Friday, March 11, 2011

Create an E-Book the Easy Way (and it's free!)

by Scott Rhoades

There is a very easy way to create your own e-book from any Word file. The Writer2ePub extension for OpenOffice (it also works in LibreOffice, by the way) creates an epub file usable by most e-readers. (Note: The Kindle does not read epub files. However, you can use an application called Calibre to convert an epub to a Kindle file. Search the Net for more info.)

You'll have to install OpenOffice or LibreOffice to use the extension, but those are both free and powerful alternatives to Microsoft Office. Even if you prefer to use Word, you have nothing to lose but a little disk space by installing this alternative.

Once you have your new office suite, open it and click Tools > Extension Manager > Get More Extensions Online. This takes you to the extensions repository. Scroll down to the bottom. Near the end of the page, you'll see Writer2ePub. Click the link, then click Get It at the bottom of the extension's page.

Now, go back to Tools > Extension Manager, then click Add and browse to the Writer2ePub extension you downloaded, accept the license, and install the extension. To complete the installation, close the word processor and then open it again.

After the extension is installed, it only takes a few clicks to create your epub file. Three epub icons appear in the toolbar of the word processor. They look like a lowercase e tipped partway over. Just open the file you want to turn into an epub, make sure it looks OK, then click the first epub button, fill in the title and other information in the form that appears, click OK, and wait a few seconds.

The epub file is ready to open in your reader.

This extension creates a simple e-book. You can create a cover for your new book, but support for images is limited or non-existent, so keep that in mind if you have pictures in your book. I haven't tested it with images, so I don't really know how well it works or doesn't, beyond what I've read. But it will work fine for moving most manuscripts to your reader to carry with you or share with your friends or writing group.

UPDATE: As an example, I'm making my short story, "Danube So Blue," available as a free ebook for readers of this blog. I created the epub book from a Word file, run through the OpenOffice Writer2ePub extension with no editing or cleanup of any kind. I then ran it through Calibre to create a Kindle version (MOBI format). Leave a comment here to tell me and the other blog readers how it looks in your e-book reader.


Virginia S Grenier said...

Great post and tips. I'm adding this link to my newsletter. Thanks for sharing.

Lois D. Brown said...

Didn't know open office could do that. Cool. It doesn't sound like it helps with uploading to smashwords or kindle. Do you know of an easier way to prep documents for those uploads? They can be a pain.

Scott said...


Don't know about smashwords, but with Calibre you can easily convert epub files to the MOBI format supported by Kindle. I haven't done it recently because I read the epub format, but it's not a difficult process (open the epub file in Calibre and click Convert). It's easy to find more info about this conversion online.

Here's a blog post about it:

Scott said...


According to the smashwords site, they support epub, so the OpenOffice extension should work for you there.


Lois D. Brown said...

Thanks for the info Scott. Took me a week to get back to my blogs. Life is crazy.