Posts filed under 'free tools'

My First (Test) Ebook Project with Red Jumper Studio’s Book Creator for iPad

Add comment November 1st, 2012

I cannot remember exactly when or where I first heard about Red Jumper Studio’s Book Creator for iPad; but it couldn’t be more than a couple of weeks ago and somewhere online. It sounded like a great entry point for me to again try to get stoked about making ebooks, an app for repurposing print files for e-versions.

I have to admit there were some immediate red flags, even while reading about the iPad app. For one thing, even Red Jumper Studio suggests it’s probably best-suited for children’s picture books. It sounds like long docs were not their prime intention. Then, too, text will not flow from page to page or—I guess with ebooks it may be more accurate to say—from screen to screen. And Book Creator’s choice of typefaces is currently limited to fonts native to the iPad.

On the other hand, Book Creator for iPad is made for fixed layout ebooks.

You may all assume this last point won me over to at least explore what Book Creator offers, how it works, and what its end-product looks like.

So with all this in mind, I dug out a copy of Adrienne Ehlert Bashista’s Mishka: An Adoption Tale (Pittsboro, NC: DRT Press, 2007). With really pleasing illustrations by Miranda R. Mueller, this is one of the books I am most proud to be associated with.

If text would flow from page to page until it was all out there, I think that would have been fine. I would have found a new body text face/display face combination to suit this new version of the book. But having both factors forced on me by the program got me to thinking. Since I had to run illustrations on very nearly every page and JPEG files were best suited to this, that would mean downsampling artfiles to screen resolution and resaving as JPEGs.

The method I arrived at was one that could easily be brought into Action/Batch routines in Photoshop for quick, repeated steps for each piece of art. Seeing, however, that there were relatively few pages—compared to something other than a picture storybook for children—I wanted to do them manually, one at a time, to see how each illustration looked before placing them. I decided then to keep the body text and, essentially, make each page—including the text—an illustration. This allowed me to keep the original typefaces as part of those illustrations.

Here is the process I used:

  1. Open the PDF of all the interior pages of the book in Adobe Acrobat Pro—I currently work in version 10.1.4.
  2. Create a new folder and name it for the new ebook’s art.
  3. Select Tools => Pages => Extract and choose Extract Pages As Separate Files. Make sure to choose the new folder to save the Extracted Pages into.
  4. Open the first extracted PDF file in Photoshop as a Photoshop PDF.
  5. Select Image => Mode => RGB … if Mode is not already RGB.
  6. Resample at screen resolution by selecting Image => Image Size … and entering 72 for Resolution.
  7. Select File => Save As. For Format, choose JPEG and leave all other specs as is. Click Save. Enter 12 for Quality. Click OK.

And that was the process. Easy to see how this can be turned into an Action and then applied to the whole folder of individual PDFs in a Batch operation.

After repeating until each individual PDF was a 72 dpi JPEG, I did the same for the front cover.

Then it was simply a matter of placing all of these JPEGs, beginning with the front cover on the first page, the Cover, in Book Creator for iPad’s landscape layout. The JPEGs had to be sized, of course, to fill out the page; but, essentially, that was it. After placing all 33 PDFs, the ebook—technically an iBook, though not one created with Apple’s proprietary iBooks Author—was complete, as the sample pages below demonstrate.


Now these are just the first few pages of my “test ebook” of Mishka: An Adoption tale. My understanding is that, technically, this is actually a variant of an iBook, although it was not created with Apple’s own iBook Author app. But by opening in still another piece of free software, Adobe’s Digital Editions, it’s possible to view as an ebook on something other than an iPad. And it can be opened in atill another free app, Sigal, and saved in the .mobi format for viewing on the Kindle.

My next thought is to try repurposing a general non-fiction book, something much larger than a 32-page children’s storybook and loaded with text, an adult’s book.

Staying Relevant

Add comment February 1st, 2012

I do not remember the last time I made a mass upgrade of software. Back in 2005, I think it was, I got a PoweMac tower and Adobe CS2, but that’s not what I mean. It came to me the other day, however, that it is high time. So I made my plan …

I finally see the tools for making ebooks starting to show signs of maturity. InDesign CS5.5 has been available for some time. In fact, CS6 is rumored to be around the corner. But it’s Export to epub  function, I hear, works pretty well. And Apple’s iBook Author looks—from the demo I saw—like it does what I have asked for, making iPad a serious tool for multimedia ebooks.

I am going to make the move to Apple’s Lion OS. I will install iBooks Author. But since I also want to be able to create works for more than Apple’s iBookstore, the upgrade to Adobe Creative Studio 5.5 is a no-brainer.

I have needed a couple of other new versions, too, for awhile. I always like to have the latest MathType, as Design Science regularly adds increased functionality to the equation creation package; and the latest version makes equations for iBooks. I have been inconvenienced by being able to open .docx files directly in Word 2004 long enough and will also move to Office 2011.

The interesting upgrade would be to QuarkXPress 9. My last Quark upgrade was to version 7.31. A nice story goes along with that. When I worked on the children’s storybook, Mishka An Adoption Tale, some years ago, I had a bit of difficulty with the Chinese printer and fonts. I cannot quite remember what, as the fonts would have been embedded in the PDF and that should have been enough. But I wound up in extended discussions with someone in Quark’s customer relations unit, a great, young woman who helped me work out whatever the problem was.

For some reason, on top of her helping me, she decided she would send me a gift for the trouble I had been put through—none of which was Quark’s fault—and as I was a long and loyal user of XPress, since about 1990. She wanted to send me a CD of extras. I told her that was mighty nice, but that I saw the extras were not usable with my current version, 6.something. She replied that one of the perks of her job was doing nice things for people and she sent me the Quark 7 upgrade for free. Soon after, she left Quark for a dream job of some kind. And I remained a loyal XPress user until more and more clients requested I use InDesign.

I finally added InDesign to my software arsenal. Gradually it just became easier to stick with InDy. Then the other day I got an offer from Quark for a reduced price for version 9—actually, 9.2. What struck me was the inclusion of something called App Studio for making e-versions of books for the iPad. I decided to make that upgeade, too. I had until yesterday, January 31, for the reduced price, after which the cost would climb some. But I wondered whether the nearly $300 investment was worth it for just that module.

Enter Twitter and why you need to know it does not need to be a time-sink. Tweeting on my dilemma led to the information that App Studio is a third-party module available also for InDesign. For free. Now, just as with Quark, there are fees for actually publishing something with App Studio. But the upgrade to Quark … well, is superfluous.

My thanks to Twitter stalwart, gentleman, scholar, and all-‘round good guy Pariah S. Burke (@iampariah on Twitter) who saved me $299 that I can use to get an iPad2 for debugging and displaying iBooks.

One Fix for Low Book Design Budgets

2 comments March 16th, 2011

I rail against people who want to self-publish on a dime all the time. At first you might take that for self-interest overcoming my ability to just play nice. Truth is, however, I’m in the corner of self-publishers. I want them to be taken seriously. Further truth is that many readers—certainly professional reviewers—still have reservations about self-published books. And this may directly affect book sales.

So my sense of things dictates that proper attention ought to be paid to design and production values. Templated, one-size-fits-all stylings, I am certain, do nothing to separate any book, especially self-published ones, from the pack.

I also occasionally feel it is my duty to remind self-publishers that they do not simply publish there book. The act of publishing even one book means they now exist as a publishing company. Whether they like it or not, they have chosen to establish a business. I usually go on to conclude that, to survive and, indeed, succeed, a business needs to be properly capitalized so as to afford necessary supplies and services.

That doesn’t often make a difference. Even I realize that if a person doesn’t have money, they simply cannot afford things, whether needs or not.

Well, comes along Writers for the Red Cross. And, sadly, their timing is as right as rain, what with the scary turn of events in Japan. Writers for the Red Cross is holding their online auction to raise money for possibly one of the two greatest, legitimate charitable endeavors (in my estimation). And pro bono work for them is the kind of thing I have in mind when I rant against crowdsourced and spec work.

So for those of you who want to work with a professional book designer, with whom I’ve had initial talks but proven too pricey for your budget, an item on this week’s Writers for the Red Cross online auction that may be of interest is my book interior design and layout item.

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Free Tools for the Beginning Book Designer

Add comment November 20th, 2010

This is one of my favorite pieces from the old, compromised blog. I enjoyed my wiseass take on grandkids as “our replacements”—it stills makes me smile when I read it now. But the meaning of this piece to me is that it’s when I began to acknowledge a sense that things I learned and learned about could assist others starting out on the freelance path I chose

It’s taken me awhile to write and post this. Mostly because my granddaughters—“our replacements,” an old friend calls them—were visiting the last week and a half. But that may also have pointed me toward my material this time around.

See, I’ve been thinking about novice book designers starting out. It can be an expensive proposition when one begins, I realize, all while striving to get one’s foot in the door. Hardware is just the initial investment.

Software, too, adds up. Additionally, with software, there’s the stinking suspicion that open-source software—TeX (in all its flavors) and Scribus for page layout, plus various printing, drawing, and photo editing programs—may make an investment in QuarkXPress or InDesign, and art programs such as Photoshop and Illustrator a waste of money.

I know there are those who swear by open-source, regarding commercial software as unnecessary. I am certain these same people do relatively good work. But no book publisher or packager who was looking to hire someone for design or layout of a book ever asked me whether I was skilled in Tex or Scribus.

But I come not to praise—or take shots—at software choices. Rather I want to discuss the tool next in line: typefaces. Where do we get them? What’s the story with how expensive they can be? Are there alternatives to paying top dollar to Adobe and the other foundries out there, boutique and otherwise?

The first types we handle are the resident fonts in our computers. On the Macintosh, my choice, that means Times Roman, Helvetica, Palatino, etc. On PCs I imagine that means fonts called Arial, Swiss, and Comic Sans—there’s an “inside sports” joke here that I’ll get back to … if I remember—among others. Then there are the “bonus” fonts packages with other software. I know of two reputable sources like that: Corel (Draw, Paint, WordPerfect, which I have never owned, because Quark, Adobe products, and MS Word seemed to be pretty much the professional software of choice that a book designer/layout artist would need to consider) and Adobe.

My first font purchase, as I;ve mentioned before on this blog, was a twosome: Adobe Garamond and Futura. I wish I could remember what they cost back in 1989. I think I recall around $100 each. Next I bought Bodoni and Frutiger from Adobe. And those were my last individual purchases for some time to come, because it wasn’t long after that I bought a version of Adobe Illustrator—version 6, I believe—that came with the aforementioned generous slice of Adobe’s Postscript 1 Typeface Library.

Many of my favorites, typefaces that I still use today, are in that Adobe collection. So I would urge any new book designer to look around for it, as there are more than mere favorites in it. Classic typefaces can be found in that collection. But that still requires an investment of cash.

What about totally free typefaces?

Well, I should digress here and say that there are many great resources to learn about typefaces. My favorites are John Boardley’s wonderful blog, I love typography and the Typophile forums. Truth be told, there are many others that I frequent now and again. Smashing Magazine, although primarily a web resource has good material about fonts. And there are countless others. For this piece I searched through all of them and more. I also put out the word for suggestions on a number of forums, though not on Typophile, as I thought it a bit much to ask professional type designers who earn their living creating types to suggest free typefaces.

One thing that becomes immediately apparent when doing a search such as this is that most free fonts are display fonts, not particularly good, and rarely complete. (By “complete,” I mean a complete set of characters, from upper and lowercase, to numerals, punctuation, and accented glyphs.)

But I did come up with eight typeface families that I think might be used in designing and laying out books. Now, to be fair, two of them, Fontin and Fontin Sans, I had learned about some time ago on the aforementioned “I love typography.” The fact that Jos Buivenga designed both a serif and a sans serif, making Fontin a comprehensively complete family caught my attention and I’ve been meaning to use them and plan to soon. [It took three years, but I finally found a book they matched really well with and I used them.] I would advise novice book designers who choose to make such a search as mine to take a look at Mr. Buivenga’s exljbris Font Foundry, as well as his fine blog of the same name. He has a selection of eight fonts on the site, as well as an intriguing new one, Calluna [this one has come a long way since I first wrote about it here], in the works.

My other six selections to start a type library for free are nearly evenly split between serif and sans serif types. They include another from exljbris, the sans Delicious. Next up is Gentium, “a typeface for the nations.”. (Designed by Victor Gaultney, “Gentium” means “of the nations.”) Goudy Sans is an idiosyncratic sans by Frederic W. Goudy. The Fell Types, developed for computer typesetting by Igino Marini, are a selection of different serif, “modern revival fonts” I loosely categorize as a single selection. They bear some careful study in deciding whether and where to use them. Last are Liberation Sans and Liberation Serif, developed by Steve Matteson, again pleasing to me not just for themselves but because they form a complete serif and sans family.

I think these form a nice set of types to study and use athe best of all prices. Which is not to say that there are not others out there that deserve to be mentioned. In fact, I invite anyone who has a favorite free typeface family that is suitable for book design, to please make mention of them in a comment to this piece.


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