Do-It-Yourself eBooks

It’s the era of self-publishing, and that includes ebooks. Here are some useful tools for DIY ebook publishing.

Sigil for Editing epub Files

Sigil epub editor screen shot

If you google sigil you get this wonderful definition:

an inscribed or painted symbol considered to have magical power

But what I want you to do is to google download sigil and look for a reputable site from which to download the epub editor.

Once you have it installed, come back here . . .

Okay, so now you have Sigil.

See, an epub (or a mobi) is just a zip file of the content html file and all the support files. If you want to check this out, just change the suffix of any epub or mobi file to zip and check out the contents.

Sigil is a free Open Source epub editor that lets you edit the epub content xhtml files and any image files, including the cover, plus images within the content. It also lets you define both TOCs— the table of contents within the book pages and also the table of contents that lives behind the scenes in the epub collection of files.

Sigil guides you toward creating separate files for each of the chapters and guides you in creating the cover jpeg— you still need to supply an image of the right size.

You can load a validator into Sigil, but I used epubcheck (see the next section of this post), which provides the file name and line number of any problematic code. Once you have the file name and line number, you go into Sigil and fix the problem just like that: surgical strike.

See, an epub or Kindle is mainly html code, probably assisted by a css style sheet, which Sigil helps you construct.

If you’re building your own epub, you want Sigil.

epub Validation

If you decide to distribute your epub through Smashwords, it will get validated, and Smashwords will not list your epub until it passes validation. But the error messages they provide are of little help.

You want to run your epub file through a utility called epubcheck to validate it and receive error feedback that’s helpful. There’s an online version available at

IDPF’s EPUB Validator

You can run a version on your desktop by grabbing the Open Source utility epubcheck.jar and installing Java on your computer.

GitHub is a source for the zip file and has a wiki on epubcheck:

For the .zip file:

The main GitHub page for epubcheck:

The wiki starts here:

Okay, so now you’ve got epubcheck.jar. You need Java to run it on your linux or windows or macintosh computer. You’re probably best off googling java download to get the most recent info for your situation.

For Windows 10, the FAQ:

For Macintosh Sierra, the FAQ:

If you’re running Linux, you’re too cool to need my help.

Okay so now you’ve installed Java on your computer.

This gives you the ability to run a .jar file from a command line.

So Windows people bring up the Run command line and enter something like:

java -jar C:/epubcheck/epubcheck.jar C:/test/name of the .epub file

Mac users go into the Utilities folder in Applications, launch Terminal, and . . .

I’ll tell ya. I don’t know what we Mac people do at this point, ’cause this is when I went to the GUI page of the epubcheck wiki:

where I learned about Pagina epub checker:

Pagina epub checker works great, providing the file name and line number of each error, making it easy to fix problems.

KindlePreview to Convert epub to mobi

KindlePreviewer screenshot

Do you know about KindlePreviewer? It’s a free utility from Amazon.

It will convert epub files to mobi, the format used by Kindles.

It also will emulate a variety of Kindles so that you can see what your ebook will look like on the various devices.

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