What is E-Book Design?

E-book design is the process of converting a digital file to a format that can be read by an e-book reading device.

That sounds like a fairly simple process, until you get into the complexities of file formats and how easily (or not) they can be manipulated.

Book manuscripts usually start out as word processing files created with MS Word, WordPerfect, Pages, or another word processing program. Most word processors will save files in other formats, such as pdf, HTML, or a format that can be read by another word processing program.

So how hard can it be to convert one file format into another?

And the answer is, it depends.

Most books that start out as word processing files are then manipulated by a typesetting program, such as InDesign or QuarkExpress, to create a book design that will be printed as a DTB (dead-tree-book). Most typesetting programs save their files in a proprietary file format that can be exported to a file of a different format (pdf, HTML). During the typesetting process, typos may be found, some light editing may be done in the course of fixing widows and orphans, even some fairly major editorial changes may be made to the typesetting file. And the original word processing file will have none of those changes.

That means that the e-book conversion must be done from a pdf or HTML file exported from the typesetting program.

And that file will have all kinds of formatting code in it, as well as headers, footers, page numbers, etc. that should not appear in an e-book. (The word processing file will also have formatting code in it, but it can be manipulated to eliminate most of the problematic formatting.)

HTML files convert quite readily into the various e-book file formats, but the catch is that you (or someone) will have to edit the HTML to strip it of unwanted formatting code.

In addition, there are enhancements to the e-book that should not be ignored. The Kindle menu links to various locations in the book, the most important being the beginning of the book text and the Table of Contents. Since it is difficult to “leaf through” an e-book, these should appear in the Kindle menu so that the reader can more easily navigate through the book. The Table of Contents and the “start” location will have to be added using HTML.