This article will provide a number of great tips on using Adobe inDesign to create a polished and professional ePub document. This article is actually a continuation of the previous article, which contains a video showing from start-to-finish how to create an ePub from Adobe InDesign. I think you’ll find the video quite helpful if you are a little confused about Adobe InDesign.
Don’t feel bad if you do not find Adobe InDesign to be intuitive. I don’t think any of Adobe’s products are easy to figure out for the first time. If you have familiarity with any other of Adobe’s products, you’ll recognize the familiar interface and user panels.
Adobe InDesign is the best all-around publishing tool on the market. It has been adapted to publish in the ePub format and is a good tool for that, but could be better. The advantage of Adobe InDesign to create an ePub is that InDesign completely shields you from the underlying XHTML and CSS code which are the building blocks of an ePub file. If you are a strong web designer with solid HTML and CSS coding skills, you may want to use an HTML editor instead of InDesign to create your ePub. I personally like working with the code because it gives me more ability to customize the ePub file than I have within InDesign.
Here are some InDesign tips for building ePubs that I have for you:
- First of all, upgrade to the latest version of InDesign. At the time of this writing, the latest version is CS5.5. Adobe has forced this upgrade on professional ePub designers like myself by configuring CS5.5 to create InDesign files that cannot be opened with earlier versions of InDesign, such as CS5. There is a work-around, but it’s a PITA. I hope Adobe doesn’t do something like this every 12 – 18 months or with other Adobe products that I use.
- When bringing images into InDesign, it is best to do the image processing work yourself prior to. Incoming images are nearly always converted by InDesign to .jpeg. You should do that prior to importing the image. You may also want to sharpen, scale, and downsample (to 72 ppi) your images in Photoshop prior to importing into InDesign. This guarantees the image’s appearance instead of leaving the image processing work to InDesign.
- InDesign’s initial settings should be set so that the InDesign environment most closely resembles an e-reader. Here are the correct settings:
Intent: Web (sets color mode to RGB and units of measure to pixels)
Page size: 600px wise by 800px tall and portrait orientation (most e-readers are about 600 X 800 px)
Uncheck: Facing pages and Master text frames. These options are appropriate for publishing in print but not in ePub. ePub “pages” for the same ePub document vary widely in size depending on the e-reader’s settings and size. In fact, it is probably incorrect to say that an ePub document even has “pages.”
- Create your cover image (the image on the first page of the ePub document is the cover image being referred to here) with Photoshop. You can do it right inside InDesign, but Photoshop allows you to do a whole lot more with that image.
- Keep a good ePub editor handy for touch-up work to the ePub file when you are finished. Once InDesign has exported a file to ePub, it cannot be brought back into InDesign. You can, however, open the ePub file up in an ePub editor, such as Sigil, and do additional touch-up work to the ePub.
- Another reason to keep an ePub editor handy (I really like Sigil) is that there are a few very basic and essential HTML/CSS styling techniques that have not yet been incorporated into InDesign’s capabilities. One noteworthy example is InDesign CS5’s inability to perform word-wrap around images or float images left or right. This has to be done writing the HTML/CSS yourself and using an ePub editor to add the code to the ePub file. There are quite a few other HTML/CSS limitations within InDesign that can be overcome by simply opening the ePub file in an ePub editor. If anyone reading this article came across any InDesign ePub creations HTML/CSS shortcomings which drove you nuts, feel free to comment on them here. Your feedback is welcome and very informative.
- You can control the layout order of items in an EPUB document by using XML tags available within InDesign. This topic is a little too involved to discuss here. I’ll go into this during another blog article. Stay tuned.
- Don’t worry too much about fonts. The font seen by the viewer will depend entirely upon what fonts are available in the viewer’s e-reader. Stick with the basic fonts and your ePub document will appear to viewers as it appears to you.
- Use a URL shortener such as bit.ly for links to the Internet. Long URLs in an ePub eBook can easily “break” in an e-reader. Also, bit.ly allows you to track the number of viewers who clicked your link.
There is a short list of tips for creating an ePub document within InDesign. Hope they were helpful to you. I have many more tips on using InDesign to publish an ePub and will post them in upcoming blog articles.