Producing EPUB E-Books from InDesign CC

Although you’ve been able to easily export any InDesign file to EPUB for many years, until InDesign CC most of the resulting files were not even close to being ready for online sales or distribution.

EPUB is an unforgiving format and if the files aren’t  just right, the file won’t “validate,” which is a requirement for all on-line book sellers.

I’ve been working full-time as a freelance book designer and typesetter for almost 30 years. I don’t know any other of my freelancer peers who have made the transition from print design and layout to EPUB/e-book production. Due to this fact, and because of this fact, most e-book production has been outsourced overseas.

Today, there are U.S. companies that specialize in creating e-books, but most of the people doing the work don’t come from a print background as I do. The process for designing a print publication is very different from what’s required for an e-book. Since I always produce the print edition before the e-book, I’ve developed a hybrid method where I incorporate most, but not all, of my EPUB steps into the print production. I find it much more efficient for me to skip certain steps while working on the print edition, and then produce and perfect a special set of InDesign files for the EPUB.

For the EPUB, all of the text and graphics must be linked in a single flowing text block in the order they should appear in the e-book. This can get very tricky for complicated books with a lot of figures, tables, text boxes, and other elements. Rather than spending time linking everything at the print production stage, I work with the final InDesign files and simply cut and paste all of the elements into the single flowing text block that’s ready for export to EPUB.

I’m not even trying to detail the entire process for converting print books to EPUB here, but will mention some important factors and issues:

1. All file names (InDesign and all linked graphics) must be in lowercase characters, with no spaces in the file names.

2. The e-book table of contents lists chapters or sections by the file name. You can modify the chapter names in the EPUB document at the coding level by opening the toc.ncx file in TextEdit (on the Mac). I haven’t been able to use Microsoft Word for this purpose as it won’t maintain the .ncx format that EPUB recognizes. You almost always have to modify the chapter names because no spaces or capital letters are allowed in the file names.

3. I find that it’s best to save every section or chapter that you want to appear in the EPUB contents in it’s own separate InDesign file. The EPUB export converts each InDesign file into a separate xhtml file that appears in the Table of Contents. You can add the section breaks at the coding level if the book is in a single InDesign file, but I find it much easier to work with separate InDesign files for each section, and many publishers also prefer separate files for the print editions.

Most of the steps needed to produce verified EPUB3 files (EPUB3 is the current industry standard) from InDesign CC are small and easily done, but the process is very different from print layout and production and you have to be familiar enough with xhtml coding to anticipate, spot, and correct errors.

I definitely recommend using InDesign CC to create EPUB3 files. I was able to produce verified EPUB3 files from InDesign CS6, but it required many fixes to the coding.

As always, I’m available to work on your print and e-book projects. Please feel free to contact me to discuss any of your publishing needs and issues.




Copyright © 2015 Andrea Reider. All rights reserved.

Thank you! Andrea