Getting Started with ePubs: Creating Your Own E-Book Using Apple Pages

While attending a recent Apple Education Seminar, Mobility with iPads at Illinois Institute of Technology, I learned of the relatively easy process for creating an ePub file using Pages on a Mac.

For those who aren’t familiar with ePub, it is a free, open e-book standard that is quickly becoming the universal format for ebooks. ePub is the format that Apple’s iBooks app reads and offers some very interesting capabilities for information distribution in mobile formats beyond the traditional PDF format.

Why ePub instead of PDF for E-books?

ePub documents are fundamentally different from PDFs. Historically, many PDF files have actually been just image scans of text pages (or, with the advent of optical character recognition, text within the scanned page). While the reader views the PDF page in the exact font/style/formatting that the author intended for the print form, the reader is unable to customize the font, size, etc. to personalize the reading experience.

ePubs take drastically different approach in that the formatting is separate from the content and as such can be controlled by the end user. Text, images, and even media within the document is formatted for the end user based on a default style sheet, similar in many ways to how CSS is used to style web sites today. Using an ebook reading app, like iBooks or Calibre, the reader can adjust fonts, fonts sizes, search, and even highlight and annotate within the book. In addition, the ePub format is highly accessible, providing a far superior reading experience for users who rely on screen readers or other assistive technologies. Creating an e-book using the ePub format results is a much more personalized, feature-rich, and mobile friendly e-book.

Why use Pages to create an ePub E-book?

Pages is by far the easiest application I’ve found thus far for creating ePubs. While there are other applications for creating ePubs, such as: Adobe In Design, Open Office, eCub, and Sigli, Pages is the simplest one that I’ve used. Apple provides an “ePub Best Practices” sample Pages document that is very easy to use in setting the formatting and table of contents for an ePub.

My First ePub – Interactive Course Syllabus in E-book Form

To try creating an ePub for myself, I took a look at Apple’s instructions for creating ePub files using Pages. I then downloaded the “ePub Best Practices” sample Pages document and used that as a template to create my ePub.

I decided to take an existing syllabus I had created for a recent online course, Social Networking in Online Learning, and create an interactive ebook version of the syllabus. Here’s a brief tour of the finished ePub file viewed on an iPad and iPhone:

This ePub can be downloaded directly from http://jasonrhode.com/~sn/syllabus.epub

The source Pages document that I used to create the ePub from can be downloaded from http://jasonrhode.com/~sn/syllabus.pages

How to Create an ePub E-book

Here’s a screencast I recorded with more details on how I created my sample ePub.

Share your experience!

If you’ve tried creating an ePub, whether you used Pages or some other tool, leave a comment let me know your experience!

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  • Thanks Jason!

    Really great info!

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  • peter lawson

    I’ve tried making a kids colour picture book using Pages, but although all pictures appear in the Pages file, when i export to ePub and then preview it through my iPad, only 14 or sometimes 20 pages appear. I’ve tried reducing the size of the pictures to 800×800 pixels and making sure the whole file is less than 4mb, but each time pages go missing. Any clues?
    Peter

  • Jason,

    Thanks for taking the time to post this info. I’m opting to publish a book using pages instead of InDesign. Pages just seams more streamlined, less cumbersome.

    Now that you have done this for a while, including the rich media, what troubles, if any, have you come across with rich media in a non-apple device?