When I got my first eBook “Reader,” a Sony PRS-700, in 2008, I went stumbling around for books.
One of the things I stumbled on was an archive of the 180+ Doc Savage books, in .lrf format, for the Sony Reader series. (yes, I am aware that they were not “legal” to download, so if you are offended you can move away now).
The .lrf format worked great on the old Sony reader. Table of contents, chapters, and all navigation worked.
Then Sony sort of went crazy. They pretty much abandoned the .lrf format for the emerging standard, the Adobe ePub. This was great, as the options for buying books in ePub was much greater than the quasi-proprietary Sony format. But I lost the ability to read my guilty pleasure Doc Savage pulp novels.
Fortunately, Calibre could convert the .lrf (or BBeB) format files to either .mobi (for Kindle) or ePub for all other readers.
But there was a downside. First, formatting was borked. Nothing awful, but a bunch of extra line breaks between paragraphs are just annoying as hell. Second, and much less forgivable, was that I lost all navigation options. The Table of Contents was just static text.
A few times I had tried to create a workflow to do a better conversion. I knew that I am not savvy enough in python or perl to fully automate it, so I looked for tools that would help. After some really awful attempts (which I will discuss later), I finally have a workflow, and a toolchain that works well.
- Use Calibre to convert to RTF format. I tried text and HTML formats, and several processing options within, but they frankly sucked. RTF seemed to format sanely, single paragraph breaks, no funky text formats, and fairly tight text. A good starting point.
- Use Nisus Writer Pro to do some cleanup of the text. A little rearranging of the “chapter” number and name fields. Fix a few typos (not caused by the conversion). You could use the Apple Textedit program, but I just like the interface of Nisus Writer Pro.
- Use Apple Pages (latest version), with the built in template for ePub creation. I customized it (find it here for Doc Savage books), and copy in the clean text from Nisus Writer Pro.
- Search for the Chapters, and set the proper text styles for Chapter Number, and Chapter Name. This auto-populates the Table of Contents, and sets up the navigation.
- Save the Pages file. I did all that work, so I might as well keep a copy.
- Export as ePub. I set the author to Kenneth Robeson, the pseudonym of the original author, Lester Dent, and since they were targeted at Teen boys, I pick the appropriate category.
Total time from start to finish is about 16 minutes per book.
If I was really motivated (read: one day I will do this) I would hunt for the original covers from the books, and add them. There is an option to add a cool cover, but it isn’t a must have.
I finally have a straightforward process and toolchain for creating a well formed ePub version of my beloved Doc Savage novels. It is worth it to me to regain the navigation, and the other benefits of the eBook versus the original pulp versions.
If you are going to give me grief for my not licensed files, don’t. The copyrights are held for all these stories by the Condé Nast group, and they just sit on them. If they would release them as ePubs, for less than $3 each, I would gladly break out my AMX and buy them.
Here is a link zip file of the rtf source, the pages file, and the ePub of the first Doc Savage book – The Man of Bronze.
The final note:
There is an Apple program called iBooks Author, and you would think that would be an easier option for this process. But alas, it isn’t. I spent a few hours, and frankly was disappointed at its import and internal ability to handle this task. Clearly, that is not the intended use-case. Pages plus the template for ePub output is without a doubt, the way to go.