As a web-editor, designer, and contributor to a recent open source eBook project, Cultivating Change in the Academy: 50+ Stories from the Digital Frontlines at the University of Minnesota in 2012,” I have been asked on a couple occasions about resources for producing eBooks. I thought I would put together some notes and suggestions here.
The first question to ask is: do you really want to create an eBook? There are lots of hybrid formats available for web-publishing. Choosing the right one means considering your audience, whether you want an ongoing conversation, and the level of technical challenges you are able to handle. In many cases, a well designed PDF distributed via email and through links on social media can be a simple but very effective approach.
Web and eBook Publishing Services
PressBooks is a currently free web-service (for individuals and small publishers) that allows you to “easily create ebooks, typeset PDFs, and webbooks.” The service provides and interface entering your article or chapter information and body text, then a one button publishing method with several themes for the various outputs including distribution via Kindle, iBooks, Nook, and Kobo.
Booktype Pro (also available as a self installed open source package Booktype) is service that offers a collaborative platform for creating, editing, and distributing eBooks to all the standard outlets. 1 small project with up to 10 users is free; additional volume, user and services for paid accounts.
Lulu provides both eBook and Book distribution and selling services. You upload a predesigned book in PDF or ePub format.
Issuu is a digital publishing platform. It provides a sleek reading interface for pre-created magazines, journals, and eBooks which are uploaded to the service as PDFs. Creating the PDF would be done with a desktop application.
Scribd is a document hosting services that provides an interface for sharing and embedding documents like PDFs.
Avatist is platform currently used to create and publish multimedia stories by a number of major media companies. A consumer service is currently in beta-testing and may prove a promising option in the future.
Ebook Glue is a free web-based tool that turns any blog feed into a ePub or Mobi format eBook.
Anthologize is a plugin for WordPress that can take an existing WordPress site of blog posts and publish them as an eBook. This is a free service, but it can only be installed and run on a self-hosted WordPress site.
eBook Creation Tools
Calibre is desktop application for ebook management, conversion, and syncing tools for reader devices.
Sigil is a free and open source multi-platform EPUB ebook editor.
Document and Desktop Publishing Tools
LaTex is a typesetting system used for technical and scientific documentation. It is a high learning curve, but is a powerful free software that integrates with many other tools, services, and extensions.
See also examples of professional Desktop Publishing Software