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Creating eBooks for the Classroom using Calibre

08 Jan

calibreIf you have powerful applications such as Adobe InDesign at your disposal then that is perfect for creating electronic publications, but, as long as you know HTML, Calibre is an excellent, and free tool for doing the same thing! I was recently asked to re-design the printed Cognitive Education Booklets that are used by students and staff to help infuse Thinking Skills into our curriculum. I knew it would be a nightmare because the booklets had been composed by teachers in Word or Publisher with scant thought for formatting consistent with e-books! It would inevitably require a fair amount of slog to reformat the documents into HTML or inside InDesign.

The issue is that e-books need to be able to display on small screens or large screens and on multiple devices, PDFs are a form of e-book that look good on computer screens, but might be virtually unreadable on an iPhone! The whole point of translating the booklets into e-book format was to allow students and staff to have the booklets on their personal devices, probably a smart phone or tablet.

I had never created an e-book before, nor had I used InDesign. I had left it as a holiday project, only to find that InDesign was not activated on my laptop properly! The techies had updated my Office suite to 2010 while updating Adobe CS6 just before the holidays and suddenly I discovered that it had not been activated either! Technical support over Christmas was non-existent and I couldn’t use Word or InDesign properly!

In desperation I turned to Calibre, discovering that I could save the Word document to epub format and then edit the raw HTML to fix the numerous formatting errors using Calibre! If you know HTML it is a laborious but easy enough task to get the effect you want, and since you can re-size the preview window you get a sense of how it will display on various screens. I believe this was probably faster than fixing the formatting in InDesign in any case!

Publishing teaching content to epub form so that students can easily view it on their smart phones is something which will become increasingly necessary, and while it is not a pleasant task, I would certainly urge teachers to start learning the necessary skills.

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3 responses to “Creating eBooks for the Classroom using Calibre

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