What are ebook editors?
Ebook editors more closely resemble word processors than high end design software like InDesign. The latter are designed to deal with rich and visually-complex layouts while ebook editors are best-suited to long-form narrative works.
They fall into two basic categories:
- Simple and easy-to-use: Aimed at non-technical editors and authors
- Powerful and complex: Aimed at tech-savvy production professionals
We’ll look at two examples that highlight these different approaches: Jutoh and Sigil.
Of the two, Jutoh is simpler to use and better-suited to non-technical users. Sigil is probably the most widely-used and gives technically-savvy users access to the raw HTML and CSS code and more power to fine-tune the result.
We’ll also survey some other common choices, including Apple’s very powerful iBooks Author — which aims to provide both power and ease of use.
Jutoh combines the ease of use of a word processor-like interface with the ability to tweak and fine-tune the resulting ebook for a professional finish. It’s commercial software with a modest price tag starting at US$39 and runs on PC, Mac and Linux computers.
It will suit many publishers producing relatively simple ebooks and is likely to be a good option if non-technical editors are contributors are actively involved in the production process.
Sigil is an editor specifically for EPUB files (but not yet EPUB3) and it is best-suited for more advanced users who use it to tweak the code inside EPUB ebooks. So Jutoh’s weakness — that it doesn’t allow direct editing of the HTML and CSS inside an ebook — is Sigil’s strength. It is free software with an active community.
Apple Pages and Apple Books for Authors
Apple Pages is a very capable ebook authoring tool which was greatly enhanced when it was merged with iBooks Author, a specialist tool that was aimed at the school and textbook market. It goes beyond authoring in text and images to include video, audio, animation, and interactive features like quizzes. While it will produce standard EPUB output, many of the rich publishing features work only with Apple’s own bookstore and devices.
More about Apple Pages’ ebook publishing: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT208716
And the Apple Books publishing ecosystem: https://authors.apple.com/
Calibre, the popular ebook conversion software, added an ebook editor which gives code-level access with a live visual preview to EPUB and Kindle (AZW3) files. It is very similar to Sigil (in fact, it was added as a replacement tool for Sigil users when that open source software went into a temporary development hiatus.) http://calibre-ebook.com
Scrivener is a favourite writing and research tool of many authors and scriptwriters which includes an export to EPUB feature. If you’re not planning to use Scrivener as your manuscript editing tool, it’s unlikely to be useful as an ebook editor. It’s more suited to do-it-yourself individual authors than to publishers.
Vellum produces beautifully-designed print and ebooks. Pick from a few basic styles and customize the key elements such as chapter headings, running header and footer, type styles etc. Free to try but you’ll need to sign up for a plan to export PDF (for print interior) or ebook formats.
Mac version only at this stage.
Find out more about this topic on our Digital Publishing 101 useful resources site.