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Pages to epub

27 August 2010

Just had a go at exporting my old, old PhD to epub using the new export feature in Pages 4.0.4. It sort of works. After spending a few minutes importing and matching the styles the massive thesis document works better in iBooks than it has any right to (and no, I’m not going to offer it to download, the content still sucks).

However, a few niggles, some major, some minor:

  • It doesn’t export paragraphs. Everything is a goddamn div as far as I can tell. I suppose this is a way to get around ibooks’s bugs with styling (or not) paragraphs. The problem is that some of us want that behaviour. I may well want the body text to use the reader’s defaults and I don’t see a way of getting that behaviour via Pages.

  • Footnotes become endnotes with links back and forth. This is probably the only way to do this.

  • I don’t have a way of testing this on a kindle but it looks like these epub files would be incompatible with Kindlegen. I’m specifically thinking about the fact that Pages exports a self-closing span as link targets rather than anchors. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were plenty of other subtle incompatibilities that rendered the Pages output unusable for generating epub that’s both for ibooks/stanza et al. and as a master file to generate a Kindle book using Kindlegen. In any case, you would have to do a lot of testing to figure out just how to avoid those incompatibilities.

  • Seriously, it’s just a mess of divs. I don’t think I’ve seen anything like this in years. ETA: When I say just I mean just. Haven’t seen a single header tag either, and everything’s wrapped in a single div that has the class “body” and an inline style of “white-space:pre-wrap”.

Despite these niggles it’s promising as a epub development tool because replacing the CSS file is easy for anybody technically competent, but that does mean that it’s not quite ‘there’ yet in terms of easy epub publishing for those non-technical. ETA: I’ve changed my mind. The more I look into these files the clearer it is that they are devoid of structure, which is surprising since the ePub Best Practices styles are clearly structural in nature. It shouldn’t be difficult for Pages to convey that structure in the epub files it exports.

IMHO, as usual.

ETA again: I tried this again by exporting the Epub Best Practices for Pages file itself and got the same result there. If I’m doing something wrong it’s a non-obvious error to me.

Baldur Bjarnason – Follow me on twitter because otherwise you might miss an update, and you don't want that, now do you?

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