Converting your InDesign document into an eBook

 If you have an InDesign document you’re just dying to convert to EPUB and MOBI for use with your favorite eBook reader, you may have noticed that it’s not the easiest thing in the world. This is because most current e-readers do not support sophisticated layouts, graphics, or formatting. If you remember the early days of the internet when Netscape and basic HTML were the most you could expect out of a website, that should give you some idea of the limitations of EPUB and MOBI files. While your document may look beautiful when you export it to PDF, exporting to EPUB often leaves you with a confusing mess.

Nonetheless, there are people out there who like to do their reading on e-readers, and you’re going to have to speak their language if you want to communicate with them. Fortunately, I recently had some practice converting the WIC Annual Report to eBook format, so I have a few pointers to share. (If you’d like to check out the results on your e-Reader, you can download them here!)

The most important thing to understand is that current eBook formats don’t do page layouts. InDesign may have gotten you used to placing images and text all over the page, wrapped and overlapped and tilted at odd angles. Your eBook, on the other hand, needs to have all its components (text, images, etc) inline. One element after another, in a completely linear fashion.

Getting your elements inline means going through all of your floating elements, boxes, and images, selecting each one, hitting Command-X (to cut), placing the Text Tool’s cursor at the point in your text where you’d like the element to appear, and hitting Command-V (to paste). You’ll need to do this to every element of your document, so that you end up with one continuous text that flows from page to page and which contains every part of the document. If you try to export an eBook without doing this, your floating elements will simply end up jumbled at the end of your eBook file.

Once you’ve flowed your entire document into an inline layout, you’re ready to go to File > Export and choose EPUB. The dialog that opens will automatically convert your first page to a cover image, so make sure your document’s first page is representative of your eBook. The default export settings ought to be fine for most eBooks, so don’t worry too much about them.

Since InDesign doesn’t support MOBI exports by default, I used a free program called Calibre to convert from EPUB to MOBI. The process is as simple as dragging your EPUB into Calibre, right-clicking on the title, selecting “convert individually,” and setting the dropdown under “Convert To” to MOBI. Calibre also supports plenty of more obscure eBook formats, so you can really get your document out there.

If you’re looking for more tips on converting your InDesign files to eBook, I recommend checking out 
Creating an iBook (ePUB) for the iPad with InDesign CS5.

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