Word docx to ebook — overview

Simpler than ever but still not quite ‘just a click away’


Runaway — on sale in iTunes!

In June 2013, with no fanfare, Calibre, the wildly popular, free ebook management and conversion tool, added support for direct conversion from Microsoft Word docx to ebook formats. This is Big News for self-published ebook authors and for small, specialty publishers alike. It is not getting the attention it deserves.

If you’ve never tried converting a Word document into an ebook, it would be hard to convey how complex and frustrating the process has always been.

On the one hand, you have the absolutely dominant word processing package’s standard file format, docx. On the other hand, you have the two dominant ebook formats, epub and mobi, that, between them, let you publish your book in all the major marketplaces (Amazon Kindle, Barnes and Noble Nook, Apple iBooks, and Google Play).

How could there NOT be a solid, simple way to go from docx to epub and mobi?  But there has not been.

You generally had to choose from a variety of bad conversion options that fell between two extremes:

  • Submit your Word file directly to the Amazon Kindle Desktop Publishing (KDP) dervish and be appalled by the resulting ebook full of apparently random formatting variations. Even if you could ultimately placate the dervish with small, iterative tweaks to your doc, you ended up with a manuscript good only for Kindle, not Nook or iBooks or Play.
  • Export your text from Word (or InDesign) to HTML, thoroughly scrub the output to remove extraneous styles and classes and other cruft, add a bit of restrained CSS, then use a tool such as Calibre to convert to your ebook format(s) of choice. While this process could result in a great product, working with raw HTML files and CSS is not necessarily attractive to Every Writer or even every small publisher.

But now, with Calibre’s new feature, you can take a well-formatted Word doc, hand it straight off to the “industry standard” conversion tool, and generate well-formatted files suitable for submission to the Kindle, Nook, iBooks, and Play marketplaces. Continue Reading →

Ebook versus PDF

This post is the first in a series we have planned on “ebooks for the specialty/technical publisher”.  If you would like to know more about the series, would like to be notified when new posts are available, or would like to suggest specific topics we should cover, please email us at ebooks@sherprog.com.


In this post, I take a look at the readability trade-offs between using PDFs and ‘real ebooks’ (.epub and .mobi files) to distribute your technical publications.

Executive summary:  PDFs give you great control over layout and can be opened on almost any device.  Ebooks require the phone or tablet user to have and know how to use an additional app but can increase the readability of your content dramatically on a small device.  If you expect your content to be accessed frequently via phones, versus tablets and laptops, you probably want to be publishing ebook versions of your material.

Why bother with anything but PDFs?

Using PDFs to distribute books, pamphlets, and field guides electronically has some huge advantages:

  • Adobe Reader is not just free and easy to install.  It is as ubiquitous as any piece of software in the history of computing, available across all modern hardware platforms and operating systems.  Everyone from Great Uncle Henry to Big Boss Betty has it and knows how to use it.
  • If you are a professional book designer, you already use PDFs as the camera ready copy you send to your printer.  What could be easier than using exactly the same file or, maybe a slightly lower resolution version, as the electronic copy available for download?
  • Even if you are not a pro, PDFs have become easy for EveryWriter to produce.  You don’t need a full copy of InDesign or even Acrobat any more to ‘print’ your pamphlet, brochure, or full-length-novel to PDF format. Macs do it.  Google Docs does it.  Even Microsoft Word can now do it.

In the old days of, say, a year or two ago, when you could count on your audience reading your eBook on a desktop or laptop computer, PDFs were clearly the way to go.

But then came the mobile revolution. Continue Reading →

Brad Pitt as a Quantum Leader

I experienced a tidy patch of synchronicity last week.
First, I worked my way through the Crisis Management chapter in the Quantum Leadership book I’m reading.  Second, I dragged my husband to the theater to see Moneyball, the new Brad Pitt movie about Billy Beane and the Oakland A’s baseball team.  Then, in quick succession, I had the opportunity to see a preview of Windows 8 on a slate computer and  Amazon announced its new Kindle line-up, including the Fire, a heavily customized Android tablet.

Quantum’s take on crisis management is, essentially, “Get used to it.  Get better at it.  Stop thinking of it as something you only do from time to time.” Continue Reading →

Healthcare, software, politics

Quantum Leadership 3rd Edition

Cover of the 3rd Edition

I’ve just started to work my way through a textbook on the healthcare industry called Quantum Leadership:  A Resource for Health Care Innovation by O’Grady and Malloch.  My good friend Denise recommended it to me the other day.  She’s a masters-qualified RN and the book was a required text in a course she took a couple of years ago.

It’s a sign of how much I respect her that I would voluntarily buy and try to read a 460+ page college textbook.  (The current, 3rd, edition is 500+ but I bought a used copy of the 2nd edition so my copy would match hers.)  In our previous professional lives, Denise and I were co-founders, along with several others, of a moderately successful bootstrapped software company.  And I have learned that, when she says something is useful to know and think about, I should pay attention.

Denise is not the only person I respect who draws parallels between the healthcare and software industries and their practitioners.   Continue Reading →