Ebook Development: Education

There is a well-established community of ebook developers who write, teach, counsel, and gather to commiserate. Here are some places to access their knowledge base.

Tutorials

Webinars and tutorials are available in numerous places. In each case, the resources below have several service areas. For my purposes here, I am going to focus on resources for ebook developers.

eBOUND Canada is a publisher service organization that has a tidy treasure trove of webinars and tutorials. One of my favourites is EPUB3: When and How by industry leader, Joshua Tallent.

The Book Industry Study Group is another publisher service org with an excellent webcast archive. Highlights include their 4-part fixed-layout ebook series. They have also branched out, in partnership with eBook Architects, into the business of in-person workshops for people wanting to learn more about ebook production, with classes coming up in Austin, New York, San Francisco, and Chicago.

Digital Book World has a rich vein of webcasts and white papers for people interested in leveling up their ebook development skills. There is also a great archive of articles on news in ebook development.

Last, but definitely not least, Lynda.com has many in-depth how-to videos on creating EPUB from trainer extraordinaire Anne-Marie Concepción. You can sort these videos by the software version you are using.

Websites

EPUBSecrets, a blog run by Derrick Schultz, publishes how-tos, spec details, tool reviews and, well, all things EPUB. You can also follow this site on Twitter and Facebook.

Derrick started a Github site call 99 Problems where ebook creators can post and track rendering errors and bugs.

InDesignSecrets is a great place to learn about the EPUB export from InDesign. They have an excellent list of resources, and an EPUB specific forum.

While not a website per se, this article by Colleen Cunningham is comprehensive listing of resources for going from InDesign to Ebook.

Conferences

Ebookcraft is a new conference in Toronto for which, in the interest of full disclosure, I am a member of the steering committee. Our goal is to focus rigorously on the issues around and the craft of ebook development. For its second iteration this March, we’ve added a workshop day. You can watch videos of the 2014 talks here, and read blog posts by this year’s speakers here.

PePcon is an annual print and e-publishing conference held in a different American city each year. They have targeted talks on various issues in publishing in addition to a pre-conference bootcamp, and a post-conference day of deep-dive workshops.

Digital Book World has a more wide-ranging conference in New York every January (moving to March in 2016). It is a general publishing conference but has some content every year aimed at ebook developers.

Books in Browsers is a “think-y” conference in San Francisco every October that pushes publishers and ebook developers to move beyond the EPUB container. It is always an interesting, engaging set of talks. A video archive of their talks is also available on their website.

News and Blogs

In order to keep current in this shifting-sands ebook development business, it is important to watch the news for changes in what’s supported, new ereaders, adjustments to the spec, etc. Here are some places to do that.

Baldur Bjarnason has a blog of sometimes controversial but always engaging and entertaining opinions on the state of ebook development. You might consider following him on Medium as well.

Liza Daly, CTO at Safari Books, writes very smart pieces on the history and present challenges of ebook development on Medium and elsewhere. See especially, The Superior Economics of Well-Crafted Ebooks.

Nate Hoffelder runs the Ink, Bits, & Pixels blog that includes original news pieces and a daily roundup of useful digital publishing links.

Sanders Kleinfeld, from O’Reilly Media, is another exceptional blogger. His Medium pieces on responsive design and reasons to be optimistic about ebooks are important ebook developer reads.

Paul Biba, former editor of Teleread, has a Twitter stream that is another excellent source of digital publishing news.

Tools

As ebooks are really just a zipped collection of HTML and CSS, any decent code editor can be used to edit the pieces of the EPUB puzzle. BBEdit, Coda, TextWrangler, Sublime Text, and Dreamweaver are a few well-known editors. In each of these cases, you will need to unzip and zip up your EPUB file as you edit. eCanCrusher is one tool from Rorohiko that makes this process a little easier.

I use oXygen to edit the insides of my EPUBs. One of the many advantages of this tool is no zipping/unzipping is required. It is not free, which is an understandable factor for many developers.

Many developers use Sigil, a free open-source tool for editing EPUBs. I can’t speak to it’s pros and cons effectively, I’m afraid, having never used it. Please chime in if you are a regular user.

And any ebook developer worth their salt uses EPUBCheck constantly (here and here), and follows up with running their ebook through FlightDeck.

This is a very select list of tools, partly because the tools any developer chooses are idiosyncratic choices, but also partly because I am passing judgement on the quality of some tools which I would never recommend.

Books

I strongly recommend that you have an HTML/CSS resource ready for consultation. I have a well-thumbed print version of Liz Castro’s HTML5 and CSS3 on my desk.

A slightly out-of-date but still relevant book is Liz Castro’s EPUB: Straight to the Point. If you are new to ebook development, it is worth tracking down.

More?

What am I missing? Please feel free to comment here, or poke me on Twitter to let me know what I have forgotten.

With thanks to Colleen Cunningham, Joshua Tallent, Pam Wood, Simon Collinson, and Tina Henderson for suggestions and feedback.