So you want to get involved in the Archive Legacy E-reader project? Thank you for participating and making it possible for others to enjoy our wonderful stories in a more modern – and mobile – format!
Thanks to your efforts, our readers will be able to enjoy beloved stories on handheld e-reader devices or even phones while they're lounging on the couch, sitting by the pool, or waiting in line at the supermarket.
The ebook formats we support are epub and mobi (for Kindle). Before you embark on creating ebook versions of stories, please visit our wiki catalog pages to make sure the stories you want to submit aren't already there, so you won't duplicate someone else's effort.
Also note that all stories from January 2011 onward already have epub and Kindle versions, so there's no need to create additional ones. Even if you can't find them by browsing the archive's author and title catalog pages, the epub and mobi files are there, linked from the By Date pages or What's New pages. Note that eventually all the catalog pages will resemble the What's New page, offering access to all story formats (HTML, text, Word, OpenOffice, PDF, epub and Kindle-friendly mobi). This will take a fair bit of time to accomplish, though.
So until then, all stories from the archive's beginning in 1995 through 2010 are fair game to be converted – by you or another volunteer – to epub and mobi.
When creating your ebooks, please do not insert any stills, screen grabs, publicity photos or artwork from Lois & Clark. In fact, we'd prefer you didn't include any images at all, because they can increase the size of an ebook drastically. If you do decide to prepare a cover image, please refrain from using images or graphics copyrighted by the show, and please make sure any images you do use are in the public domain.
Since the archive is also working on converting stories to epub, Kindle and other formats, and will attempt to standardize formatting for consistency's sake down the road, the e-reader versions you submit may not end up in the archive's general catalog pages – but they will remain on the wiki. That's why we're calling it the Legacy E-reader project – because the wiki is for older stories. New stories are already getting the e-reader treatment.
We don't know of a simple and free tool to create mobi files for Kindle as easily as you can create epub files using Sigil. So we recommend you create epub files first, then convert them to mobi using Calibre if it's Kindle files you want. More on that later.
Ebook readers are wonderful devices for many reasons, and here are two compelling ones: They can hold hundreds of ebooks in one easy-to-carry shell, and they remember where you left off reading. They can also be used to display your own writings, whether a grocery list or doctoral thesis. And they make great places to stash Lois & Clark fanfic for reading and re-reading.
Epub is the most popular format for ebook reader hardware and software – even if not supported on the most popular e-book reader, Amazon's Kindle (except for the new Kindle Fire). If you have a Sony Reader, you can read e-books formatted in the epub format. If you have an iPad, you can read them. Ditto for the Barnes & Noble Nook, the Astak, and the iOS devices (iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch).
If you're using an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch, you probably already have the iBooks app, which supports the epub format. For another great iOS ebook reader app that supports epub, check out Stanza at iTunes' app store. Stanza offers more control over appearance, including foreground and background colors, making it easy to find a combo soothing for the eyes – especially helpful if you like to read in the dark. Try browsing these pages using Safari on your device: When you select an epub file, it'll open automatically in iBooks. If you've got both iBooks and Stanza, you'll get a choice on which to use.
For creating epub files from text or HTML files, we recommend a free program called Sigil.
Described below is the easiest process we use to create epub files – you can simply save text files off the archive, load them into Sigil, and save them in epub format. Minimal editing is involved.
If you want to do some epub editing prep with Microsoft Word, Doranwen and Bob Bartholomew have prepared a set of instructions for how to do that. Doranwen and Bob got us kick-started with the first 60+ epub versions of Lois & Clark fanfic stories. Thanks, guys!
One advantage to reading a story as an epub over an HTML file or plain text file is that your epub device remembers where you left off reading last time. And it supports a table of contents, letting you quickly hop around to different sections of the story.
Let's talk a bit about what an epub file is and how it's structured.
An epub file is actually a container for multiple files compressed inside. Cover images, table of contents, chapters and even parts of chapters are separate files. There's even a master list file that keeps track of all the other files. An epub is like a zip file – and in fact can be opened using an unzipping program such as Pkunzip or 7zip if you want to take a peek.
The container structure allows a large chunk of text like a novel to be broken into smaller pieces, which are more digestible by dedicated e-reader devices. Sony's Reader, Barnes and Noble's Nook and a sea of workalike devices seem faster and more responsive when large stories are broken into small pieces.
Sure, you could have an epub file where the story itself wasn't broken out into individual files, but some devices would choke on it, not be able to load a single, novel-sized chunk into memory. Or if it did load, it might take an agonizing amount of time to present you with text so you could start reading. (This happened to me with an epub copy of “Pride & Prejudice” I'd downloaded. Every time I turned on the device and selected the story, it took forevvvvver to load the text and drop me back at the point where I'd left off reading.)
The most important thing you can do when creating an epub is to split large bits of text into smaller bits – create lots of smaller chapters – so that people using older devices can enjoy the stories too. And so that everyone can get to reading quickly. Inside the epub file, each chapter, or even part of a large chapter, can be turned into its own XML file.
The second most important thing to do is to create a table of contents for your epub. It doesn't happen automatically.
The third most important thing to do is to supply some metadata that lets the e-reader device know the story title and the author's name so it can display it nicely for the reader.
As epub files are nothing more than compressed XML text and optional image files, you could create them with nothing more than a text editor and a free compression tool like 7zip. If you want to go the extreme do-it-yourself route, there's a great tutorial over at Jedisaber.com (http://www.jedisaber.com/eBooks/Introduction.shtml) on how.
But why would you want to do that when there's a program like Sigil, which hides all the complicated stuff and is as easy to use as a word processor? Sigil makes it easy to split large stories into smaller pieces, create a table of contents, and add metadata.
Sigil has posted a tutorial in its wiki (http://code.google.com/p/sigil/wiki/BasicTutorial), but we'll walk you through the steps here too.
Sigil is a breeze to use, it's free, and it comes in flavors for Windows, Mac and Linux. Just go to Sigil's project page, download it, install it and use it. You won't regret it, and you won't have to know anything about XML.
For the record I'm using Sigil version 0.5.3 on a Windows Vista machine.
The nicest thing about Sigil, in my opinion, is that it gracefully accepts our archive's text files: It turns our fixed-width text files into fluid, free-flowing prose – whether our paragraphs are set off by two returns, a single return with multiple spaces, or a single return with a tab. Thank you, Sigil!
And many thanks to Doranwen, who recommended this fantastic program.
Sigil looks a lot like a word processing program – italics, bold, headings and other formatting options are yours to command in WYSIWYG fashion. Unfortunately it does not import files from word processing programs like Microsoft Word or OpenOffice. (Fortunately for us all, though, word processors like Microsoft Word and OpenOffice allow saving as HTML files, which Sigil does accept.)
Since we're dealing with archive stories, chances are you'll be giving Sigil a text file to convert. Or an HTML file. But most likely a text file.
Do you have a text or HTML version of the story you'd like to convert to epub? (If not, dash now over to the archive, view a story as a text file, and save it to your hard drive.) Excellent.
Run Sigil, select File/Open, and open your file.
You should see the document as it would appear in your word processor, from opening line to the last. You could do a File/Save As right now – and bam! – you'd have an epub file you could load into your e-reader. Didn't know it'd be this easy, did you? For your own conversion projects, this may be all you want to do.
But if the document is very long, and if you intend to share, this would not be good for those whose e-reader devices choke on long stories. And there would be no quick way to jump around, because it would be lacking a table of contents. Also, the story may be labeled in an e-reader device's story list using the bare filename for a title, with author listed as “unknown.”
The formatting we do for the archive is pretty bare-bones, nothing fancy. But there are three important things to do to prepare an epub file for the archive:
- Supply metadata so that e-reader devices correctly display the story's title and the author's name.
- Create chapter points for the table of contents.
- Split the story into smaller, manageable pieces.
But before we do that, let's save your Sigil document as an epub file. Either click File/Save As or the Save As tool button (the fourth from left on the first row of icons). And frequently do a File/Save – or a CTRL-S, or click the Save button (third from left) – so you don't lose your work.
If you want to see all the steps below in action, we've prepared a six-minute video tutorial that walks you through the complete process of converting archive text to epub using Sigil.
Got that story loaded in Sigil and saved? OK. Let's add metadata. Click the Edit menu, then select Meta Editor (or use the shortcut key: F8). Up pops a small window with the fields for Title and Author ready to be typed or pasted in. After you've filled in the title and author fields, click OK. Then save for good measure.
The bottom portion of the Meta Editor contains an area where you can add more esoteric fields, accessed using the “Add Basic” and “Add Advanced” buttons to the right. For the archive, I usually use only one under the “Add Basic” button – “Date of publication.” I do that for new stories going up, but it's not necessary for older stories, unless you know when they originally published to the archive. The only two fields e-reader devices I've used care about is title and author. If you would like to add your name using the advanced field of “Transcriber,” feel free.
It's handy to be able to zip around to different story sections on an e-reader device, and a table of contents makes this a piece of cake. There's a Table of Contents display in Sigil that you can access by clicking the View menu and choosing Table of Contents (or use the shortcut key combo: ALT-F3). It may be turned on by default. If you view the table of contents on your story now, you'll probably see no entries at all.
You cannot set entries for the table of contents using the table of contents display – what it does is show entries designated in the story. And you haven't designated any yet. So let's do that!
Eyeball your story and look for section markers such as “Introduction,” “Part 1,” “Chapter 5,” and “Epilogue: Being the Part Where Our Storie Ends,” etc. Also, the story title itself is such a marker.
When you find such a bit of text, which is preferably on a line by itself, select it with your mouse. Then, in Sigil's text-formatting drop-down (second icon row at the top of the page, to the left, where it probably says “Normal” right now), select the option called Heading 1.
By marking a bit of text as a heading, not only have you made it larger and bold, you've designated an entry for it in the table of contents. Try it and see: If you haven't already set the story title as Heading 1, do so now. Display the Table of Contents panel (press ALT-F3), then click the large button at the bottom marked “Generate TOC from headings.” A confirmation pop-up appears; click OK. Ta-da! The current items in your table of contents display in the panel. You can keep adding more items and clicking the “Generate” button until you're finished.
Note that you can use Heading 2, Heading 3, etc., to create nested subchapters. I've used these when authors divide a novel-sized story into a few very long parts: Part 1 may be further divided into Part 1.1, Part 1.2, Part 1.3, etc.
What if the author declined to add section designations? What if there are no Part 1s, Chapter 2s, and the like? You can add them yourself. Browse through the document, find a likely spot, plant your cursor, type Part 1 or Chapter 1 on a line by itself, select the text and format it as Heading 1. Then proceed through your parts or chapters, at other likely spots.
What I've just advised may be a point of contention among authors, who when writing their story never imagined it would someday exist in a format friendly to e-reader devices, and that others would be deciding where breaks in the story occur. And probably the idea of an e-reader device seemed a science-fictional thing decades in the future, if that close. So, we may feel a bit of trepidation in presuming to break up an author's works into sections.
(Authors, if you disagree with a story's chapter points after it's been converted to epub, please feel free to suggest your own. And epub volunteers, if you're loathe to label something as a chapter when the author didn't, please see my tip below on “silent splits.”)
That said, an author often leaves clues by designating section breaks with a set of asterisks or other visual markers. What I do is find such a visual marker, create an empty line below it and type “Part 5,” or whatever part needs to go there.
What I do, also, is yoke together table of contents chapter points with physical break points – where I split a story into smaller pieces. So, Chapter 1 is its own file, as is Chapter 2, etc. More on that, along with how to decide how long to make a part or chapter, in the next section.
To split a story in Sigil, put your cursor at the end of the line of text just above where you want to make the split, then click the elaborate, red “Ch” button (“Ch” for Chapter) at the top right of the icon toolbar (or use this keystroke combo: CTRL-ENTER). Bam! You've created a new story section. At the top of the section, label it as Part X or Chapter X, and format as Heading 1.
If you look to your left in Sigil's Book Browser panel, you'll see that the original XHTML file has reproduced – now there are two. To navigate among story sections, double-click on the XHTML files in the panel.
Remembering that older e-reader devices have difficulty swallowing large chunks of text, you're probably wondering exactly how large to make story pieces. There is no set answer to this. If you're making the document for yourself, and you have a new-ish Nook, Sony Reader or iPad, the story sections can be rather large – and maybe you wouldn't need to split off any sections at all.
Let me tell you what I've been doing. I split archive stories into chunks of around 20Kb each – though I've not been very precise about it. The reason I do it at 20Kb is because I think that's the figure my epub guru, Doranwen, mentioned as a good size to use.
So what I do is use the story's file size in Kb (a measure of the text version), listed on the archive, as my starting point, then divide by 20 to find out how many story sections I need. Let's say the story is 100Kb – that's five sections. So I eyeball the document and scroll down about one-fifth of the way into the story, watching the vertical scroll bar. And I'm not above leaving a finger on the screen to mark the point and moving the scroll box down to meet it.
When I've reached a point about one-fifth into the story, I look for the nearest section break put there by the author (usually a set of asterisks on a line by itself). I plant my cursor at the end of that line and press the Chapter button to split the story at that point. That deposits me at the top of the new story section I've just chunked off. At the top, I press ENTER make a new line and there type Part 2, which I format as a heading, to make an entry in the table of contents.
The new section will need to be split into four somewhat even sections, so I scroll down about a fourth of the way and make a new break. (And you can see where this is going.) In the new section, I type my heading and make a new break a third of the way down. And in the next, at the halfway point.
So that's one way to decide where to split. Another is by the “page down” method. I've noticed that 20Kb of text equals about 10 screenfuls of text in Sigil, when the table of contents panel is turned off. For you it may be different depending on your screen's resolution and how you've sized your Sigil window. So I start at the top and press the Page Down key about 10 times, look for a section break, then press the Chapter button and format my header text. In the next section I press Page Down 10 times … rinse and repeat.
I don't follow my own advice from the section above, actually. The instructions above are the easiest way to go about it, and I think they are perfectly acceptable. But personally I prefer not to see chapter headings when the authors themselves did not use them.
And while I could probably do some research to find what break points the author used on the version of the story posted on the fanfic message boards – if the story exists there – that's a lot of work.
My solution is also a bit of work, but not much: I still split the files at about 20Kb, and I still format a chapter heading, but I do a bit of tinkering so that chapter headings are removed from the readers' view of the story yet retained for navigation in the table of contents.
To do the tinkering this requires, you'd need to change your view of the document in Sigil. The default view, “Book view,” is very word processor-ish. But there are two other views: Code view and Split. Code view shows you the XHTML source code of the document, as you'd see it in a code editor. The Split view shows you Book view on top, Code view below. You'll need to change to Code or Split view before tinkering. (To change your view, mouse over the buttons on the top row, to the left of the Chapter button. They are, left to right, Book, Split and Code. Click either Split or Code.)
When you format a bit of text using Heading 1 in Sigil, the Book view displays it as large and bold. In the code view, though, it looks like this:
If you have experience with HTML, this will look very familiar. My solution is to take the text surrounded by the H1 heading tags and make it an attribute of the opening tag, like this:
<h1 title=“Part 1”></h1>
Sigil recognizes the heading for the table of contents but does not display it to readers in the text.
That's what I do, but it's not what you have to do. No authors yet have complained about chapter designations, and maybe none ever will. Feel free to leave them in.
Sigil gives you a way of marking where you want splits to occur without actually pulling the trigger. In the Edit menu, there's an option called Insert Chapter Marker. Plant your cursor at the end of the paragraph just before where you want the new chapter marker, then select that option. Selecting it will insert a horizontal rule with an attribute identifying it as a chapter break. Even faster, use the shortcut key combo: CTRL-SHIFT-ENTER.
When you're ready to split the file into smaller pieces, click the Edit menu and select the option called Split at Chapter Markers. The document then breaks into smaller files at the points you marked. Why do it this way? It's a little faster, and you can change your mind about where breakpoints occur. Maybe you'll spot a better breakpoint to use.
If you're bringing HTML files into Sigil instead of text files, you can even do a bit of “pre-processing” to set your break points outside of Sigil. That's what I do most of the time when formatting new stories for the weekly update. I'm using HTML files as the “masters” from which it's then easy to create all the other story formats. So while in my HTML editor I can use macros to pop in section break codes where I want them…
<hr class=“sigilChapterBreak” />
<h1 title=“Part ”></h1>
… then quickly type numbers after “Part” and save a version for import into Sigil. Note that I've done my breakpoint and table of contents work outside of Sigil. All I do in Sigil is fill in the metadata and choose the option called Split at Chapter Markers, and save as epub.
While Sigil does a great job of importing text files, there are some anomalies. It's figured out what separates paragraphs, for the most part. But it has trouble with items that are single-spaced but which don't belong in the same paragraph – poetry, quotations and old archive header formats.
So you may need to do a bit of editing on a story in Sigil before sending it to the wiki. Definitely edit the header information: story title, author, sensitivity rating and submission date each get their own line. Also, please format the title in Heading 1, and put the line with the author's name in bold.
If you would, eyeball the text version of the story on the archive, looking for lines of verse. They're pretty easy to spot. Song lyrics and poetry break out pretty frequently on older stories, and they are truly a pain to format.
To format them in Sigil, you could restore line breaks where needed, and maybe use the Increase Indent button to indent them. Or you could copy and paste the lines of verse from the archive version, replacing the equivalent lines in Sigil. The font looks a little different, but that's OK.
The easiest way to create a Kindle ebook file is to create an epub file using Sigil, then convert it to Kindle-friendly mobi format using Calibre, available in Windows, Macintosh and Windows flavors.
Yes, you could create either the epub or the mobi in Calibre, but Sigil is more intuitive and makes it easier to add section breaks and create a table of contents. It's more word processor-like. Calibre is a powerhouse for letting you organize and read your e-reader files, and even for converting them among ereader formats, but as a content creation tool, it pales in comparison to Sigil for ease of use. When converting a Sigil-created epub, Calibre retains chapter breaks and the table of contents.
Here's how to convert an epub file to mobi using Calibre.
Load Calibre and click the Add Books button in the toolbar. Browse for your epub file and bring it in.
Click to select the epub file, then click the Convert Books button in the toolbar. In the large dialog window that appears, select your output format as mobi from the selection list at the upper right. Then click the OK button.
After Calibre finishes working on the epub, look for the mobi file below Calibre's output folder. Because Calibre names ebooks using the title and author name, you'll probably want to rename it to something simpler, preferably to match the story's filename on the archive.
Have you followed the above steps to create epub and mobi files of an older fanfic story? Fantastic! In the future we will institute a secure file-uploading system for you to upload them directly. In the meantime, for info on how to proceed, please contact me at this address: lcfanfic [at] gmail.com. Thank you!