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EPUB export (flowable)

Community Beginner ,
Jun 15, 2020

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Hello community,
is it possible to export a document created in InDesign, which was actually created for the PDF export, as EPUB (flowable) so that it works? The problem is especially with tables, they are completely smashed. Or do I have to create the document completely new? Does anyone know any tricks?
Thank you for your ideas! 🙂

Adobe Community Professional
Correct answer by Bevi_Chagnon___PubCom | Adobe Community Professional

I wouldn't call them "tricks," instead strategies to minimize the amount of tweaking you need to do.

 

  1. Work with a copy of your original INDD layout file.
  2. Adjust the master pages to reflect a mobile-friendly orientation and size. Easier to do if:
    1. Your layout used a Master Text Frame on the Master Page. https://helpx.adobe.com/indesign/using/creating-text-text-frames.html#using_text_frames_on_master_pages
    2. Layout adjustment is turned on. https://helpx.adobe.com/indesign/using/laying-out-frames-pages.html#about_automatic_layout_adjustment
  3. Eliminate all manual overrides. (This fouls up on many e-readers). Turn on the Style Highlighter and ensure there is no "swimming pool green" anywhere in your document. https://helpx.adobe.com/indesign/using/paragraph-character-styles.html#override_character_and_paragraph_styles
  4. Minimize the number of paragraph and character styles used. Keep to the basics, such as Heading 1, Heading 2, Body Text, Lists, etc.
  5. Adjust all styles to NOT use ligatures or any OpenType special features. These are not yet supported well enough in EPUB devices.
  6. Adjust all styles to use open source fonts, such as those from Google Fonts.  They may or may not be used by the e-Reader, depending upon various requirements from different manufacturers. Sometimes your users will see just Times New Roman and Arial or the e-Reader's proprietary fonts. At this stage of the EPUB industry, you really can't control fonts very well in an EPUB file and across the majority of devices.
  7. Anchor all graphics as inline. Don't use any text wrapping because it is not widely supported across e-Reader devices and in EPUB itself.
  8. Use only JPEG and PNG file formats for graphics.
  9. Tables are still not workable in EPUB. They will smush down to fit the device's screen width, which in most cases makes them unreadable to everyone. One solution: Take a high-resolution screen capture of your tables and anchor them as inline graphics.
  10. Now, get out your favorite beverage or "substance" of choice.
  11. View and test  your EPUB, and note that all of your excellent graphic design has disappeared, and you're viewing the most boring, butt-ugly design your eyes have ever seen.
  12. Cry. See step 10 for help.

 

EPUB was never designed to be a visual format, much less a "visually rich" format. It was developed out of something called DAISY, which is a file format that gives basic text access to those using screen readers and special text-to-speech technologies. Fonts, color, graphic design, etc. were never considered essential for that file format.

 

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EPUB export (flowable)

Community Beginner ,
Jun 15, 2020

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Hello community,
is it possible to export a document created in InDesign, which was actually created for the PDF export, as EPUB (flowable) so that it works? The problem is especially with tables, they are completely smashed. Or do I have to create the document completely new? Does anyone know any tricks?
Thank you for your ideas! 🙂

Adobe Community Professional
Correct answer by Bevi_Chagnon___PubCom | Adobe Community Professional

I wouldn't call them "tricks," instead strategies to minimize the amount of tweaking you need to do.

 

  1. Work with a copy of your original INDD layout file.
  2. Adjust the master pages to reflect a mobile-friendly orientation and size. Easier to do if:
    1. Your layout used a Master Text Frame on the Master Page. https://helpx.adobe.com/indesign/using/creating-text-text-frames.html#using_text_frames_on_master_pages
    2. Layout adjustment is turned on. https://helpx.adobe.com/indesign/using/laying-out-frames-pages.html#about_automatic_layout_adjustment
  3. Eliminate all manual overrides. (This fouls up on many e-readers). Turn on the Style Highlighter and ensure there is no "swimming pool green" anywhere in your document. https://helpx.adobe.com/indesign/using/paragraph-character-styles.html#override_character_and_paragraph_styles
  4. Minimize the number of paragraph and character styles used. Keep to the basics, such as Heading 1, Heading 2, Body Text, Lists, etc.
  5. Adjust all styles to NOT use ligatures or any OpenType special features. These are not yet supported well enough in EPUB devices.
  6. Adjust all styles to use open source fonts, such as those from Google Fonts.  They may or may not be used by the e-Reader, depending upon various requirements from different manufacturers. Sometimes your users will see just Times New Roman and Arial or the e-Reader's proprietary fonts. At this stage of the EPUB industry, you really can't control fonts very well in an EPUB file and across the majority of devices.
  7. Anchor all graphics as inline. Don't use any text wrapping because it is not widely supported across e-Reader devices and in EPUB itself.
  8. Use only JPEG and PNG file formats for graphics.
  9. Tables are still not workable in EPUB. They will smush down to fit the device's screen width, which in most cases makes them unreadable to everyone. One solution: Take a high-resolution screen capture of your tables and anchor them as inline graphics.
  10. Now, get out your favorite beverage or "substance" of choice.
  11. View and test  your EPUB, and note that all of your excellent graphic design has disappeared, and you're viewing the most boring, butt-ugly design your eyes have ever seen.
  12. Cry. See step 10 for help.

 

EPUB was never designed to be a visual format, much less a "visually rich" format. It was developed out of something called DAISY, which is a file format that gives basic text access to those using screen readers and special text-to-speech technologies. Fonts, color, graphic design, etc. were never considered essential for that file format.

 

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Jun 15, 2020 1
Adobe Community Professional ,
Jun 15, 2020

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You'll probably have to create a new document. For Reflowable ePubs all text must have Paragraph (and Character) Styles applied, all images must be anchored and no folios, and Master page items will not be used. Tables can be tricky, some use JPGs of their tables.

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Jun 15, 2020 1
Adobe Community Professional ,
Jun 15, 2020

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I wouldn't call them "tricks," instead strategies to minimize the amount of tweaking you need to do.

 

  1. Work with a copy of your original INDD layout file.
  2. Adjust the master pages to reflect a mobile-friendly orientation and size. Easier to do if:
    1. Your layout used a Master Text Frame on the Master Page. https://helpx.adobe.com/indesign/using/creating-text-text-frames.html#using_text_frames_on_master_pa...
    2. Layout adjustment is turned on. https://helpx.adobe.com/indesign/using/laying-out-frames-pages.html#about_automatic_layout_adjustmen...
  3. Eliminate all manual overrides. (This fouls up on many e-readers). Turn on the Style Highlighter and ensure there is no "swimming pool green" anywhere in your document. https://helpx.adobe.com/indesign/using/paragraph-character-styles.html#override_character_and_paragr...
  4. Minimize the number of paragraph and character styles used. Keep to the basics, such as Heading 1, Heading 2, Body Text, Lists, etc.
  5. Adjust all styles to NOT use ligatures or any OpenType special features. These are not yet supported well enough in EPUB devices.
  6. Adjust all styles to use open source fonts, such as those from Google Fonts.  They may or may not be used by the e-Reader, depending upon various requirements from different manufacturers. Sometimes your users will see just Times New Roman and Arial or the e-Reader's proprietary fonts. At this stage of the EPUB industry, you really can't control fonts very well in an EPUB file and across the majority of devices.
  7. Anchor all graphics as inline. Don't use any text wrapping because it is not widely supported across e-Reader devices and in EPUB itself.
  8. Use only JPEG and PNG file formats for graphics.
  9. Tables are still not workable in EPUB. They will smush down to fit the device's screen width, which in most cases makes them unreadable to everyone. One solution: Take a high-resolution screen capture of your tables and anchor them as inline graphics.
  10. Now, get out your favorite beverage or "substance" of choice.
  11. View and test  your EPUB, and note that all of your excellent graphic design has disappeared, and you're viewing the most boring, butt-ugly design your eyes have ever seen.
  12. Cry. See step 10 for help.

 

EPUB was never designed to be a visual format, much less a "visually rich" format. It was developed out of something called DAISY, which is a file format that gives basic text access to those using screen readers and special text-to-speech technologies. Fonts, color, graphic design, etc. were never considered essential for that file format.

 

Bevi Chagnon | Designer & Technologist for Accessible InDesign + PDFs | Books @ www.PubCom.com/books — NEW! Accessible InDesign + PDF

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Jun 15, 2020 2
Community Beginner ,
Jun 15, 2020

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Thanks for your answers!
So I think getting a working flowable EPUB from that file doesn't work.
The problem is that I primarily want to continue to provide the PDF. The EPUb is only intended to be an additional service. This means that updates should not have to be maintained in two different files.
I will probably have to switch to creating a static EPUB. That should work.
I will test that. Thanks again! 🙂

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Jun 15, 2020 0
Most Valuable Participant ,
Jun 15, 2020

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Doing a fixed layout for something that is almost all text is an absolutely horrible idea.

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Jun 15, 2020 1
Community Beginner ,
Jun 15, 2020

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Why is this a horrible idea? 😉
The document has not only text, but a layout with text, tables and pictures...
I would like to make my content available to people with e-readers who cannot handle PDF files.
Is there another elegant way if the flowing EPUB doesn't work?

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Jun 15, 2020 0
Most Valuable Participant ,
Jun 15, 2020

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Are you kidding? There is not a device on the planet that can't handle a text only PDF.

A fixed layout epub? Beyond iPads and Macs, you'll be hardpressed to find a decent reader.

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Jun 15, 2020 0
Adobe Community Professional ,
Jun 15, 2020

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@David.ehmann

Have you had people who can't open a PDF on their device?

That's fairly rare these days, given that Adobe Acrobat Reader (the free reader) is available for desktops, mobile, and tablets. Many other assistive technologies read PDFs as well. And Reader is free.

 

What barrier are you finding with your audience?

 

Because the PDF standard is now an open standard, many other companies make PDF reading programs, like FoxIt, PDF Nitro, et al.

 

Seconding what BobLevine said: Fixed Layout EPUB is not the way to go. It just doesn't work. Better to make an accessible PDF than a FL EPUB at this time.

 

Bevi Chagnon | Designer & Technologist for Accessible InDesign + PDFs | Books @ www.PubCom.com/books — NEW! Accessible InDesign + PDF

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Jun 15, 2020 0
Adobe Employee ,
Jun 26, 2020

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Hi there,

 

I am hoping that your issue has been resolved till now. If not, please feel free to update this thread else let us know if any of the suggestions shared above helped you or not.

 

Regards,

Sheena

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Jun 26, 2020 1
Explorer ,
Jul 10, 2020

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My question remains: Can I use InDesign reliably to make a quality ePub document or must I code the ePub document from scratch using HTML and CSS?

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Jul 10, 2020 0
Adobe Community Professional ,
Jul 10, 2020

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That wasn't your exact original question – I refer you to my earlier reply.

I would add, having created a Reflowable ePub with InDesign, which can take you 95 per cent of the way, it can sometimes be helpful to crack-open the ePub and fine-tune it – I use BBedit for this, but that's a Mac only application. There are other editing applications available.

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Jul 10, 2020 0
Explorer ,
Jul 10, 2020

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I will retry with InDesign, perhaps using classless HTML to get there, then bringing it into Sigil. I verified my ePub document and it had no errors, however it also bore no relationship to the print document that I made it from. InDesign makes beautiful print documents, faithful to the custom kern. I have not succeeded in getting it to create even the simplest paragraph indent (yes, using a Paragraph Style) correctly. 

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Jul 10, 2020 0
Adobe Community Professional ,
Jul 10, 2020

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Quote: "it also bore no relationship to the print document that I made it from. InDesign makes beautiful print documents, faithful to the custom kern. I have not succeeded in getting it to create even the simplest paragraph indent (yes, using a Paragraph Style) correctly."

 

EPUB can't do that kind of stuff.

It's not built into the EPUB standard, nor can any ebook reader process it.

 

Come to grip with the reality of EPUB: it sucks, from a graphic designer's viewpoint. It's more lame than HTML (which actually can produce some nice visuals, but nothing anwhere close to what we can design for print (or PDF) in InDesign). And it doesn't matter which tool you use, InDesign, hand-coding in Sigil, etc.

 

Your EPUB isn't going to look like your print layout.

 

In the future, EPUB will be better because the standard is now controlled by W3C/WCAG, the folks who create the HTML and accessibility standards. And once we have a better standard, it will be a couple more years for Adobe to give us the tools to create EPUBs to it, and also for EPUB readers to process the new standard.

 

We're 7-10 years from having that capability.

 

Bevi Chagnon | Designer & Technologist for Accessible InDesign + PDFs | Books @ www.PubCom.com/books — NEW! Accessible InDesign + PDF

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Jul 10, 2020 0
Explorer ,
Jul 10, 2020

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I’m not sure that what you say is correct — for my application.

 

My project is a journal, and one without images of any kind. As such it’s a conservative typography with headings, subheadings, and body text with some bold words and some italic. Some of the text has bulleted lists, that’s it.

Now just look at the Sigil ebook manual. It’s nicely laid out. It even includes graphics, which my project will not. I did notice that subheadings are not forced to a new page and are left as orphans under certain circumstances, while headings always occur at the top of a new page. 

 

That’s all I want and so far, I haven’t figured out how to get InDesign to do it for me. I’m sure I’m at the disadvantage of a beginner here, but I am not sure that InDesign is still unable to produce the simplest typography without my adjusting style sheets and css after the initial production.

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Jul 10, 2020 0
Explorer ,
Jul 10, 2020

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So, if you would indulge me, can you recommend the best way to create an eBook whose source is a manuscript comprising five chapters of total 30 double-spaced pages from Microsoft Word, plus a title page and a table of contents?

 

Aside from the title page and the table of contents, the pages would comprise body text of headings, subheadings and text — pure typography without any images — except maybe for a branding flourish at the beginning of each chapter. The typography would include some bulleted lists, preferably outdented.

 

The journal would be read on desktop, tablet, or smartphone. That’s why I am not producing a PDF or a fixed-format ePub.

 

Assuming I’m starting from scratch, does it make sense to use InDesign to do this? Or would it make more sense to use Sigil? 

 

Otherwise, if I’m starting from a print document in InDesign, what do I need to do to remove everything that could possibly create a mess with InDesign output, which would anyway have to be post-processed to read neatly as an eBook? Ok, for this you need not answer again — I see you have given thorough advice at the top of this page.

 

My expectations have been reset. Thank you!

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Jul 10, 2020 0
Guide ,
Jul 11, 2020

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I would use a dedicated epub editor with a built-in preview to create any reflowable epub, because InDesign is just not really meant for this type of work. If it were to be a fixed layout epub InDesign is quite okay (if you don't mind the lacklustre support for FXL epubs), but for reflowable ones InDesign lacks the proper tools (such as inspecting the underlying code and being able to control the output on a code level, a real-time preview, etc.). InDesign has a tendency to add way too much noise in the code as well, and it forces the user to work in a utterly counter-intuitive manner in the app, which was conceived as a visual page layout app.

 

And Indesign's GUI isn't exactly a doddle to use for this type of work in the first case, and overcomplicates very simple actions when working on a reflowable epub. While I love InDesign as a layout app (even with all its idiosyncrasies), in my opinion it is the most awkward tool for reflowable epubs - akin to hammering a nail with a sharp-edged piece of granite. It is doable, but a rather unpleasant and potentially bloody experience.

 

I would even suggest here that working with a text processor (like LibreOffice Writer) and outputting a reflowable epub is much more reliable than InDesign, because at least that behaves pretty much the same in terms of page flow while you edit, and there is no need for extra work or workarounds (like specifying inline image behaviour, which is of course the default in wordprocessors).

 

LibreOffice exports directly to a reflowable epub. Open your Word document in LibreOffice (free and open source), and export to epub (file-->export As-->epub).

https://www.libreoffice.org/

 

As long as your used a good heading structure, it should come out fine. Then open in Sigil or Jutoh for validation and cleanup, if required. Perhaps move sections from one page to another, etc.

 

I would hesitate to advice anyone to use InDesign for reflowable epubs, unless a conversion is required from an existing InDesign layout. And even then I always check and fix things in either Sigil or Jutoh.

 

 

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Jul 11, 2020 1