Some questions about EPUB, WordPress, tools

I have a couple of questions for discussion in this jiscPUB project, please any and all of you, use the comments!

If you publish EPUBs now, what tools do you use?

I asked jiscPUB team member Liza Daly via email what she uses to make EPUBs, and she said asciidoc.

Asciidoc lets you create documents in your text editor of choice using one of a family of lightweight wiki-style text formatting languages. Unlike Wiki formats, though, asciidoc is designed to create richly structured documents, as discussed on this page. This post from an O’Reilly author explains how it works to create multiple output files. I’ll do a post on how these tools work with EPUB.

Now, I am interested in who uses what?

  • Anyone else use asciidoc?
  • Are there pandoc users reading this? Bruce D’Arcus , have you made EPUB? I tried, but it does not support intra-document links.
  • Are some of you hand-crafting HTML like Mark Pligrim then feeding through something like Calibre?
  • Anyone use their word processor to make HTML and get EPUB from that?

(And just on the off chance, has anyone done a pandoc/markdown to asciidoc converter?)

What’s considered best practice for EPUBs?

I have been making EPUBs by feeding things through various processors. Different tools are using different levels of styling by default.

What’s best practice, in terms of what level of CSS styling to put in and so on? The top hit I got on Google for this was an Adobe page from 2008 that didn’t actually tell me anything useful.

I think that when we’re talking about word processing documents being transformed for the web what often works best is to have consistent styling for headings and plain paragraphs but authors do need some control over what goes on in tables, for example. This will require some figuring out for EPUB I know the team at USQ had problems with large and complex tables in their testing with USQ courseware, mainly using iOS devices.

JISC project people: What do you have to do to get your reports up in JISCPress?

JISCPress is a site where a variety of project output documents can be annotated by the community. It uses the comment system to allow paragraph-level annotation. It says on the site: We are currently operating JISCPress on a trial basis, with a view to making it a fully fledged JISC service if the trial goes well.

I wondered if anyone reading this has used it, and what the experience of contributing to it is like. This is both relevant to this project and to potential future explorations of how something like JISCPress might work in an environment where some people might be commenting on documents using ebook reader software and some using the plain-old web with some way of aggregating both.

When I called for sample documents for this project, Owen Stephens (@ostephens) sent me a test document, I am still working on making a nice EPUB out of it, fiddling with the tool as I go. He tells me it was ‘converted by hand’ to go on this site, which is not quite like jiscPress but does allow comments.

Anyway, I am wondering:

  • How much effort are people putting in to getting JISC project outcome documents on the web?
  • I know there are templates for JISC reports, which seem pretty light and simple but what about JISC deliverables, like toolkit documents etc?
  • Assuming most of this kind of output is written in Word or other word processors, would people be interested in a template (and tools) that had:
    • Embedded metadata that could be used by machines to process documents.
    • A way to preview your work quickly and easily to make sure that the final output is going to be OK?
    • Enough styling cues to create good web pages, maybe ebooks via automated uploads.There’s a trade-off here between having something that’s easy for authors to use, like treating the word processor like a typewriter (which is usually more costly in the long run) and getting people to invest in learning tools.


Copyright Peter Sefton, 2011-04-12. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Australia. <>


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8 Responses to Some questions about EPUB, WordPress, tools

  1. Joss Winn says:

    Contact Andy McGregor at JISC if you wish to publish a document on JISCPress.

    I helped develop the site and the plugin. It’s pretty easy to publish a document using JISCPress/ once you understand how it works. See here for more info:

    If you’ve got any feedback or questions on the use of, there’s a Google Group that you can join.

  2. Chris Rusbridge says:

    My experience is that most people spend only a little time preparing their JISC project documents for the web, and mostly either put the Word files up, or make a PDF and put that up. They are generally not expecting wide readership (more so for some report deliverables, of course).

    I think before people put much effort into making their documents ePub-ready, they will want to see some real advantages identified. At the moment it’s a bit of a leap of faith, which is fine when you have time to spare but not when you’re under pressure!

  3. Joss says:

    On the subject of epub, the anthologise plugin works quite nicely alongside, so could be used to provide epub output from JISCPress.

  4. What tools do I use to create ePub files? I use two different things.

    The first is easy and straight-forward — Apple’s Pages application. Write and format document in Pages. Export as ePub. As long as the formatting is not too elaborate, this tool works well.

    The second is more like a system, more robust, and based on TEI/XML. I started creating it more than five years ago against a small set of public domain etexts. Mark-up document in TEI. Add document to a publishing system of my own design written. Write Perl scripts against the system to create searchable/browsable lists. Write more Perl scripts to transform the TEI into a myriad of display formats including two flavors of HTML, PalmPilot DOC and eReader, Rocket Book, Newton Paperback, and PDF. That was in 2005.

    Since then two things have developed: 1) ePub, and 2) more ubiquitous mobile computing. Consequently, I spent the last couple of months refining my system. First I wrote a few new Perl scripts to transform my TEI into ePub files. Second, I wrote a Webapp — a catalogue specifically designed for mobile devices. Browse the catalogue by author or title. Get access to the small collection of documents via ePub, PDF, or HTML files.

    Marking my content up in TEI has been extremely beneficial. It has allowed me to migrate my content forward many times. Yes, there is start-up labor, but the initial investment has paid off many times.

  5. Ploy says:

    Hey Peter,

    Sorry for the delay. To me ePub is just a zip file. So, I used to do it manually, with bash script or Calibre if I feel like using something more fancy.

  6. bowerbird says:

    i find it interesting that liza daly uses a light-markup system.

    you might be interested in my project: