How to turn both paper and digital text into an eBook

Books are not dead. They are just being digitized, like everything else. While there is a real charm in having a stack of bound paper whose corners you can fold, underline, and read without looking at a screen, ebooks are much more practical. Your backpack can hold four or five books, but an e-reader or tablet can hold thousands of titles. Plus, e-readers let you search for text, share sassy tunes, and read at night without light.

You can publish your own ebook quite easily. A text you find on the web that you prefer to read on your Kindle? Wear it. And, if you have the time, you can turn your favorite old paper book into an ebook as well. It’s just going to take a lot of turning — and scanning.

So whether you’re ready to share the manuscript that’s been in a folder on your desktop for years, or want to digitize an old hard copy of Cervantes, here’s our guide to creating a digital copy of any book.

Choose a format

There are a handful of popular formats that will work with just about any e-reader, but you’ll need to base your final decision on whether the book is right for you or for a wider audience.

If you are trying to share your first novel with the world, the easiest path is to use Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing. Run your formatted text through this free tool, and it will make your work available on the Kindle Marketplace almost immediately. The tool prepares your book to look great on the company’s widely used Kindle software. It can then be easily devoured on any reader, phone, or other device with a Kindle app.

If you’d rather not put your book in the Amazon store, but still want to create an eBook readable on Kindle or iPad that you can distribute on another website, try using a service like Blurb. The eBook maker software offers plenty of options to layout your book the way you want it to be.

Also note that all e-readers, including Kindle, can read PDF files. An easy path to digital publishing is to simply output your book as a PDF and then host the file on the web. This is the easiest publishing method if you are scanning an old book. Depending on the eReader used, PDF files may not be searchable and some of the more advanced features of the eReader may not be available. You can give these PDF files extra power by converting them to any of the native eBook formats, like Kindle azw3. The free software application called Caliber can convert your ebook to and from just about any format.

The digitization plan

If you’ve written your new bestseller on a computer, it’s easy to publish it as an eBook. But if you’re working from a real paper book — something handmade, something without a digital version — you’re going to have to digitize it.

The cheap but tedious option is to flip each page and use a traditional flatbed scanner to capture each page. However, getting a clean scan is difficult and you will likely lose a few words due to the shadow of the spine of the book.


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