Emails and EPubs

An html email is a web page.
Even an ePub is a web page.
Are there any stacks which would permit creation of these?

Joe recently released a set of email stacks here:

Not sure what goes into getting something into ePub format…

Thank you for the link.
An ePub is a zipped web page. It’s a little more complicated than that, but not much. If you pull an ePub apart you’ll see it’s all html and css. It should be easy to do in Rapidweaver. ePub creation is even baked into the Mac OS’s services menu.

An ePub is a bit more complicated. I create quite a few, mostly using InDesign, because that’s what I use to create the print books. InDesign creates quite good ePubs, but you still need to edit them a bit in a validating XML editor, such as Oxygen. You really need that bit of hand-crafting at the end to tidy them up to iron out the contents list and such.

InDesign is fine for fixed format documents; not so good for flowable ePubs (not ePub3).
Plus it’s expensive. Plus, the contents list usually looks horrible anyway.
If you just want to throw an ePub together, there’s Abiword. Or Pages, for that matter.
RW + Stacks = ePub doesn’t seem that much of a stretch. RW already gives you a lot of control.
It would give RW an additional income stream.
There’s an opportunity here for a Stack developer.

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That is exactly right! There is a big big difference between a web page and an epub. I’ve done over 100 eBooks and I can attest to the fact the making an epub can be pretty easy but making one that works properly on most of the popular devices and apps is more difficult and some experience is needed.

Apple Pages app will export epubs but the doc must be formatted properly with styles and such and then even with the best setup in Pages the css in the epub needs to be tweaked. Especially if you are going to convert to other formats. (Calibre). And requirements are different for the different eBook houses (ie: cover size, etc)

This is why RW with an appropriate stack:
–for CSS
–for typography
–to import graphics

would be an interesting solution.
It’s a static page.
No JS, Ruby, SQL-plugins, etc. needed.

@mokane99 You are right about InDesign being expensive. As I said, I use it for creating ePubs because I’m already using it for print publications. I am ‘repurposing’ to use that dreadful expression. However, you are completely wrong about it being less good for flowable ePubs. I also use it to create Kindle books, via an ePub file and Kindlegen. Calibre, in my experience, is pretty useless. If you want to tweak an existing ePub, the best program by far is Oxygen. It’s not cheap but at least it doesn’t require a subscription (though you can get one), unlike InDesign.

However, I do think there is a lot to be said for something like RW to create ePubs, including fixed-layout ones. I’m not sure whether RW could generate the content.opf file. Ideally, RW would also have to validate the files and zip them. I think a separate RW-like application would make more sense. If RealMac were a larger company, I’d suggest they produced such a thing.There’s a huge market for it and nothing much out there.

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@mokane99 It would be a pity to dump the JavaScript. Very useful in iBookstore ePub3s.

I’ve made a few web comics using PLasq Comic Life (awesome programme). Pages and iBooks Author don’t seem to like you using too many images, but it has been a while since I tried them, so they may have got a bit better.

@benb I agree that RW is unlikely to ever produce ePubs but iBooks Author is not ideal either. Producing ePub3 iBooks (which can also contain Javascript widgets) has several advantages: (1) the same file can be used on non-Apple platforms, including Kindle (via Kindlegen), although not with Javascript; (2) it can be read on all Apple devices; (3) it is much easier to export to ePub3 from other programs; and (4) you can use it for both fixed-format and reflowable formats.

There are shops just as small as RW’s that have ePub output capability: Scrivener, Nisus, even the open source Abiword. Given that it’s baked into the Mac OS, it shouldn’t be all that difficult. There are/were issues with the iBooks Author license, to the point where authors asked me not to use the program to create an ePub in order to avoid any legal issues. There may be a day when fixed-format ePubs can be read universally on non-Apple devices, but I don’t see the advantage over pdf (just adjust the page size) or LaTeX (where, when it comes to design, you stand on the shoulders of giants). iBooks Author uses a proprietary format (*.ipa) and you have to export to ePub. This functionality wasn’t in early versions of the programs, a Google search will reveal all sorts of complaints about difficulty exporting to this open source format.

Ibooks Author asks you to choose, at least initially, between a fixed format template and a flowable text template. I have no idea whether these are fungible, but if they are, why the choice?

Other than effects like page-turning, which may not be supported on all devices, I don’t see why Javascript is needed for a static webpage ePub where the only interaction with the reader is 1) opening the document; 2) turning pages; 3) remembering last opened page; 4) closing the document. Sure, if you want to have live links and in-book purchases and maybe a author’s commentary video (like a director’s commentary on a DVD) you would need it. But if you are merely working in the vineyard of the text it’s unnecessary.

As to InDesign for ebooks: changing page sizes in InDesign is not trivial. I can change page sizes in LaTeX by changing two variables (page width and page height). If changing paper size is difficult, I can’t imagine how well InDesign would work with flowable text. Fixed layout, sure, InDesign is good at that. As long as you don’t need to change the page sizes, of course.

There is a Markdown to ePub pathway. RW can give you typography, a live preview of css changes, easy insertion of graphics, even Drop Caps–and more. Is an ePub stack that bizarre a suggestion?

@mokane99 If you really think that the ePub output from Scrivener, Nisus or Abiword is OK, then I don’t know why you’re looking to use RW to produce ePubs. iBooks Author is a red herring. It doesn’t create ePub format books and it is Apple only, but with InDesign (and various other programs) you can create reflowable and fixed-layout ePubs which will be readable on all (except incredibly ancient) IOS devices and Macs and some other platforms. If you use the right program, it is easy to switch between fixed layout and reflowable for different platforms. Yes, LaTeX can produce pretty good ePubs.

I don’t currently need Javascript in my ePubs but plenty of people do. Think of textbooks with, for instance, graphs which can have their inputs changed, and interactive children’s books – animations, cows that moo or jump over the moon.

InDesign makes it easy to create drop caps in both fixed layout and reflowable ePubs, although they’re quite easy to code by hand. Changing page size is not a problem in InDesign.

Having said all that, I’ll be delighted if someone proves me wrong and creates a complete ePub add-on for RapidWeaver, rather as @joeworkman has managed to do for email design. It is probably possible but it may not be the best way to go and it may not make economic sense for anyone to invest the time in creating it – imagine trying to sell RW as an ePub creator rather than creating a stand-alone program which does nothing else.

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There’s nothing wrong with ePubs produced from Scrivener or Nisus. Abiword is more limited, and v.3 hasn’t even been compiled for the Mac, so it’s not easy to test unless you have access to multiple platforms.

Why would RW be a good platform for ePub development?
Dynamic view. You can see your changes immediately. That’s probably the most significant benefit.
Second, ePub readers are essentially browsers. Modern reading systems use browsers’ rendering engines e.g. WebKit, Blink, EdgeHTML, etc. See,

InDesign has its own issues: InDesign has its own issues: You can fix these in Sigil (free) or Oxygen ($700). Sigil doesn’t give you dynamic view. I don’t know if Oxygen offers this functionality.

I’m surprised that you think LaTeX can produce good epub files. There is no easy conversion path from a .tex file to an ePub file. Html or markdown is an intermediate step. This is not surprising, since an ePub file is essentially html. You can use Pandoc to make the conversion. I once read about a way to embed LaTeX output into an ePub image file. There would be quite an overhead though. If you know a way to output epub files directly from LaTeX, I’d like to know. The use of the “ebook” switch in the standard book class is merely a page size command and doesn’t create an ePub file.

While we’re getting waaay off topic, the last time I had to change page sizes in InDesign it was anything but trivial. Essentially I had to set up a new layout, copy over the recto and verso running chapter heads and create a chapter style. You have to place the text on a chapter by chapter basis, because if you don’t, you will collide with subsequent chapters. Maybe there’s another way to do this—I wish there was—but in LaTeX it’s a matter of changing two numbers and you are done.

I will admit that using RW for this purpose, at first glance, is not intuitive. But I bet there are stack developers out there who, once they look at the ePub specs, will find that they are on familiar terrain.

@mokane99 What you describe is what happens if you create documents the way Adobe thinks you should, but, let’s face it, Adobe are imbeciles. Yes, it sounds very sensible to start with a new ‘book’ consisting of a whole load of documents but long experience has taught me that this creates all sorts of problems. Create the whole publication as a single document and all this reformatting is massively simplified. You can tag chapter openings to begin new pages in the epub. Yes, Adobe CSS isn’t the cleanest in the planet but just look at the mess Scrivenor, Nisus and Word make.

To be honest, it’s quite a while since I created an ePub from LaTeX and I can’t remember exactly how I did it, but it worked pretty well.

The current price of Oxygen XML Editor Personal is $198. I’m still using version 14 because I haven’t felt the need to update to 19, but if I do it will cost $84.

This thread suggests that there wouldn’t be a lot of coding involved. All you would need is a stack that functioned as a wrapper for the ebook-convert utility: