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Can anyone, who has any experience with writing ebooks, recommend a way for me to proceed?

I have a book in Microsoft Word heavy on mathematics: formulas (inline), equations (numbered) and diagrams.

I want to create an ebook from it (both epub and kindle versions), I was thinking one of two ways:

  1. Convert Word document to ebook somehow
  2. Write an ebook from scratch, striping all ms-word formatting

For #2 I am deciding between:

  • LaTeX
  • Markdown
  • reStructuredText

PS: I use both Windows and Linux - so don't worry about OS, I can use anything (except MacOS).

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Working on an answer, but you may have drastically different results depending on whether you use Windows, Mac or another OS. –  Steve the Maker Jan 26 '12 at 3:58
    
You might contact the author of an existing e-book with formulae in it and ask them how they did it. –  Neil Fein Feb 9 '12 at 5:04
    
Can any Kindles handle equations? I thought their font choices were limited. –  dmm Oct 6 '13 at 6:51
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Since the formula editor in MS Word is mediocre at best, I'd reset those sections even if I could transfrom them automatically. Despite the fact that many people publish Word documents as books or websites, Word is not a publishing software and produces output that is good enough for letters or internal communication only. Self-publishing and home computers have significantly lowered the design quality of publications, and you can positively set yourself off from your competitors with a more pleasing and more readable book design. The same goes for websites, graphics, photography etc. –  what Dec 10 '13 at 11:44
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3 Answers 3

Any of the different converters that have been mentioned here may work, but more than likely, you will find at least some problems with certain formulas. Because each of the different conversion programs use different processes or algorithms, it would be nearly impossible to write one document that would work for all of the different formats you want. For example, one converter might render a decent version for the mobi file, but the epub file turns out to be unreadable.

The best way I have found to address this is to convert all of your formulas to images. It's fairly simple to do by just taking a screenshot and opening it MS Paint or any other imaging software and then cropping out the portion of the image that you don't need. I have done this with great results for a number of books that I have formatted for others.

One word of caution, however. If you have large images due to long, complex formulas, then people using smaller reading devices (smart phones) may have a hard time enlarging the image enough to make it readable. You can test this by converting your file and then opening it on a smart phone to test it out before sending it off to be published. If the image is too large, you may want to break it up into sections from top to bottom. Don't ever section it from side to side because that will cause the images to appear out of order. If your formulas are too wide, you may have to rewrite them so that they can be displayed better from top to bottom.

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Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords (which distributes to B&N, Apple, Sony, etc.) all have their own conversion programs that start with a Word document. I'm not sure how well they would handle the mathematical bits, but it might be worth a shot.

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Smashwords's style guide specifically states it can't handle text in a text box, so I'd imagine that formulae - which are either that or graphics - wouldn't fare much better. –  Neil Fein Feb 9 '12 at 5:03
    
@VolcanoLotus, but can you use your own programs like Scrivener instead to get those formats? –  Vass Apr 5 '13 at 10:27
    
@Vass I'm not entirely sure I understand your question - do you mean using Scrivener to get it on those retailers? I know there's a lot of software out there that'll create .epub and .mobi files for you. What I don't remember is if anyone requires you to use their conversion tools. It's been over a year, but I think when I did it, Amazon and Smashwords required the tool and B&N didn't, but I'd recommend checking that on each retailer's site. Does that answer your question? –  VolcanoLotus Apr 5 '13 at 14:53
    
@VolcanoLotus, yeah that is pretty close. I am a bit confused with all of these formats and retailers. Especially now knowing that there are changes as well. It seems like the two major formats are epub and mobi and that cover amazon B&N apple and nook, but I did not know that they have their own tools as well –  Vass Apr 7 '13 at 15:16
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After doing a bit of digging, Aspose Words Express is the best resource that I came across for converting your files.

I've used Calibre before, but I've had very mixed results.

Calibre is great for converting my own books for reading on various devices, but it can sometimes leave a lot of work in terms of editing artifacts for a press-ready piece of work.

I did use the Aspose converter a few times. All I can say is that it works pretty well and that I was satisfied with it. You are likely to have to do some very thorough checking, regardless which method you choose, but Calibre and Aspose Words Express are both worth a try before you take the time to do a full rewrite.

One technical note: the Aspose website does require a login to download, but the express version file converter seems to be completely free and available offline in the PC format.

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I've came to realize that converters will never get me exactly where I want... but I'll try that one, thanks. –  drozzy Jan 26 '12 at 14:58
    
This is almost always the case. Good luck, and let us know how it works out for you, I'm definitely curious to hear your feedback. –  Steve the Maker Jan 26 '12 at 15:18
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