Monday, December 14, 2009

Down to the old (e)Pub instead

Lately I've been thinking about writing a book or two. Nothing serious or professional. Just for fun. And since digital distribution to mobile devices(smartphones, Kindle, Nook, etc) seems to be a good way to get out there without a dead tree publisher, I want to make ebooks in the open and mobile-friendly EPUB format.

The first step on my digital publishing journey was to find and grab a decent open source ePub creation program. Dredging through Synaptic on Ubuntu shows only the Calibre ebook management and conversion program. I'm not looking for a converter. So I hit up Google and I get hits for eCub, Sigil, Feedbooks and some others that I won't mention because they're not available for Linux.

First on the list was eCub. I had quickly downloaded and installed it, but then I noticed it isn't open source. So eCub gets the uninstall from me.

Next up is Sigil. I download and ran the .bin installer and get "You must be root to run this installer". My response: Why? I absolutely hate .bin installers that insist on getting root when the application it's meant to install doesn't need root access to run. A local install within the $HOME directory should be perfectly fine for .bin installers. So Sigil isn't getting installed unless they fix their installer or provide a proper .deb package.

Finally, there's Feedbooks. Feedbooks is primarily two things: a place to download public domain ebooks and a web-based epub creation and publishing tool. I've bookmarked it, but I'm looking for an offline creation program.

So, where does this leave me? Well, I said "screw it" and wrote up my own epub creator based on the Wikipedia entry on ePub. It's a menu-based shell script that can be used to create ePub books from start to finish.

The script(called "Skelepub.sh") is licensed under the terms of the GNU GPLv3 or later and can be downloaded here.

Update: I've also made a GUI-fied version of Skelepub for those who are averse to command lines. They're both functionally equivalent, but the console version is more portable across Linux distributions.

Now, what to write for my book... hmm, that's gonna take a lot longer than two days to figure out...

Note: If you read the title of this post and thought "Hey, isn't that the name of a song by singing comedian Stephen Lynch?", you are indeed correct, laddie:

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