It can be done. My process was sort of like this.
A)I studied copyright free children’s ebooks (The simpler the better, but with lots of graphics!) downloaded from the internet – with images on each page and text included in the image. One book I downloaded was Lear’s Nonsense Drolleries – specifically from Project Gutenberg (http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/20113). The kids books are 19th century and pretty dire but it was the inside code I was after.
B)I downloaded .epubs to my computer with SIGIL ( a great program for viewing inside an epub) to see how they are made up, e.g., Five folders (Text,Styles,Images,Fonts,Misc) and two files (toc.ncx,content.opf). You’ll get this set-up in epubs. Text contains .htm or.xhtml files, Styles has the CSS styling (i.e. for the paragraphs and headers), Images contains the jpg pics, Fonts&Misc were usually empty etc.
C) I looked inside the TEXT folder and typically saw .xhtml files relating to the Cover, the Copyright page, the TOC table of contents etc. I clicked open the content file (if it’s project gutenberg you’ll probably just see a .htm file). Making sure I was in <> Code View.
D) I spent ages looking for patterns or what seemed common sense to see how it all goes together, e.g.,
….There will be some stuff at the top about agreed protocols <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC “-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.1//EN””http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml11/DTD/xhtml11.dtd”>
….Something about the ‘head’ of the book (which encloses the ‘title’)
….Something about the ‘body’ of the book (which encloses the content i.e. what you’re writing about).
E) I invariably got confused … so downloaded some free ebook samples from Amazon and opened them up. These are in the .mobi or azw format so they were opened with something called Calibre which gave me an epub (google for how to use it – pretty simple)
I’d better not mention which ebooks specifically – but it certainly helped if they were short and had lots of images. Use mine if you like.
F) I got an idea of how an epub is made up by opening every part of the epub to,say, appreciate how the toc.ncx file helps you navigate through a book, and gives the book its shape and will help you structure it and jump about inside.
G) I realised that the so-called simple “how to make an epub” blogs and sites were either too simple and did not work, or too complicated. The most helpful were http://www.pigsgourdsandwikis.com
H)In fact on the Unruly Guides site you can buy their Formatting Kit version 3 which is for making free flowing kindle ebooks using Word. As for the Unruly Guides site, it is rather good. Lots of free stuff too. (No, I am not affiliated – I just wanted to say how useful Suzanne is there – and so nice too. Great at responding quickly to queries).
I did not use Word but that does not matter. The kit gave me vital skills and confidence after I followed the video tutorials to make a basic epub template. I then rejigged it by trial and error – by adding in my graphics and seeing what happened. I used the included code and added code I gleaned from other epubs or internet blogs. Sigil will validate your epub as you build it and will flag up issues. (This can be a bit technical at times so it helps to cut and paste the problem code and see what the solution is in Google).
I wanted to keep checking my epub on my Kindle as I built it up …To do this I needed Kindle Previewer, which allowed me to preview on my mac and on my cabled up kindle e-ink device.
I would drop my sample epub into Kindle Previewer for Mac and it would use something called KindleGen to generate a .mobi file – the format used by amazon. I could then link my kindle to my Mac and drop the .mobi into theKindle’s documents folder. It would appear when I wirelessly synched up and I could see how I was getting on.
J) I previewed using every reader going such as Sony Reader, available from this link:
Kindle for Mac and PC are available too and will give a great idea as to how the finished ebook will look.
K) I realised that it is important to have each graphic as its own page or you get blank spaces. It requires an <h1> header tag and a page break after. (Bit complicated to go into details here but the Unruly guide site explains well) e.g.
I earlier had tried using <p>paragraphs and page breaks but that did not work well in all readers. Make sure that you never use the space bar when setting stuff out as it can screw up the look. I move the curser where I want and paste images in.
L) Get the TOC table of contents right. Not every header needs to be referenced. If you buy my book ‘Cuddle Muddle‘ and Sigil it open you would see that my TOC has the copyright page, and about page (about me – it’s a wee biography) and start. The Start takes the reader to my first image. I had a hell of a time getting that to work without my image being on the left or right. I ended up writing this …
<h1 id=”start”><img alt=”Once there was a wee bear” src=”../Images/01_CudMud_K_Story_525640_72rCntr.jpg” /></h1>
M) I realised too that I was spending all hours getting this ebook right. It seems to work in all formats for now and even is okay on the Kindle Fire. The trick was getting the resolution right. My images are 525w by 640 high at 72 res and come in at 85kb each. I tried bigger, smaller, wider, longer, denser etc but this seemed to work. 96 res was ok too but the older e-ink kindle struggled a bit and would mess stuff up.
N) It is important to do your images large – I work at 264 res and 3000×4000 pixels. Then I reduce down – and make sure that when I illustrate (on my wacom ) that I can crop and cut the images to different widths and sizes without losing the meaning of the image.
Might be better to work at 300ppi so that if you want your images in a physical book you can get it printed out at a good resolution. That said, most books are 8 inches by 5 inches so you can change the res from 264 to 300 and it’ll be plenty big enough to shrink and crop to size….
O) …. Better stop here but you get the gist. It is not easy to make your own Kindle epub but it is not ultra hard either. Just takes application and a familiarity with several key programs. I use PHOTOSHOP for my image work, SIGIL for tweaking the ePub, KINDLE PREVIEWER for turning the epub into a mobi file. Some use Calibre and that’s okay too, but it adds its own stamp on things that can get in the way.
P) Finally, I read excellent blogs such as the one below, written by someone who didn’t want to scam the pants off me – what a thought:
… Good luck with it. The internet is full of the right advice, but it takes a while to find it. Hope some of this has helped.
Update: June 2013:
‘Cuddle Muddle’ is now a fixed layout children’s picture ebook with regional magnification. I updated it from being just a bog standard epub a few months ago. If you are making an epub then download some free samples of other books – if you are making a fixed layout children’s book then download mine if you like. Available from amazon by the links below – cheap as chips too. Other fixed layout ebooks of mine are available too – ‘Wiggle Jiggle’ and ‘Eggy Leggy’
‘Cuddle Muddle‘ – available on kindle (UK link)
‘Cuddle Muddle‘ – available on kindle (US link)
‘Wiggle Jiggle’ – available on kindle (UK link)
‘Wiggle Jiggle’ – available on kindle (US link)
- Wiggle Jiggle Book 2
- ‘Eggy Leggy’ – available on kindle (UK link)
- ‘Eggy Leggy’ – available on kindle (US link)