that none of the boxes have any formatting applied. You will see if this is so as the format information will be below the Find or Replace boxes. Click in the Find or Replace box and then Click on “No Formatting” this will clear any existing formats. Repeat in both boxes if needed.

For this part of the process you will need to activate “Wildcards” for the Find function.

Word 32 - Use Wildcards for FindReplacing tagged text with formatting

  • In the Find box, type in or copy & paste the search term
  • Click in the Replace box but leave it empty
  • Click on “Format / Style / Emphasis” to set the Replace format
  • Click on “Replace All” and all of your tagged text will be returned to Italic but this time All the Italics will have the style “Emphasis” applied.

Word 34 - Select Emphasis Character StyleWhen the “Format / Style” pop-up menu appear you will need to scroll down to find the Character style “Emphasis”. You know it is a character style because it has a lower-case “a” in front and will only change the characters not the whole paragraph.

Word 33 - Replace Tags with Italic FormattingUse the same process to replace the Bold and Underline tags.

For bold you can use the “Strong” style which is the same as standard Bold but for Underline you will have to create a new style or modify one of the standard Character styles (e.g. Subtle reference or Intense Reference) to get exactly what you want.

A note about Underlining

If you use underlining for emphasis in your Ebook you need to use it sparingly if at all. Hyperlinks are usually shown with underlined text and when you use underlines there is a risk that readers might confuse YOUR underlines with hyperlinks. When they do not link to anything customers may be disappointed.

If you are using a word processor to style your Ebooks, use the Heading 1 and Heading 2 styles for your chapters, parts and sections. Do NOT depend on the conversion programs to recognize your inserted page breaks!

Keyboard Shortcuts

One thing that can really help speed things up when you are applying styles is the use of Keyboard Shortcuts. If you have used Word for a number of years you probably use quite a few shortcuts without thinking about them: such as “Ctrl c” to copy and “Ctrl v” to paste. But if you have not used styles you may not be aware that you can create a keyboard shortcut for any of the styles in your list!

All you need to do is to go into the Modify dialogue box and at the bottom when you click on format you will find “Shortcut Key” near the bottom of the list.

Word 35 - Setting Shortcuts for stylesWord 36 - Shortcut Dialogue BoxIn the example above, I have set a shortcut of Ctrl+Alt+A for the “Heading 1” Style. All I have to do now is to place the cursor in a piece of text and press Ctrl+Alt+A to make it “Heading 1”. If you want to remove the shortcut just go back into the dialogue box and click on Remove (bottom left) to clear.

That’s it!

You now have all the basic tools needed to create a robust and well formatted file that should pass muster if you are uploading to your Ebook retailer. If you are converting from Word to Epub with any local conversion software remember to use Epubcheck to test the file before you upload it anywhere.

Testing (again!)

In a couple of earlier posts I went on about testing and proofing and here we are again. Testing and proofing is vital and all you have to remember is to keep on with the cycle of “Test – Fix – Proof read / Test – Fix – Proof read” until the result is clean and without problems. It may be tedious but your reader will be happy – and a happy customer tends to tell others and sales go up, and then YOU are happier… A “Win-Win” result!


What I have described are the basics and these are some of the steps that we use when repairing files and producing Ebooks. Once the book has been proofed before and after conversion we then open up the HTML files and check all the files for errors that do not show up as “conversion” problems. We almost always have to make adjustments in the Metadata file and have to remove parts of the CSS and modify HTML code that would cause problems in some readers.

Since most people don’t want to mess with HTML I need to add some notes about Metadata and how to manage it. There is also some important information about Fonts that you need to be aware of and I will include that next week too. The final piece will summarise the links for FREE software that you can use to enhance your formatting and testing process. I will post these next week to close off the series.

Here are the links to all the previous posts in the this series and it is recommended that you read them in order…

©DavidCronin 2015 The Ebook Doctor


David Cronin


After over 30 years as a senior executive across the cable, telecommunications and cable television industries, David Cronin founded the Indie Publishing company Moyhill in 2004. Already involved with computers since the mid 1970s he quickly made the transition to book designer and publisher and the first book that Moyhill published in 2004, The Red Tailed Hawk, in Spanish won best digital print book in the UK that year.

Since then Moyhill has set up authors as their own publishers and has formatted several award winning novels and non-fiction titles. It is essentially a one-man operation and this enables a one-to-one relationship with authors throughout the entire process.

After this series has been completed next week David will be holding a Q&A session via the blog for those authors who have read the series but still have questions.

If after that you feel you need more assistance to give your book a final polished format then you can contact him direct on


Making Your Own Ebook Part Eight – How to clean the formatting in your Word file

Now that you know how set up a clean template for your Ebook how do you apply it?

If you have NOT written your story

This is the easiest situation to handle and it just takes a little preparation to make things work really well. The sequence is straightforward.

  1. Create a new document for the book. This makes sure that there are no Manual Styles already in place. If you are using existing document the best approach before adding Styles is to clear all previous Manual Styles before you begin but it is generally easier to start with
  2. Create the framework for the book as described in the previous posts…
  3. … Or use the template you created in the earlier exercises
  4. Start writing…

If you have already written your story…

If you have already written your story then the word-processor file will probably be full of formatting, some of it invisible to you, which can mess up your output. You have two options:

  1. Go through a clean-up process for your existing file.
  2. Take a drastic step and strip out all the existing formatting and create styles for each paragraph and character style used in the book. Step 2 may not be too “drastic” if you don’t have a lot of formatting as it can be quick to reformat Chapter headings etc. once the Style is in place.
    You can strip out all formatting by copying and pasting all the text from Word to “Notepad”, or another plain text processor (You can get these free on the Web and I will post the links for the best FREE versions at the end of this series). This will strip out ALL the formatting – including Bold & Italics. Then copy & paste the text from the “notepad” file back into a new Word document using your Ebook template styles. This is actually the best way to do the clean-up as no styles will remain in the plain text file.

We will deal with each of these solutions separately but with both solutions you will need to make visible all the usually invisible formatting marks in your document. We went through this in an earlier Post where we showed how to use “File / Options / Display / Show all formatting features” to reveal all formatting marks. Do this before you start the clean-up so that you can see the marks and take appropriate action. You can turn them off later if they are in your way.

When we receive Word files from clients, to create either Ebooks or Print Books, we go through the processes below in order to get a clean file to work with. If we don’t do the clean-up we generally get problems at a later stage when converting to EPUB or MOBI so a clean-up is always the first step for us.

Tools: Find and Replace

If you have not had to use the Find & Replace function before it is easily started in Word using the keyboard shortcut “Ctrl h” or by clicking on the “Replace” icon in the top right corner of the Ribbon.

Word 24 - Replace function

Once open, the Replace dialogue looks like this:

Word 25 - Replace Dialogue Screen

There are many possible searches and I will go through some of them in detail as we go through the clean-up process.

How to clean an existing file:

  • Make a backup copy of you file before you start just in case anything goes wrong.
  • Remove Justification
  • Turn off Hyphenation
  • Remove headers and page numbering: There are no page numbers in Ebooks and if you have them they may appear in inappropriate places. You need to remove them completely.
  • Remove columns – they don’t work in Ebooks
  • Remove text boxes ‑ they don’t work in Ebooks
  • Check for and deal with any special characters. Don’t use an oddball font to get special characters. If you can’t find them in Times New Roman and Arial/Helvetica then your Ebook reader will probably have problems in finding them too and will display something incorrect.
  • Make sure that any bullet lists or numbered lists are based on the Built-in styles within Word and do not use “inserted” symbols for Bullets or manually inserted numbers. These can give unpredictable results

For the next few parts of the process the “Find & Replace tool is the quickest way to make changes. You will find the “Paragraph Mark”, “Tabs” and “Manual Line returns” in the “Special” menu at the bottom of the Dialog box:

  • Remove extra paragraph returns using Find & Replace:Word 27 - Double Para Mark ReplaceTo insert the paragraph symbols in the Find or Replace boxes, use “Special / Paragraph Mark“. Do this twice for the Find box and once for the “Replace with” box. Make sure there are no spaces before or after the symbols then click on “Replace All”.
    You may have to click Replace All several times to remove all repeated paragraph marks.
  • When you have deleted all the double “Paragraph” markers you can create and apply Styles to make spaces between paragraphs.
  • You also need to search for unneeded spaces before and after paragraph marks as these can cause display problems on some readers. To remove spaces after the Paragraph Mark – keep the previous Find open; delete the second Paragraph Mark in the Find box and replace with a space. Just hit the spacebar for this. Then hit Replace All. Repeat as needed.
  • Remove Leading spaces, remove the space after the single Paragraph Mark in the Find box and put a space in front of the mark. Then hit Replace All. Repeat as needed.
  • Remove manual line breaks. Use the Find & Replace function as described above but click on “Line Break” in the drop-down menu to insert the symbol in the Find Box. Place a Paragraph Mark in the Replace box. Hit Replace All. Repeat as needed.
  • Remove page breaks and create your chapter breaks by setting up a style with “Page break before” ticked in the Paragraph style
  • Remove all tabs: TABS do not work properly in Ebook files. They can cause skipped lines, compressed text, font size changes and other strange problems. You have to create styles to give the needed indents.
    Use the same Find & Replace function as before but click on the tab symbol to place it in the Find box. This time leave the Replace box blank but make sure there are no spaces there before hitting the Replace All key. Again, repeat the Replace All as needed until no Tabs are found.
  • Remove extra spaces between words, sentences, and before and after paragraph returns. Lots of people use a double space before each new sentence (it used to look good on typed letters) but E-readers justify text by spreading out the spaces between words so extra spaces between sentences can look very strange. Extra spaces at the beginning of paragraphs will give uneven results and extra spaces at the ends of paragraphs can cause blank pages.
    Use the same find & Replace function but this time with two spaces in the Find box and a single space in the Replace box. Hit Replace All until no more double spaces are found.
  • Get all the commas and inverted commas, around dialogue etc., turned in the right direction. You can do this by replacing all occurrences of “ with “. That means search for “Double Inverted Commas” and replace with “Double Inverted Commas”. This process should change all “Double Inverted Commas” to “Smart quotes” and get them the right way round. You will still have to check them when you do your proofreading in case spaces between characters have messed things up.
    Using the Find & Replace function you just type the commas into the Find box and Replace Box before hitting the Replace All button.
  • Do the same process for single quotes!
  • Only use hyphens to hyphenate words. If you want a text separator you need to use the “n-dash” but you need to have a space before and after ( ‑ ) (space n-dash space). If you have no spaces around the dash you can have line break problems.
    You may not have used the n-dash ( – ) before. Its name is an old printing term and refers to the width of the space taken up by the lower-case letter n in a standard set of type. In Word you can insert an n-dash using the key combination “Ctrl+Shift+-” (this is the minus sign on the top line of numbers not the Numeric keypad. (You can also insert it using the ASCII combination Alt+0150 on the numeric keypad.)
    When changing hyphens to n-dashes in the “Replace” dialogue you can find the n-dash in the “Special” menu at the bottom of the box: Just make sure that you place the cursor in the replace box before clicking on Special / En Dash. That will insert the dash in the find box.

Word 26 - n-dash in Replace Dialogue

  • Don’t use the “M-dash” in Ebooks. You may find it easier during writing to use a double hyphen and then go back using the Find & Replace function to change to n-dashes.
  • Un-centre “centred” text and create a new style to centre text and get what you need.
  • Create a style for scene dividers or section breaks: I use 3 or 5 asterisks with a 16 pt space above and below.
  • Create styles for special layouts such as lists, block quotes, centred text, etc.
  • Create styles for Bold, Italic, Underlining, Hyperlinks, etc.
    If you are used to blogging, using WordPress for example, you may know that you can get a good result using “Ctrl B” or Ctrl I” to apply those styles. But that doesn’t work well for E-books. For Ebooks you can either create specific character styles for Bold, Italic and Bold-Italic. OR you can built-in styles “Strong”, “Emphasis” or “Intense Emphasis” to get the same effects. When you do this the Ebook conversion software will create a specific style in the CSS file which will help to make sure that the text is displayed with your chosen style on the E-reader.
  • You also need to use the proper ellipse character NOT three full-stops (periods) in a row … This can confuse E-readers and split lines unexpectedly as the reader will interpret as three “Full Stops (Periods)”.
    You can use the Find & Replace function to make the change. Type three Full Stops (Periods) into the Find box and place an ellipsis in the Replace box and click Replace All.
    One of the reasons that many people use three dots instead of the proper ellipsis symbol is that it is not clear where to get the symbol. All you have to do is: Click at the position in the document where you want the ellipsis to appear and press “ALT + CTRL + . ” on the keyboard.
  • Use Fonts that are available in E-readers:
    One problem we often see is where the writer uses a font that is not one of the built-in fonts that are installed on Ebook readers. The reader will do its best to display the closest font match, with unpredictable results. The problem occurs when the font is “defined” by the word processor. Then it cannot be changed in the Ebook reader’s choice of display fonts.
  • Don’t “define” the line spacing in your Word document. If you do this it will probably override the definition in your reader… again with undesirable results.
  • If you decide to have graphics, illustrations or photos in your book you may already have discovered that it is hard to tell how and where these will appear when you convert to a Kindle or EPUB file. There are numerous reasons for the unpredictable results and the best way to get them to appear correctly is to get into the HTML/XML file and modify them manually so that their size is defined as either a percentage (of the unknown device screen width) or in Ems.
    I will do a separate post about Images sometime in the future.
  • When you do a clean-up of a file you will always need to proofread it again afterwards!

There are many other things that you can search for and check, depending on the formatting and fonts in your document, and you can use the Find & Replace tool for these. Explore the function and you can see that you can search for fonts & styles, use Wildcards, etc. to make your clean-up easier.

Next time we are going to cover the “Drastic Option” of stripping out all the formatting and replacing it with Styles. We will use the Find & Replace tool again but this time in a very different way!

©DavidCronin 2015 The Ebook Doctor


David Cronin


After over 30 years as a senior executive across the cable, telecommunications and cable television industries, David Cronin founded the Indie Publishing company Moyhill in 2004. Already involved with computers since the mid 1970s he quickly made the transition to book designer and publisher and the first book that Moyhill published in 2004, The Red Tailed Hawk, in Spanish won best digital print book in the UK that year.

Since then Moyhill has set up authors as their own publishers and has formatted several award winning novels and non-fiction titles.  It is essentially a one-man operation and this enables a one-to-one relationship with authors throughout the entire process.

After this series has been completed next week David will be holding a Q&A session via the blog for those authors who have read the series but still have questions.

If after that you feel you need more assistance to give your book a final polished format then you can contact him direct on

The Ebook Doctor — Part Three – Anatomy of an Ebook

When you know what an Ebook and E-reader really are, and how they work together, you can learn how to create files that will work properly for your customer/reader.

This post is split into two Sections. The first covers the principles and some useful tools for examining Ebooks. In the in the second Section we will take a detailed look inside the Ebook file.

In later posts we will get to the decision point on the format to use, the problems commonly found in Ebooks, and how to avoid them. And finally a step-by-step guide on how to get a good result.

Inside the Ebook?

Looking at the Anatomy of an Ebook will give you a feel for the overall structure of an Ebook and will give you a better perspective on why formatting your manuscript in very specific ways will help your file pass the import tests for Amazon, and other big book retailers — and make it readable on a much wider range of devices.


Simply put, the Ebook is a ‘packaged’ website, and an E-reader is a hand-held web browser.

The Ebook contains a series of connected web pages which can be displayed using a browser. The pages are stored inside a “Package” or “Container” file: MOBI/AZW (Kindle) or EPUB being the most common.


Although there are many Ebook formats out there, in practical terms there are only three that you need to think about when deciding on the format for your Ebook. These are EPUB, MOBI and PDF.

If your book contains mainly narrative text, and has only a small amount of formatting, then EPUB and MOBI are the most important formats for you. If you are producing a non-fiction book which has a more complex structure then a PDF files may be a better option for presenting the book.

MOBI is the core structure used by Amazon for their Kindle Ebook files. And, since Amazon is probably the biggest bookseller in the world, we all think of creating a MOBI/Kindle compatible file first. In reality, most professional designers will create an EPUB file first and then, when that file is ‘clean’, and passes all tests, it is converted into a MOBI file before uploading to Amazon. This makes the open EPUB structure the most important to look at in detail.

I will come back to the PDF format later, as a special case, because there are some difficulties when marketing PDFs through Amazon.


The EPUB package is really a ZIP file and if you change its extension “.epub” to “.zip”, the EPUB file becomes a true ZIP file which can be unZipped so that you can look inside and edit the files directly.

If you work on a MAC you can rename to “.sit” and you can extract in the usual way.

Unfortunately, you cannot just Zip the files again and change the extension back to .epub to re-create the EPUB file. Some of the files in the EPUB package cannot be compressed and you need some special ‘Tools’ to make the new file properly.

If you need to extract and re-compress EPUB files one great utility which does this is called eCanCrusher, from This is FREE to download and use and is a simple application designed to convert an EPUB folder into a compressed .epub file or vice versa. It needs no installation. To convert, you just drag/drop an EPUB folder or an .epub file onto the eCanCrusher application icon.

There is a version for both Windows and MAC at this link:


An Amazon MOBI files is a more complicated beast because there may be multiple formats inside the same ‘Package’. Amazon’s compilers will add the original source file, usually an EPUB, to the database. If you have worked with both EPUB and MOBI files you may have noticed that a Kindle book can be quite large compared to the EPUB file of the same book.

Cracking open a Kindle file is more complex than working with an EPUB but if you need to do so you can use KindleUnpack (formerly MobiUnpack) to unpack and inspect the contents of DRM-free Kindle Books or MOBI files. You can then modify the content as needed and rebuild the original with Kindlegen.

The program is Open Source and you can get it here…

And you can get more info here…

…but beware, disassembling and re-assembling a Kindle file may not get you back to an acceptable file. Also, if files contain DRM (Digital Rights Management) you will not be able to open them in the same way. You can find out more about the MOBI structure here…

As an aside – surveys of sales of files with and without DRM show very clearly that files WITHOUT DRM sell much better. The complexity of managing files with DRM is off-putting and many customers avoid them for this reason.

We will come back to the details of editing inside an Ebook package later but at this point it is best to just note that it is really better to get the structure and formatting set up correctly inside your Word Processor so you don’t have to crack open the final package later.

Testing the converted files is another very important step and if we go through a couple of cycles of “Convert file – Test – Correct original –Convert again – Test again” until we get the right result there should be no need to crack open the Ebook file. More on this later too.

Converting from Word Processor to Ebook

The purpose of the Ebook format is to display the book content so that it looks like pages in a traditional printed book. When we create the book content on a Word Processor, the file that is saved is not always in a format that can be displayed in a web browser (Depends on your word processor) so it needs to be converted into the language used to create web pages ‑ HTML / XML / XHTML.

When you convert a Word Processor file into an Ebook the conversion translates the text into individual XHTML files for each chapter, or section, and puts together a list of those files and a set of instructions to the E-reader to tell it the order in which to display the pages.

We also need to tell the E-reader the formatting to use when the text is displayed. Websites use ‘Cascading Style Sheets’ (CSS) to describe the way the type should look on the screen — the font, the position of text on the screen and whether it is bold or italic, the spacing before and after paragraphs, etc. CSS also controls the position of graphic elements like photos and illustrations. All the formatting that you impose on your book text has to be translated to CSS file if it is to look the way you want it to, so you need to take a lot of care to make sure that the way you format your manuscript inside your Word Processor is easy to translate accurately to CSS.

The important point here is not that you have to learn how to write HTML or to create a CSS file, but to know that if you format your original text in specific ways the conversion process will work seamlessly and your final Ebook will look like you want it to, and will pass the acceptance tests of the Ebook retailers.


The Epub standards have been around for a long time and most of the devices in the market are designed to use the EPUB Version 2 standard, first published in 2007. However a new standard has been available since 2011, EPUB Version 3. V3 is quite sophisticated and can use fonts in a different way from the earlier versions but most Ebooks are still produced using Version 2 because of the vast number of older E-readers still in the market that only support V2 and do not support all the functions built into V3.

In the next instalment we take a more detailed look inside the Ebook.

©DavidCronin 2015

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