Making ePub files, the easy way

Any Ulysses user knows there’s an ePub export function. It’s right there in the export sheet. Sitting there, throwing shade with it’s little slanted “e.” Mocking me.

This afternoon I was thinking about turning my sample chapter into a eBook. There’s lots of ways to build an eBook. The most common seem to be:

  • Kindle Direct Publishing – Many file types can be uploaded and converted by by Amazon. This only makes Kindle books, which go directly to the Amazon bookshelf.
  • iBooks Author – A very full-featured iBook editor. The output is ePub, which works with iBooks and other readers.
  • KindleGen – A command line tool to make Kindle eBooks. It looks like it
  • Calibre – An open source eBook converter and reader. I know that it exists, and not much else.

The most common format seems to be ePub. From what I’ve read, ePubs can be converted to Kindle books without much trouble. I was about to start downloading and learning some new software when I remembered the Ulysses export sheet. Why not play with what I have first?

The short answer is, damn that was easy! Here’s the result:

Ruby in Shards book cover.
Click to download (.ePub format).

(Note: this is a quick mock up, the title and cover will probably change.)

Ulysses likes to add a blank page at the start of the book. I had to open up the .epub file and edit that out by hand. It also took a few tries to get the stylesheet the way I wanted it. But overall, it was painless.

Now that I have a nice ePub, I was wondering how fast I could get a Kindle file (.mobi). It turns out the KindleGen program eats .epub and poops .mobi like butter through a duck. I had the Kindle file within minutes of unziping the KindleGen archive. The formatting seems faithful, but the cat picture didn’t make it. That’s something I’ll have to look into. If you’d like to see it, you can get it here.

There’s a lot I need to learn about eBook publishing. But this isn’t a bad start for an afternoon’s experiment.