Archives for posts with tag: converter

Photo Attribution: Will Clayton

Happy Birthday, BookGlutton! You were but a glimmer in our eye in Fall of 2006. A few months later, when the two of us started working on you full time (Jan 07), we knew we were doing something exciting – after all, who had heard of social reading then? In the last four years we’ve built a lot. We’ve seen the industry change right before our eyes. We were in private beta when the Kindle came out. The iPhone was brand new. We were early.

Looking at things from a startup perspective, early isn’t always positive. In truth, we would have done better to build less and start later – but then we wouldn’t have experimented as much. We spent a lot of time building for laptops, wishing tablets would finally happen. We had to build our own social network from the ground up because Facebook didn’t have an API (and then pivot when it did). And we had very little to base our interface on…so we made most of the user experience up as we went along.

What we built at BookGlutton includes:

BookGlutton grew to become a huge system, and has given us plenty of opportunities to geek out. Our initial plan was clear: we just set out to build a reading system with social features. As we moved through the process we found that, to do this, we needed to build a social network to use it…and then a publisher’s system, a content repository, etc. Not everything we built has been a resounding success, but we have learned about all the different aspects of digital publishing and where it intersects with the web in unique ways. Buy us a beer sometime…we can talk about it for hours!

    Over the years we’ve seen some cool uses of the site:

  • People in Iceland embedding Dracula with BookGlutton’s widget and reading it together.
  • Teachers in Phoenix using BookGlutton to teach English as a Second Language (ESL).
  • Japanese classrooms using it to read Jane Austen.
  • Grandparents forming groups with grandkids and leaving them notes.
  • NYU students logging on at midnight to meet as a class to prepare for class.
  • Authors embedding the BookGlutton widget on their websites and leaving comments inside for their readers.
  • Soldiers using it to read with people back home.

It’s been a good ride. We recently launched a new user-funnel with some social gaming aspects and tight Facebook integration (yes, I should send a newsletter out about it). With ebooks taking off, more people are starting to see things our way. We’re excited to see where that leads us next. Aaron and I have launched a separate endeavor, ReadSocial, which brings what we’ve learned about social reading to other reading systems. BookGlutton still has great things in store…

Thanks to all the people who’ve used and supported BookGlutton over the years!

-Travis
travis at bookglutton dot com

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Over the last year we’ve released several iterations of our EPUB Converter. At first this was a side project – we updated it when we had a chance (which wasn’t often). But then we noticed something: people used it. Actually, a heck of a lot of people used it. Every day. This was encouraging and we were glad to give something back to the community. After all, getting things into EPUB format wasn’t easy and we wanted to help, not to mention encourage people to upload work to our own online EPUB Reader.

We also noticed something else – people uploaded a million different permutations and got mixed results. So we made a decision to rebuild the EPUB Converter. To give it more guidelines and more documentation. To spend time making sure it worked correctly and that we could support it. This is what we’ve launched today.

Now all you need is your book in .html format and to use our index file. Well, that and to follow a few easy steps.

  1. Start with a folder that contains your book in html format. It can include up to 4 MB of images.
  2. Save each chapter as a separate .html file – not required, but easiest. As you save these .html files make sure their formatting is set to XHTML 1.1 (Dreamweaver > File > Convert > XHTML 1.1). To avoid getting question marks in your files, make sure they’re set to UTF-8 (Dreamweaver > Ctrl + J > Title Encoding).
  3. Download our example file and use that index.html file as a template for your own by copying it into your folder. It includes detailed instructions about how to modify it – put in your own title, author, description and more.
  4. Create the table of contents using the default list in the index file, again following the comments. When you’re done, test the index file in a browser, then zip up the folder and upload.

There are plenty of advanced details on the Converter Page as well, but the above instructions spit out a decent EPUB file. The great thing about this is you don’t need to be a digital book expert or even a developer; if you have the ability to make a webpage you can make an EPUB book. And there are a lot of people that know how to make webpages. Put in good html (following the guidelines above) and you get a good book. Simple.

In addition we’ve built in validation. Developers know validation is important, but in layman’s terms validation gives consistency across epubs, and makes sure people who are building Readers know what to expect.

With your feedback we’ll continue to refine the Converter, so let us know what you think. You can find the Converter here.