Tag Archives: ePub

Problems with pdf eBooks – metadata issues

I have become increasingly dependent on my eBook reader. Consequently I now have quite a few eBooks – and many of them are in the pdf format.

While most eReaders will display pdf formats there can be issues. Because these don’t have flowable text they are probably more suited for devices like the iPad

I don’t have an iPad, but I do have many pdf eBooks. It seems to be the most common format for free and out-of-copyright books. As well as technical books and scientific papers.

So, I have had to confront most of the problems eReaders have with pdf and the problems format conversion programmes have. And, despite the fact that a huge problem is that pdf documents come in different flavours, there is usually a work around – providing you are sufficiently motivated to spend the time required.

Here, I just want to deal with the metadata issue. Fortunately the workarounds here are simple.

Metadata

The metadata includes information on the book or document title, author, publication date, publisher, etc. It is meant to be incorporated into the ebook file – but very often, especially for pdf documents, there is no incorporated metadata, or the data is not suitable. Add the fact that many pdf files do not have descriptive names (eg. my eBook “The Philosophy of Science” by George Couvalis has the file name 0761951016.pdf ) and no wonder I found that I had accumulated a large number of pdfs, scattered throughout my hard drive,  I could not identify without opening them.

If your files have metadata included a cataloguing programme or an eReader will display the correct information, whatever their file name. If not you are usually stuck with the non-informative filename.

Fortunately, changing or adding metadata to a file is quite simple. Here are two places you can make the changes – in the cataloguing programme and in the file itself.

Cataloguing with Calibre

Most serious eBook users eventually get hold of the free programme Calibre. It’s great for format conversions, keeping all you eBooks in one easy place, searching for books to buy, and many more things.

A while back I found its very useful cataloguing feature (see Calibre tips and tricks: article on cataloguing). I use this to produce a catalogue of all my books, in an ePub format which I then transfer to my eReader. It has hyperlinked authors, titles, and other useful information on each book. This includes short reviews, publishers information, cover images and format information for my collection.

It’s great for searching through my collection at leisure when I am planning future reading, or checking what I have. I update it often.

Once a book is added to Calibre the metadata can be added or edited very easily. This happens through automatically consulting on-line databases and the metadata available includes reviews, publishers information, cover images, etc.

This is all very useful – but the metadata changes occur in the Calibre database, not in the file (unless the conversion process is used). Transferring the eBook from your computer to your eBook reader does not transfer the Calibre data itself.

This requires editing the file.

Editing pdf files

The editing required to alter or add metadata is minor, but usually beyond those without programmes like Acrobat. But here’s a simple tip. Download and use BeCyPDFMetaEdit.

This is a simple programme enabling minor editing of pdf files. It ” allows editing of several settings like the metadata about author, title, subject and keywords of the document. Furthermore, one can customize the viewer preferences, the bookmarks, the page labels, the page transitions for slide shows and the encryption/permissions of a document.”

I have found it ideal for this simple job.  Only a few seconds are required to check and update the metadata before transferring the file from Calibre to my eReader.

I no longer have to go through the painful process of opening and checking books on my eReader just because the only information available is the file name.

Editing ePub files

I have found this is not usually necessary. But when needed I use the ePub editor Sigil. This is very useful for anyone wanting to get into eBook creation in more detail. It has its own learning curve but the metadata editing is simple. Just go to Tools>Meta Editor and make the required changes. Don’t forget to save the file.

See Also:
Calibre – eBook Management
Calibre tips and tricks blog
BeCyPDFMetaEdit.
Sigil

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Thank goodness for eBook Readers

I have a  reputation (well-deserved) for untidiness. Piles of books and papers seem to accumulate wherever I work, – or even sit for any length of time.

The “paperless office” has been no help. Like most people I find reading from a monitor screen uncomfortable. So I will usually print off material for later reading. But I have difficulty throwing things away – even knowing that I have instantly lost them by placing them in one of my piles.

This has been a drawback for me of the Readability add-on I recently discussed (see A nice little tool for printing blog posts). It’s been great – but if anything I am even more untidy. I am now hoping that I can overcome this problem with the help of my eBook Reader (see The joys of eBook readers – the Sony PRS-650 Touch).

And the little add-on dotEPUB which makes it  possible to download any web page as an e-Book.

dotEPUB

This works a bit like Readability. You install a bookmark in the toolbar (available for Firefox and Chrome but not yet for Internet explorer).

The video  below describes installation of dotEPUB.

Clicking on the bookmark will convert the current web page or blog to an eBook. Really a short ePub file. This will be opened in whatever ePub programme you have installed (I am using epubreader – a Firefox add-on).  Then it’s just one click to save the file  on to my PC.

At the end of the day I copy all the save ePub files (together with any eBooks I have downloaded)  on to my eBoook Reader. DotEPUB.com uses the Readability script (© by arc90) in the cleanup process so the saved material is a joy to read.

When I have read the material I can easily delete it, or save it in a collection for later reference. (Yes I know, I will probably lose it but being only electrons who else is to know?).

So give it a few months and I be interested to hear what my family says about my tidiness.


What about Kindle?

You can choose to include links or not when installing the bookmark. Currently the ePub file will not contain images or videos (but will present links to them). In the few cases where I wished to include images I did this by editing the file in Sigil*. With some difficult web pages the output is messy. You can easily check this before saving. And I have found that I can clean up at least some of the files like this by putting through the Calibre* programme.

Apparently there are plans to include image capture and production of Kindle eBooks in future versions of  dotEPUB.


* Sigil and Calibre if you are serious

At least for anyone serious about eBooks.

Caibre will convert different formats. (This solves my problem of finding a particular eBook at Amazon, but only in the Kindle format. Now easily converted). It will also produce an eBook file from text documents and pdfs and functions as a library

Sigil is an ePub editing programme. I use to clean up converted files, correcting image placement, adjusting tables of content, etc.

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eBook “singles” – and the problems

Electronic books, and devices for reading them, are really taking off. In a way, this is reproducing the effect the digital revolution had on music.

One parallel may be with the purchase of music as “singles” rather than albums. The eBook format seems to be ideal for novels and trade books. But it looks like it may be even better for shorter books – the equivalent of music “singles.” Short books can be provided rapidly and cheaply. And they may be more suited to common reading habits than the longer more detailed books.

Amazon thinks so anyway. They recently launched their Kindle Singles selection. Relative short books  each presenting a compelling idea “expressed at its natural length.” And costing no more than a few dollars.

Enter TED Books

Now TED has taken hold of this idea. Many of you are aware of TED – the outfit which describes itself as “a small nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading.” It promotes conferences, events and prizes. These bring together people from Technology, Education and Design. And the ideas are disseminated by videos of the short and stimulating talks given.

You have probably downloaded and watched some of the videos. If not – I recommend you try them out.

TED have just announced the launch of TED books. The publication of short books as eBooks. Effectively taking their videos into a book format. And they are being release through Amazon in the Kindle format.

So TED Books at Kindle Singles is really a book version of TED videos. Their press release announced the first three TED books published as Kindle Singles (The Happiness ManifestoHomo Evolutis and Beware Dangerism!)

This is great and I look forward to many more TED Books.  Well, I would if I could only read them on my Sony eBook reader!

My complaints

So here is my bitch. When the hell are book publishers going to get themselves sorted out? When are they going to overcome the problems presented by different formats and digital rights management?

Why can’t I read kindle books on my eBook reader? (It already accepts ePub and pdf).

Why should I have to purchase another reader (a Kindle) which may not be as good as my Sony Reader Touch, or less suitable for my purposes, just because of the format difference?

Of course I could use a Kindle app on an iPad. But why should I be forced to buy an expensive iPad just to do this? (And don’t tell me about iPods. I have one of these and, No, they are not suitable for comfortably reading eBooks. Nor is reading from a PC monitor comfortable).

Why can’t publishers produce their books in multiple formats? Some already do, but why don’t Amazon make available multiple formats (Kindle, ePub and pdf)?

I hope we are in a transitional phase and these problems will soon be resolved. But if they aren’t it will only encourage production of software which eBook buyers can use to convert formats. This will inevitably mean software for removing digital right management from eBooks to enable conversion.

And that will make eBook piracy a dream – something the publishers surely don’t want.

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