Challenges of Creating an eBook Version with Pages

I wrote the book, Extraordinary Healthcare, using a word processor, thinking that the way to write books is with a word processor. In my case, since I use a Macintosh, I used Apple's Pages word processor. One of the reasons I chose Pages was because it could not only output the PDF file for the print version, but it can also output EPUB files. I could have one file, and only need to maintain one file, to serve two purposes, the print book and an e-book. Little did I know what trouble I was getting into, or that there was a better way to write altogether. I completed the printed book in Pages and, as you know, submitted it for publication. It's now available on Amazon.

I thought that the next step would be easy, since Pages can output EPUB format. I thought I could just export the book as an EPUB file and submit it for e-book distribution. How wrong I was! When I saved the book as an EPUB document, the CSS file, which describes the formatting, was over 3000 lines long. A huge mess. The EPUB version was trying to describe every nuance of the printed book, something that is not at all needed for EPUB publications. The thought of editing 3000 lines of CSS code to create a proper e-book was daunting. There had to be a better way.

After extensive research on the potential of editing CSS files, either with a text editor or with some conversion software, I realized that it could be weeks or months of work. It would be faster to start from scratch. I decided to do more research!

The solution I hit upon, was a new kind of writing software called Scrivener 2. It's a new approach to writing that is completely different from a word processor. It allows you to create one file for the content and output that content into many different preset formats. It's perfect for writers who want to be able to create one file and repurpose it for different uses. It provides tremendous flexibility in the export using different margins, different fonts, different front matter, different spacing, almost anything you can imagine.

I don't think I'll ever use a word processor to write another book. Word Processors are too inflexible. My next step is to import my original text into Scrivener 2, set up my presets, and output the e-book formats that I need for distribution. Hopefully, it won't take more than a few days.

In my research, I also learned that many of the larger publishing houses don't use word processors internally.  For complex, long, often scholarly publications, they also found it was necessary to separate content from typesetting requirements. For writing long documents with precise output requirements, often including mathematical equations, they use an open source program that was developed at universities for technical publications. The original version, known as TeX, which was developed in the late 1970's, has been continuously refined and improved. It is the one of the most sophisticated digital typesetting applications in the world. The latest incarnation of this sophisticated typesetting software is known as LaTeX2e. There are versions for many operating systems. One Macintosh version is known as LyX. It's especially suited for complex documents that include foreign languages and multilanguage documents that include Chinese and Sanskrit among others. I don't think I'll need anything that sophisticated, but this research made me realize that word processors are ill suited for long document preparation.