July 6, 2010

I have succumbed to the lure of techno-gee-whizzery and have been playing with the little Nook I bought.  (And reading Mary Roberts Rinehart, whose middle-aged spinsters would be dandy to survey in an American lit class.)  Naturally, this means making everything I can get my hands on into some sort of electronic book, because what’s the fun of having a cool piece of gadgetry if you don’t get to make something with it? or for it?

The result is Ruth Hall in epub format, the first of the long books at my web site to be made available in that format.  You can snag a copy at merrycoz.org.

Earlier attempts to make ebooks available at merrycoz haven’t been a singular success.  “Plucker” puffed the html files into unwieldy digital blobs; and the only comments I ever got about the ebooks were complaints about one thing or another.  The books in pdb and prc format are certainly more usable (I happily read the books in eReader, on my 7-year-old Sony Clie), though I can’t tell if humans are actually reading the ones at the site, or if spambots are building their own library.  I hope people find the epub format useful.

The amusing thing about creating ebooks is that it seems that the best ones pretty much need to be made by hand.  I already do that for the books in pdb format, and it looks as if I’ll have to do it for the epub books as well.  I tried Calibre; I tried eCub; I tried to try Jutoh and Sigil (no success).  And none of them made a book that looked right (Calibre) or opened on the Nook (eCub).  Luckily, I found instructions and examples and hammered out a version of Ruth Hall that looks good in the readers.

Ruth Hall struck me as a good book to learn on, since it’s mostly text.  And, trust me:  once you’ve formatted 94 individual files into an ebook, most other digitizing projects are going to look like small potatoes.

But it amuses me that I’m surrounded by electronic equipment and basking in the dawn of the twenty-first century (you know–the one where we all get jetpacks and vacation on the moon); and I’m still spending an astonishing number of hours making digital files by hand.

Given that the original books were set by hand from hand-written manuscripts, before being bound by hand, I guess that’s appropriate.