ePublishing Tools: Webhosting Content for Mobile Devices - How to make eBooks – Adobe and Microsoft
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Let’s take the formats one by one and start with PDFs. I first saw the Adobe eBook Reader some five years back, and I wondered if it was really needed. But maybe I was too new to understand the needs of the IT world. I realize today that that was a move to products that a few people certainly needed.
PDF itself have evolved from a enhanced version of postscript to a universal format that has the capability to encapsulate virtually anything. PDF has been an open specification that developers could use to develop their own tools to consume and generate PDFs. It doesn’t matter how you generate the PDF, it’ll always be readable by a reader capable of parsing the PDF format, so for mobile devices it’s just a matter of the availability of a PDF reader.
For the purpose of generating PDF eBooks I considered Acrobat and XSL-FO (Formatting Objects), and I was more than happy with the results. The features offered by Acrobat are excellent, as they allow you to:
- Tag your PDFs so that users can read them on devices with different output capabilities and sizes. This provides accessibility on handheld devices, digital book readers, and standard monitors.
- Optimize the PDFs to be distributed using an inbuilt tool called PDF Optimizer that enhances files for efficient distribution in terms of size by removing some embedded fonts, compressing images, and removing items from the file that are no longer needed. It does have some specific features that allow optimization for print production workflow.
- Batch PDF files for processing using predefined or custom batch sequences. This can be optimization or generation of PDF files from formatted word documents.
Further, based on inputs from a friend, I also saw certain tools that applied XSLT-FO to generate PDFs and several other formats by applying transform to a word document or pure XML with predefined set of tags. And I got one more idea for using acrobat distiller with any EPS or postscript driver to generate PDFs, but I didn’t get to try this option; however, you’re free to try this idea.
Next, I'd like to talk about Microsoft’s eBook format, or the LIT format. It is the file format supported by the Microsoft reader, and is available on all editions of Windows, including the mobile ones. It brings more to us as users and developers by providing free support for text to speech conversion and a plug-in for Microsoft word that can convert a word document to an eBook at the click of a button (see Read-In Microsoft Reader). Most importantly it conforms to the OeB, ONIX and XrML standards that we’ll probably see as the de-facto standards in the ePublishing domain. I was most impressed with it because, unlike other standards, it’s fully designed and every related aspect is covered separately like Layout, Markup and Conversion.
If you need to generate LIT format eBooks without doing any development at your end there are a number of tools available to do just that. I’d recommend ReaderWorks Standard edition or Publisher Edition. These are listed at the MS Reader homepage along with other available tools at http://www.microsoft.com/reader/downloads/default.asp.
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