Wednesday, March 26, 2003
Posted by Philip Colmer in "SOFTWARE" @ 08:30 AM
In the first part of this two-part series, we looked at some of the reasons why you might want to create your own eBooks, and one of the free tools that you could use to convert Word documents into a Microsoft Reader eBook. In this concluding part, we'll look at another free tool and compare the output from both tools.
Tool #2 - OverDrive's ReaderWorks
OverDrive is possibly best known for running servers that host Reader files encoded to DRM5 level.
ReaderWorks Standard is their free conversion tool to create Reader files. There is also a chargeable version, called ReaderWorks Publisher, which provides more control over the finished file, such as the cover page images.
The installer is 1.9MB to download, but installation of ReaderWorks is very straightforward. The only option you get is where you would like the application installed. There is also an optional tutorial (539KB) which provides sample source files to help you create two books. "Murder on the Yellow Brick Road", one of the two books, is actually quite a good detective novel, if you like that sort of thing.
Figure 1: The ReaderWorks window
There are three principle steps to creating a Reader file with ReaderWorks Standard:
- Specify the source files.
ReaderWorks can import Word documents, HTML, an Open eBook package file or text.
- Define properties for the finished book.
Here, you can set the title and author. There are other properties available to you, but they are only really relevant in commercially published books.
- (Optional) Build a table of contents for the book.
You can provide your own table of contents file, or use the wizard to generate one from your sources.
Books created by ReaderWorks Standard come with a fixed cover image - it cannot be changed, unlike using the Word add-in.
Once the steps have been completed, you can generate your Reader file. If you want to save the steps you've gone through, you can, thus allowing changes to be made afterwards.
You get more control over how your Table of Contents look than in the Reader add-in for Word. The downside is that you've got to work hard to get the best results from the wizard. It can glean the contents from the names of the source files (in which case you need a source file for each chapter), from headers in HTML source files or from bookmarks in Word documents.
The latter choice is probably the least flexible. There is no hierarchy to the built-in contents if bookmarks are used, and Word doesn't allow you to use spaces or punctuation in bookmark names. The result is that a contents file created from bookmarks will, in all likelihood, require some manual editing before it is useful.
It was mentioned above that one of the file types that ReaderWorks supported was an Open eBook package file. This is a key document in the Open eBook structure. It defines the publishing attributes, the files included in the eBook, the images used for the covers and what tours are present in the book.
ReaderWorks will read in such a file, making it easy to create a Reader file if you've already got an Open eBook package, but it will not export one. A more complete examination of package files is beyond the scope of this article ... but it might be covered in a future article!
The two tools both provide easy mechanisms for converting Word files into Reader files.
If you don't want to download the tools or you aren't able to install software on your computer, OverDrive also operates a Web site, eBookExpress, where you can upload a document and see it converted automatically into a Reader file.
The Reader add-in for Word will generally give better results from Word documents than ReaderWorks. It has the benefit of allowing you to change the cover images but doesn't support contents properly.
The results from any of the tools are, perhaps, not as polished as you might find with commercial eBooks, but not too bad given that the tools are free. At the end of the day, the choice of tool is yours, as is the choice of format.
The results of converting this article into an eBook by each of the two tools can be seen here:
Finally, it should also be borne in mind that both tools are performing a conversion process from the source material you provide to the format needed by Reader. If you are willing to put some effort into creating correctly formatted documents yourself, you can get better results.
If you've enjoyed this two-part introduction and would like to see a future article that covers some of the processes involved in creating correctly formatted documents yourself, please make your wishes known by posting a followup to this article :wink: