The best platform to design an eBook
In this second post from the tutorial Designing eBooks that will give you the basic know-how to design and develop an eBook, I will be presenting platforms that could be helpful to easily create your first eBook.
How to create a Cross-Platform eBook
The format we are looking for to obtain for the eBook is the ePub 3.0; the latest release has a wide support for better integration and give us more options to develop new ideas.
InDesign (medium complexity)
If you are a designer or a professional who works with the Adobe InDesign tools, well, in that case you are lucky. You will be able to export your “print format” design with Adobe InDesign to an eBook extension, like ePub. But be careful, exporting your previous design that were developed to be printed and not to be viewed on a screen is not the best idea. Check out the previous article where I share some tips to improve your eBook design.
By the way, there are many plugins that you can integrate to InDesign and which help you to generate other formats, like Mobi (azw).
Other official videos from Adobe here.
Using an eBook Framework, designing your eBook as an WebApp (advanced complexity)
This option is perfect for those of you that have previous knowledge of webdesign and development. HTML and CSS are all that you need to create an amazing eBook.
Many frameworks are available , most of them open-source and free. The best are listed below:
My advice is to choose the framework that better suits your requirements. Give special attention to the current platform limitations. For example: you can only develop your eBook with Laker if you are using OS.
iBooks for iPad and iPhone (low complexity)
Recently Apple created iBooks Author, an App that reminds me the old days programming on Dreamweaver, where you were able to choose a template or a framework to easily create a design. iBooks Author works basically in the same way, but without the programming part you should be able to create an eBook really fast. The best thing about it is that you really don’t need to have any programming skills.
I won’t explain step-by-step how to create ePub using iBooks author since I know you will find it too easy, instead why don’t give it a try? Download the app from the App Store and share your thoughts leaving a comment below. A current disadvantage (January 2012) from the ePub format generated by iBooks Author is that it is best supported on iPad and iPhone than any other devices. For example, it won’t work on Android tablets.
The next video shows a little bit of the user-interface from this platform.
Not too distant future
I put my hopes in a startup: Vook, an Easy eBook Publishing Platform that is still on private beta and promises to change the way we design eBooks. I will take a closer look to this startup work in the next few months and share my impressions: http://vook.com/what-is-a-vook.html
Finally test your eBook
After finishing to export your eBook it is easy to forget that the final structure of your document contains XHTML, CSS, SVG and other resources. A webdeveloper/programmer should be able to work on the CSS and XHTML to create amazing results. If you have the chance to work side-by-side with a web developer, then, again, you are lucky. Discuss with this professional what you want to do and test the impressive number of features you could achieve working as a team.
But remember that after finishing your eBook, you need to test it to avoid “cross-browsing” issues, or better, cross-platform issues. At the end of the day every eReader is becoming more than that, now it is easier to buy a tablet more than an eReader (specially after the release of the Kindle Fire).
One of the best ways to guarantee that you won’t have cross-platform problems is testing the final ePub document using the official IDPF validator: http://validator.idpf.org/
In the first article of this tutorial I shared some basic ideas about what your concern should be when “designing” an eBook, more than just developing it. Something to refresh your mind is this other great article from A List Apart, about eBook standards. It could be outdated but the main principles are still the same: http://www.alistapart.com/articles/ebookstandards/
Previous article from the Tutorial Designing eBooks: What do you need to know when Designing an eBook?
Update 01/Ago/2016: Emmanuel Nataf, CEO at Reedsy, shared with us his amazing platform to easily design eBooks cross platforms. Thaks Emmanuel! Check it our by yourself: reedsy.com