InDesign to EPUB, Kindle, and the iPad

March 23, 2011 - 11:22am ||| 20 Comments | Add new

Do you ever wonder (or are you currently struggling with) how you can convert your trade books, journals, whitepapers, instruction manuals and such from a “designed for print/PDF” InDesign format to a digital eBook for the iPad bookstore, the Amazon Kindle, the Barnes & Noble Nook, and other devices?  Then I think you’ll love this.

Last month I completed recording a new video tutorial title (2, actually) which I’d been planning (read: researching and revising, sweating buckets over) for over a year. “InDesign to EPUB, Kindle, and the iPad” was the most difficult title I’ve done to date because the field is changing so rapidly! Every week or two there would be new publishing venues (e.g., Google eBooks), new software programs (Sigil), new rules (I’m looking at you Apple). 

Finally in January of this year I took the advice of my producer, the ever-patient Kirk Werner, and simply applied a temporary stoppage on further research. Gah! It killed me. But that was the only way I could actually sit down and develop the course and its sample files.  In February I went in and recorded TWO versions of the title, one for InDesign CS5 users and one for InDesign CS4 users.

InDesign CS5 to EPUB, Kindle, and the iPad

InDesign CS4 to EPUB, Kindle, and the iPad

I hand-picked the free sample movies, so even if you don’t have a subscription, you should be able to learn a few things. Or, use my free 7-day trial for full access to all the movies.

From Creating to Selling

As usual, I like to start from the beginning, the questions I hear all the time from experienced designers and publishers: What’s an eBook, exactly? What’s the difference between a PDF and an EPUB? What format are Kindle books? How do I buy these things, how do I read them, how do I proof them without buying every device?

Then we go through prepping the InDesign file, exporting, tweaking, and testing. All that fun nitty-gritty stuff like how to create drop caps and pull-quotes, what software to use on Macs and PCs for editing EPUB files, what are some different approaches to creating Kindle books, how can you check to make sure your EPUB file passes validation checks.

Ffinally, I dive into the topics that I’m curious about myself, but I haven’t seen covered yet:  Getting an ISBN. Creating publisher accounts on the Apple iBookstore, the Kindle store, and other resellers so you can upload your books and sell them there. How much do they pay and what if you’re not in the U.S.? Selling eBooks on your web site or blog with ecommerce services that specialize in digital goods.

If you’re interested in any of these topics, you should know that I also teach it (on-site or over the web); and have created an InDesign to EPUB syllabus, both a one-day and a two-day format, roughly based on my title. Contact me or my Training Coordinator, sherri [at] senecadesign [dot] com (Sherri Austin), to learn more.

Comments (Subscribe to Comments RSS)

1 March 29, 2011 - 11:59am by Christian (not verified):

I just finished your tutorial for CS4 and it was GREAT! Thank you so much! I just have one question (for now, haha): When working with images, we have found that sometimes in the e-reader, the image is cut off at the bottom of the page and shows only half, then on the next page shows the bottom half of that same image. Is there anything I can do to fix this?

2 June 8, 2011 - 5:10pm by Yulie (not verified):

This is great! Made me want to write a book and publish it myself. was it all adlibed or were you scripted?

3 June 9, 2011 - 8:08am by Anne Marie:

Wow thanks Yulie!

All my videos are “ad libbed” just as though I were teaching a class. I often have a printout in front of me with four or five bullet points that I want to make sure I cover in the video, and I try to queue up any web sites before I turn on the record button.

It sounds pretty smooth not just because I’m so great LOL but because the video editors do an incredible job of cutting out my false starts and “uhs” and so on.

4 June 21, 2011 - 3:52pm by Michael Campbell (not verified):

I’ve created a lot of eBooks, and it’s a snaggy, confusing new sandbox for beginners and pros alike. I just viewed your CS5 to ePub video series, and it was so rich with useful information that I was sorry when it was over. Worth so much more than the cost.

5 July 18, 2011 - 6:05pm by Brendan Gallagher (not verified):

Hi Anne Marie,

First wanted to say your EPUB course is terrific. I”m still going through it but it has already caused a lot of tumblers to click into place.

Somewhere I read that you mentioned doing an update or new version that addresses the huge changes in InDesign 5.5, is that still going to happen or in a holding pattern.

I’m desperately trying to kludge together a workflow to producer EPUBs in Indesign and make them conform to Apple’s Fixed Layout format. I have Liz Castro’s mini-guide on the subject, but I didn’t know if her techniques could be applied to illustrated books assembled in IND 5.5.

I look forward to more from you on this and more EPUB topics. Great stuff.


6 July 19, 2011 - 8:14am by Anne Marie:

Thank you Brendan. My CS5.5 to EPUB video course should be released in early August.

7 August 15, 2011 - 12:35pm by Karen (not verified):

Hi Anne Marie

Your tutorials have been really helpful in learning the Epub process using 5.5. I’m converting a newsletter trying XML tagging vs using the Articles panel to see which technique is easier (two different files, of course). But I’ve run into a problem using tagging. All my copy is laid out in linked frames, so when I tag one frame, they ALL are tagged the same! Even if I break up the flow so that titles and body copy are in different frames, when I tag one as “Title” they all are tagged as “Title.” Any suggestions?

Thanks in advance!

8 August 15, 2011 - 1:07pm by Anne Marie:

You need to tag the *text* (not the frame) with “Title”. It’s a feature-not-a-bug that tagging one frame of a threaded story tags the entire story. Same is true for the Articles panel; dragging one frame over to the Articles panel actually adds the entire story (all the frames).

Personally I think that unless you’re starting with XML-tagged files to begin with, it’s easier to use the Articles panel.


9 August 15, 2011 - 3:37pm by Karen (not verified):

Thanks a lot, Anne-Marie! I’ll give that a try. Gotta love those “features!”

10 September 1, 2011 - 12:43pm by Edward (not verified):

Anne Marie,

I’ve watched all or most of the videos in the InDesign CS5 to ePub and Kindle videos on Great stuff! However, we have just ordered InDesign CS5.5. Do you have a list of videos that changed from the CS5 course to the CS5.5 course? Obviously a lot of the material is going to be the same so it could be a big timesaver for me to just view the videos that address the new features. Thanks in advance.

11 September 1, 2011 - 12:56pm by Anne Marie:

Hi Edward, you’re talking about my new InDesign CS 5.5 version of the course, released in July 2011?…

I can say that I redid chapters 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, and 9; but don’t have a list of specific videos that covered just the new features. Good idea, though. I’ll add it to the to-do list. :D

12 September 1, 2011 - 1:21pm by Edward (not verified):

Yes, that’s the one. After just completing the CS5 course and working out my own workflow based on your videos, it looks a bit daunting to go through the whole course again when, presumably, only certain videos have been changed. Thanks for giving me the chapter numbers. That definitely helps! I’ve heard that the CS5.5 improvements are largely to do with XHTML code generated and the handling of images. Is that correct?

13 September 1, 2011 - 1:37pm by Anne Marie:

Yes, but there are big changes in CS5.5 itself. You must watch the vids on using the Articles panel, adding ALT tags, rasterizing InDesign artwork, and mapping styles, at least.

14 December 9, 2011 - 9:23am by TOP (not verified):

Hi Anne Marie,

I have watched your Lynda’s “InDesign CS5 to EPUB, Kindle, and the iPad.” Here is my problem. I am able to place an OCRed PDF into CS5.5 Indesign, but I cannot access the text and the pages listed in a large document are only 3-4 pages when converted to epub, even though it may be 300 pages. I have several ebooks converted for me by an expensive company from PDFs,and the text can be accessed (copied) but I would like to learn how to do this myself because I have many books to convert from PDFs, MSWord, and WordPerf documents for numerous authors. HELP! By the way, your lessions were excellent. Many thanks.

TOP (The Old Paths Publications)

15 December 30, 2011 - 9:30am by Julie Oakley (not verified):

Hi Anne Marie
I have been using your course, which I think is terrific.

I’m using InDesign CS5 and need to convert some existing technical manuals to mobi and epub formats. However I find that with bullet points - even if they are a style based on the bodytext style the text comes out a bigger size than the bodytext and is justified even though the body text is ranged left. Do you have any suggestions on how i can fix that?

16 May 31, 2012 - 3:42pm by Bonnie Robinson (not verified):

I love your “InDesign CS5 to EPUB, Kindle, and the iPad.” and have learned tons of things. Everything was going great until it came to adding the interactive TOC. I have created an InDesign file which is 96 pages long. I have threaded text boxes of a book we want to convert to an epub. In order to add the interactive TOC I needed to insert a page into my spread. Doing this was fine except that when I create the interactive TOC it is not included in the threaded story so when exporting to epub it gets included at the end of the book!

I can not for the life of me figure out how to include the TOC into the threaded story. I have followed the directions of clicking on the output box of the frame before the TOC page, then I click on the TOC frame and it simply inserts a new text frame over the interactive TOC frame! Nothing seems to work. Do you have any suggestions?

17 June 22, 2012 - 4:32am by Bojan Živković (not verified):

I hope you will write a book on this very confusing topic, although there is nothing wrong with video tutorials I still prefer books.

18 July 16, 2012 - 6:15pm by Pete Hay (not verified):

I’m currently viewing InDesign CS4 to EPUB, Kindle, and iPad on . Are the various scripts mentioned collected somewhere for easy download?

19 August 22, 2012 - 8:11pm by Shazzorama (not verified):

Hi Anne Marie,

I love your course on Lynda.

I’m having trouble with the fact that I only have InDesign CS5 and can’t apply the techniques in the video I practiced on Lynda because it’s for newer versions with features I don’t have.

I’m stuck! I can’t separate images I anchored inside the text box from the text wrapping around them. All I want to do is have the image in the center with no text on either side. Text can only be above and below the images.

Is there a CS5 only version of your course for INDD to EPUB and Kindle? I’m desperate!

thanks for any advice.

20 December 17, 2012 - 10:29am by Ed Matte (not verified):

Hi Anne Marie

I just subscribed to and have been going through your epub courses and bought the DVD for CS6 to epub. Is there going to be an update for the Fixed Layout course to CS6 or is the information in the current course applicable to CS6?



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