How to Create ePUBs from Picture Books
The simple, unexpected program that makes it simple.
As indie publishers of children’s books, we all know that print books sell best, especially paperbacks. I think there’s several reasons for this.
First, kids are supposed to go light on screen time (well, THAT doesn’t happen), and the gatekeepers (parents, librarians, teachers) prefer print. Sometimes, I think that’s appropriate when there’s a lesson that needs to be shared and print is the obvious choice. But sometimes, I think we need to stop that analog thinking and go with digital thinking.
Second, and the focus of this post today, is that the technology has been hard for creators to make ePubs. eBooks are created for reflowable text, that is when the reader changes the size of the font, the text reflows onto the next pages smoothly.
But children’s picture books and some illustrated chapter books require a fixed-format ePub. The technology has never been able to smoothly and easily create these ePubs. Or have we just ignored the obvious choice?
The result is that not many ePubs are for sale on the wide platforms. There’s not a critical mass of books for readers to choose from. We need to create the ePubs, flood the wide markets, use our skillful marketing to market them on wide platforms, and create a viable marketplace!
A note about reading fixed format ePubs on Kindle: First, the free Kindle Kids Creator Program (KKCP) is your friend. I choose to import double-spread images into the program to create the smallest file size possible to avoid excessive download fees. But I do not like reading picture books on Kindle. They do not allow the universal pinch-zoom gesture. Instead, they force you to use their awkward, poorly designed popups, which in practicality, you can only create on the KKCP. Also, many Kindles, such as Paperwhites, will only display ebooks in black and white. This limits the devices possible. Kindle has gone to all epub files EXCEPT for picture books, which can still be .mobi files. All in all, it’s not a smooth or easy market for picture books, IMHO. Read more about creating Kindle files here.
Searching for a Simple ePub Creator
I’ve been on the search this year to solve the technology problem of how to create ePubs that will work for most wide platforms (Apple, GooglePlay, Kobo, BN, and etc.).
I hand-code my ePub files. I recently tried to write out the directions to do this and it’s not HARD, but it’s complicated. We need something easy!
I’ve tried every platform possible. PubCoder, from an Australian company, is a cool program, especially if you want to include multiple languages in the file. It also has options for adding matching games and other stock interactive things at the end of the book. But the file sizes are huge.
To recap, the need:
Easy. The program is easy to access and simple to use.
Small file sizes. The exported ePub files need to be small. 4MB is good, but 50 MB is awful. It’s all relative. On Kindle, if you’re over 8 MB, you should opt for the 35% royalty rate which doesn’t include download fees. Other programs, however don’t have that kind of penalty. Still, a small size means it downloads easily over poor networks and takes less space on devices. It’s one of my main goals in evaluating ePubs.
Shouldn’t be too hard to find! Right? It’s been a fruitless hunt for software until I almost gave up. Then, in the effort to leave no stone unturned, I turned to…
Apple Pages Program
The Apple Pages program comes standard on most iOS computers or can be easily downloaded. (Sorry, PC users. You’ll have to buy a used Apple for this program and for Vellum for novel ePub creation.)
One of the standard options is to export a fixed format ePub. So far, it has opened and displayed correctly on all platforms, and easily validates. Are you surprised? I was!
Below, you’ll find a step-by-step explanation of how to create the ePub using Pages. I’ve included lots of screenshots to make it easy. I can now create an ePub in ten minutes or less. To read these detailed instructions, please subscribe to Indie Kids Books!
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