EPUB Conversion Guidelines

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EPUB is a free, open ebook standard for digital publishing developed by the International Digital Publishing Forum, designed for reflowable content. As of 2011, it is the most widely supported e-book format. Software for reading EPUBs include Adobe Digital Editions, Google Books, iBooks, Aldiko (an Android mobile platform), and plug-ins for Internet browsers; e-readers include the iPad, Nook, and Sony Reader.

This page gives guidance to those seeking to hire a vendor to create EPUB files. We welcome comments and suggestions from others who have worked with vendors for EPUB creation.

[edit] Vendors

Units at the University of Michigan should check with Procurement Services to find out whether the university has any vendors capable of producing EPUBs in their list of approved vendors (for which competitive bidding is not required).

Among the many vendors who can create EPUBs are:

  • Bibliovault: a scholarly book repository launched by the University of Chicago Press; converts PDFs to reflowable formats, including EPUB
  • Ingram Digital/Core Source: digitization and conversion services, including EPUB
  • Digital Divide Data: converts from common digital publishing formats such as PDF, Quark, InDesign, into EPUB or Kindle formats; they also can scan paper to digital, including cradle-scanning of fragile or rare material
  • SunTec: India-based company converts to EPUB from PDF, Word, Quark, InDesign, XML, HTML

This is not a complete list; there are many other vendors who provide EPUB conversion.

[edit] What vendors expect for delivery

Vendors usually accept PDF files, but some will also accept XML, HTML or Word documents. There are a number of vendors who will scan paper or cloth books to PDFs (Aptara, Trigonix) if the text is not yet digital, though many EPUB vendors also provide this service.

You should also determine the complexity of the text you wish to convert. An item with many images, tables, diagrams, and columns will be more costly and time-consuming to convert. Letting the vendor know these details beforehand will help them give you an accurate quote for the work; some may have price quotes based on format and a per-image fee to help you better determine the cost of the conversion project. Prices may vary depending on the file format (raster PDF vs. vector PDF), number of images, number of pages, etc.

Many companies (such as Ingram) outsource the conversion work. Be prepared for questions on the content that come to you from third parties via your original source. Inevitably, the vendor will encounter errors in the PDFs, corrupt files, characters that convert improperly, or item such as mathematical equations, figures, graphs, and tables that don’t lend themselves to reflowing. Some things will have to be re-scanned, converted from another format, or the offending item may have to be removed--or it may not be able to be converted to EPUB at all.

[edit] Before you pay: quality check and validation

Typically, EPUB conversion (from already digital text) is about a four-week turnaround, depending on when it is needed, how much you are willing to pay, and contract negotiation. Scanning from paper will take additional time, and you may want to proof/review the resulting tiffs or PDFs before they are, in turn, converted to EPUB.

You will need to define quality standards for e-book conversion. At the minimum, you will want to verify that the files validate. There is an open-source tool for EPUB file validation called EpubCheck (a version of which is available for limited use online). However, validation is usually handled by the vendors themselves and has been checked for quality multiple times before delivery. The best way to QC the finished files is to view them the way a user would: open them in Adobe Digital Editions, page through to make sure there are no conversion errors, botched images, etc.; view them on an e-reader and/or Internet browser. E-readers that read EPUBs include the B&N Nook, Android devices, iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Sony Reader, Kobo eReader, and a variety of other lesser-known devices (such as the Linux-run BeBook). Software for viewing EPUBs on a computer include:

  • Adobe Digital Editions (Windows, Mac OS X)
  • Aldiko (Android)
  • Calibre (Windows, Mac OS X, Linux)
  • EPUBReader (Mozilla Firefox add-on)
  • Google Books (Web, Android)
  • iBook (iOS)
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