5 ways to create your own e-books


Did you know that online bookstore isn’t the only way to get digital content onto your iPad, Kindle, Nook, or other e-book reader? You can save your own documents to e-book formats to build your portable library more quickly. These are also good ways to share classroom materials with students and parents. Here are five tools to consider for your excursion into e-book publishing.

1. Make a PDF

PDF is arguably the most universally-compatible format for e-books. PDF files look great on an iPad, Kindle, and just about any reading or mobile device out there. (It also works on plain old computers.) To make a PDF e-book, just print your document to PDF the way you normally would. Here’s how to print to PDF in Windows using CutePDF, and how to do so on a Mac using built-in functionality. You can also use a commercial product like Adobe Acrobat or an online service like Zamzar or PDF Converter. (Note: Zamzar is supposed to convert to other formats, but I’ve had mixed results.)

I should mention that PDF-based e-books don’t let readers adjust fonts and colors like other formats, but if your publication relies on precise layout (other formats may vary from device to device) it might be your best bet.

2. Calibre

Calibre is a free tool for power e-book readers. It provides a built-in reader and converter that supports tons of e-book formats and, optionally, will even sync them to your reader. You can even download your favorite news feeds through a built-in RSS reader and convert them to an e-book format to read on your device later on. Calibre is available for Windows, Mac, and Unix.

3. eCub

eCub is another desktop e-book converter. It’s not as drag-and-drop as Calibre, but if you’ve already got content formatted into HTML (or several HTML pages) it’s worth a look. You can even give your e-book a custom cover. eCub is free and available for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Solaris. The company that publishes eCub also sells Jutoh, a more advanced e-book builder, for $22.

4. Instapaper

Online bookmarking/readability tool Instapaper has a neat feature that lets you save your bookmarked, web-based reading material to a downloadable format you can copy over to your Kindle or iPad for easy offline reading. It’s a great way to catch up on your favorite blogs or online newspapers while on the plane.

5. Pages

Finally, if you use a Mac and have iWork ’09 installed on your computer, you have a built-in e-book creation tool! A few weeks ago Apple added the ability to export to EPUB from inside Pages. This is the format of choice for most non-Kindle e-book readers, including the iPad. Formatting can be a little persnickety, but Apple provides a style template (ZIP file) and support document to help make sure your e-book looks as nice as those you might buy from the iBookstore or elsewhere.

Photo: Andy Ihnatko on Flickr


Related posts:

  1. 5 things to like about e-books
  2. Take charge of your e-book library with Calibre
  3. Kindle books (and others) available soon from O’Reilly
  4. Amazon now sells more Kindle books than print books
  5. 5 tips for reading books in iBooks on the iPad

Aaron Sumner

Aaron Sumner is the Director of Technology for Research and Development at the University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning. He has worked in web development and instructional technology since 1994.