Creating and publishing your own eBooks and eMagazines is so much fun, and can be financially rewarding too!
If you’re new to the EPUB game, this article will take you through the process of getting started—from which software to use to design your EPUB, to where to sell your work.
1. What is an EPUB?
An EPUB (Electronic Publication Format) is a broad term which applies to a range of different digital publications. The most commonly known and commonly used EPUB format is the eBook, which can be read on EPUB-compatible devices, like readers and tablets.
Just like a web page, the structure of an EPUB is based on HTML, and the EPUB can be viewed on a number of digital devices, including tablets, laptops, desktop computers and specialist eReader devices.
If you’re looking to create your first EPUB, there’s something important you need to be aware of—that EPUBs come in two different formats, called Reflowable and Fixed Layout.
What is a Reflowable EPUB?
A reflowable EPUB contains ‘live text’, which you can select, highlight and search.
You can also change the size of the text and even the typeface in a reflowable EPUB. This will force the lines of text to expand and break onto other lines; to ‘reflow’.
Most text-heavy publications, like novels and textbooks, will be set in a reflowable EPUB format.
What is a Fixed Layout EPUB?
A fixed layout EPUB is just that—the layout is fixed and doesn’t behave responsively when the reader views it.
This actually works really well for more complex eBooks and eMagazines, that perhaps contain a lot of images and have intricate layouts that would suffer if they had a reflowable digital format. The final result may appear a bit more like a PDF (though take note that a PDF is different to an EPUB).
Design: Eleanor Rogers
Which Format Should I Pick?
Both reflowable and fixed layout EPUBs are in line with the most recent specification for EPUBs, which is 3.0.1. So, if you export your EPUB to one of the above formats, you’re ready to go ahead and sell your eBook on a commercial eBook or eMagazine site.
But how do you know which of the two EPUB formats is right for you?
If you’re designing a visual-heavy EPUB, like a magazine or photo book, a fixed layout EPUB format is probably going to give you the best result. Your layout arrangements and effects, such as transparencies and gradients, will remain intact.
If you’re typesetting a novel, a reflowable format is probably going to be best; readers will be able to blow up the size of text to help make it more legible; and they’ll also be able to search the book to find particular words, passages or chapters.
2. How Do I Create an EPUB?
EPUBs are designed using a layout software of your choice, that’s suitable for exporting to an EPUB format.
The field of digital publishing is relatively young, and as a result there’s no single market leader in digital publishing software. That’s great for you, as this gives you lots of choice, and depending on your budget and skillset you can choose a software that’s going to suit your needs perfectly.
Here are some of the popular options for creating EPUBs and eMagazines, some of which are paid-for and some free:
An (obvious) favorite of the InDesignSkills team, this print publishing giant has been adapted for designing EPUBs (look to the most recent CC version of the software for the most updated EPUB adaptation), and you can export existing designs to both reflowable and fixed layout formats.
InDesign CC is subscription-based, with different payment options for schools, individuals and businesses, but if you’re looking for complete control and professionalism in your EPUB design, InDesign certainly won’t disappoint. It also interacts fluidly with other Adobe software, like Photoshop and Illustrator, allowing you to move content easily between the programmes.
Adobe has also created this software, which is aimed directly at digital publishers.
Perfectly suited to creating apps and EPUBs, DPS allows you to design complex layouts for digital devices without the need for coding.
BlueGriffon is another great software choice for creating EPUBs, and is probably best suited to more traditional, text-heavy publications. It’s a WYSIWYG editor, like Sigil, and works for Windows, Mac, and Linux.
BlueGriffon is a paid-for subscription-based programme.
A great choice if you’re on a tight budget, Sigil is completely free to download and use.
It’s an open-source EPUB creation software package for Windows, Mac, and Linux. This software is great if you’re going to be creating more traditional EPUBs, with less interactive content, and it also gives you direct control over the code, which is a handy option to have.
For all you Apple lovers out there, this is a great little free app, aimed at designers wanting to create EPUBs for iPads and Macs.
iBooks Author is an easy-to-use, intuitive and stylish app for creating EPUBs.
3. How Do I Add Interactivity to my EPUB?
Interactive elements, such as video content and animation, add an extra-special touch to EPUBs. They can liven up educational eBooks, and keep eMagazine readers engaged with an extra level of content to explore.
There are now so many ways to integrate more interactive content into your EPUB designs.
Once you have your basic EPUB layout in place you can add animations (try out Adobe Edge Animate), interactive engagement and eLearning content (Adobe Captivate is perfect for creating quizzes and tests) and videos.
Adding touch-sensitive page-turning to your EPUB can also make the reader’s experience more immersive, and imitate that real-life page-turning action.
4. Where Can I Sell My EPUB?
Once you’ve designed your EPUB, you’re ready to share it with the rest of the world!
Some EPUB softwares are designed to link you directly with an eBook store, such as Apple iBooks Author, which encourages you to upload your completed EPUB for sale on the Apple iBooks Store.
Other major eBook stores* that you can check out are:
*A word of caution—different eBook stores may require different sizes and resolutions for your EPUB cover, so be sure to check out the store’s requirements before uploading.
Once you’ve picked your design software, created your EPUB, added a dash of interactivity, and sized your cover for your eBook store of choice, you can officially crown yourself as an EPUB expert!
Whether you’re aiming to be the next eBook sensation, or just looking to dip a toe into the world of EPUB design, it’s certainly an expanding and exciting world to be a part of.