What Every Author Should Know about ePub

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1What Every Author Should Know about ePub
Presenter: Carolyn Jewel

Carolyn Jewel was born on a moonless night. That darkness was seared into her soul and she became an award-winning author of historical and paranormal romance. She has a very dusty car and a Master’s degree in English that proves useful at the oddest times. An avid fan of fine chocolate, finer heroines, Bollywood films, and heroism in all forms, she has three cats and a dog. Also a son. One of the cats is his.

She has written for publishers such as St. Martin’s Press, Harper-Collins, Berkley Books, and Grand Central Forever. She has been a RITA finalist in the Historical and Paranormal categories.
In a past day job, she was a web developer. She is currently a Microsoft SQL Server DBA and Data Architect. She leads a team of offshore DBAs for a company with a presence in North America, Europe, and now expanding into Asia.
She has written 25 novels, novellas, and short stories, and has self-published backlist as well as front list.
Contact Carolyn: carolyn@carolynjewel.com

Slides will be uploaded at my site, as will updates to the handouts.

Go to this URL for the links to these documents:

This workshop will be a demo as well, so slides and other images will be posted at my website. This handout hits the highlights but not the details. For details, consult the slides, updated notes, and materials found at the link above.
Just about all of this information crosses over to Amazon formats. So, although this is not about mobi files, 98% of the information here will transfer over to understanding the issues you’ll face with files for Amazon. We will discuss some of those issues.
Who needs an epub?
You will. Where a vendor allows for the upload of an epub rather than a document that will be converted, you will have a better result if you upload A valid epub.
Vendors that require an ePub:


Google Play
Vendors that allow upload of an epub

All Romance






An epub is a zipped up file of many parts and is basically a tiny website unto itself. A working knowledge of html, css, and how to construct links between files (as you would on your own website) is essential.

The Reality

The reality is that every device or application that can read an ePub does so using a slightly different set of rules. This will drive you crazy.

The Guts of an ePub
It contains xml files that control how your book is navigated and understood by devices that can read an epub.

It contains directories that may or may not contain files

It contains the text of your book

The html and references are case sensitive.

The files are of these types (among others):
images (jpg, png etc –not all image types allowed)


stylesheet (css)






Top Level

META-INF (folder)

OEBPS (folder)

mimetype (file)



which contains among other things this line:


content.opf (xml file)

lists the contents of your epub

Text (folder)

contains the text of your book, hopefully in more than one file.

There is a limit to the size a file can be. (roughly 350K)

Images (folder)

Contains the images used

Styles (folder)

Contains your stylesheet

toc.ncx (xml file)

The epub reader needs to know what files are where and what they are named. Additional folders are/may be:




Suppose your book has 10 chapters and each chapter is a file

Suppose Chapter 1 is named chapter1.html

Then the path to that file is:




../text/chapter1.html <– Note the lower case “t” in “text”
The parts of your book need to reference each other.

Every file with an image must reference the location and file name of the image.

If you have a picture of a cupcake at the beginning of every chapter, then you must have an anchor link like this in every chapter:

The actual image will be in the image folder.

Dublin Core and IDPF :

IDPF: http://idpf.org/ The standards body that defines the elements, requirements, and usages for ePub.

Although this is under revision, since these links are specifically for ePub2 they are exactly what you need at this point. However, if you are preparing ePub3, you should also consult those recommendations. ePub2, at the moment, is more than sufficient for just about all fiction.
Dublin Core: http://www.dublincore.org
Dubin Core specification:

Dubin Core - The elements – This is where you will see the metadata definitions and how they are expected to be used, with examples.

Epub validators:
Pagina – Mac and PC.

Download and use on your desktop. A very nice tool.

On line:

This tool is nice. But if you are checking a lot (or often) you are better served with a downloadable tool.


Hxa.name: ePub Format Construction Guide

This is not necessarily comprehensive but it is meticulous and it gives good descriptions of the guts of ePub that most resources leave out. It also assumes a lot of knowledge. This workshop should help with that.


Kobo ePub documentation

What Kobo support and what it does not. Crucial for DIYers.


Apple ePub documentation

ePub Tools

All of them require an understanding of html and css

Adobe Indesign with ePub plugin

Pros: Can go from print layout to ePub, theoretically in one-click

Cons: Not cheap. I have not seen clean output from InDesign.
Atlantis WordProcessor

Pros: Produces the best, cleanest output I’ve seen. Has an ePub addon.

Cons: Windows only.

Pros: This is an excellent, valuable tool for checking your files for errors. Near Real time display of your ePub as you edit.

Cons: Apple only. No point to it if you don’t also have a Mac and an iPad and/or iPhone.

Pros: Free. Still actively developed.

Cons: This is NOT an ePub creation tool. I put it here because everyone uses it that way. But it’s not, and you are unlikely to get the result you need.

If you use this tool, you should send a donation to the developer.


Pros: Inexpensive. Will convert Word

Cons: Significant clean up required.

Pros: Inexpensive. Will convert Word

Cons: Significant clean up required.
Oxygen (An xml authoring tool)

Pros: Comprehensive, flexible tool. Buy once, install wherever you need.

Cons: Not cheap: $400 US with support. As with all flexible, fully featured tools, there is a steep learning curve.
Pages (Word Processing)

Pros: Makes an Apple compatible ePub. Can use on iOS devices!

Cons: Mac or iOS only.


Pros: Free. Does the job. Handles regular expressions. Pretty decent interface.

Cons: No longer under development (still available and still one of the best tools out there). Internal validation should not be trusted. It will pass files that are not valid. A clean check means you can move on to external validation, though.

Tip: If you have errors, NEVER allow Sigil to automatically fix. You will have to find and fix on your own.

Pros: Easy if you work in Scrivener

Cons: This is not an ePub editor. It will create one. It won’t be clean under the hood.



X6 and x7 - Excellent XML output. Requires minimal tweaking to get to html.

Miscellaneous Tips
Naming your file so as to Prevent Frustration and Headaches and Sobbing
1. Pick a standard you like, and do not deviate from it.

Some webservers are case sensitive so a file named :


Is NOT the same as

If you don’t deviate, you will always be able to figure out what your file is named and how to find it, and you will never have to try to remember what case you used if you hit a file server that is case sensitive.
2. A naming standard will assist in your Version Control and you need to version control in case Something Terrible Happens.
One Example (of many excellent systems):

MyFantasticBook.epub - original version

You find a typo the next day.

A. Make a copy of the original version and put it in a folder called Archive

B. Rename the copy in the archive folder to MyFantasticBook_20140101.epub

C. Make your corrections in MyFantasticBook.epub

On February 15 you update your backmatter, fix another typo and address a problem in your css

A. Make a copy of the original version and put it in a folder called Archive

B. Rename the copy in the archive folder to MyFantasticBook_20140215.epub

C. Make your corrections in MyFantasticBook.epub

Why do I put the date like that? So it will sort correctly. But you can do whatever works for you.

3. If you customize your files by vendor, then your naming convention should address that as well.








This will prevent you from uploading the Apple version to Amazon, for example

Other tips:

  1. After the dot: epub should be all lower case. There are some tools out there that will throw an error with anything but lower case.

RIGHT: mybook.epub

WRONG: mybook.ePub
2. Do not put spaces or special characters in the name.
GOOD: MyFantasticBook.epub

NOT GOOD: My Fantastic Book ~ 11.epub

  1. Camel Case helps with readability.

Camel Case: ThisIsTheBestBookEver.epub

Not Camel Case: thisisthegestbookever.epub
3. All caps is still shouting. Don’t do this.
Directory: references
references -> Version: 17 October 2016
references -> A mathematical theory of communication
references -> Cu-In-Ga-Se (cigs) Outdoor Degradation Rate Study
references -> References Abe, M., A. Kitoh and T. Yasunari, 2003: An evolution of the Asian summer monsoon associated with mountain uplift —Simulation with the mri atmosphere-ocean coupled gcm. J. Meteor. Soc. Japan, 81
references -> References Agusti-Panareda, A., C. D. Thorncroft, G. C. Craig, and S. L. Gray, 2003: The extratropi-cal transition of hurricane Irene (1999): a potential vorticity perspective. Quart. J. Roy. Meteor. Soc., 128
references -> Standard Specifications For Structural Supports for Highway Signs
references -> Alexander, C. J., 2000. On Back-Testing "Zero-Investment" Strategies
references -> References List (Updated: 8 January 2015) Bosart, L. F., and J. A. Bartlo, 1991: Tropical storm formation in a baroclinic environment. Mon. Wea. Rev., 191
references -> J. P. Morgan Securities European Equity Derivatives Research Investment Strategies n
references -> 1/c submarine community professional knowledge learning Objectives

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