Conversion From Hardcover to E-book.

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A couple of years ago I was commissioned to convert the books of author/comedian Larry Wilde from their original paperback and hard cover to E-Book for the first time. Larry’s represented by my client He was a great sport about the entire thing and really appreciated that his work would be available in digital form for the first time. What follows is my conversion process..

Larry had written around 50 joke books in the 70’s and 80’s and if you were around books back then you probably recognize titles like “The Official Polish Joke Book” and the “The Official Dog Lovers Book” etc.

Larry and famed joker Steve Wozniak of Apple even teamed up to write The Official Computer Geeks Joke Book which was a fun one to convert.

Here’s what you need to get this done;

-A circular saw

-Form fed scanner with minimum 600 dpi

-Abby Finereader OCR software

-Caliber E-Book software

-Microsoft Word

-A solid full day for one book.


Step 1. Literally saw the spine off of the book. Its got to fit through your scanner. If you need to keep your physical book without destroying it, you will need a very expensive photographic scanner with a robotic arm and this tutorial is not for you.

Give yourself enough room so that your scanner can pick up the text on all of the pages. Do not worry about title or copyright pages, e-books have different formatting for them anyway. If converting a hardcover, you might find it easier to take off the cover with an exacto blade first.

And if sawing isn’t your thing at all, take it Kinko’s and they’ll laugh at you, then they’ll do it with a press.

Step 2. Feed that thing into a scanner. You don’t need some crazy high speed scanner, anything form fed with a minimum 600 dpi will do. If your pages are very old and thin, you made need to feed one to five pages at a time anyway.

Keep it all very organized, you’re going to have to flip those pages over once you’re done so you scan in the reverse side of each page.

Step 3. Save your scans as a .tif and open them in AbbyFineReader.

Download the demo and try it out first. Right now you should have two files, one multi-page tif for the front of each page, and another multi-page tif for the reverse. The page count on each should be identical. Import both into a new doc in Abby, and then immediately tell Abby to sort and combine the pages evenly. This may take you a couple of tries to get the sorting right. Check the page numbers at bottom of each page before moving forward.

Step 4. Are your page numbers correct? Good, crop the template of the document so you are only going to scan the body content of the book. You’re going to get new page numbers soon anyway.

Step 5. Tell Abby to scan your project file using optical character recognition for use in Microsoft Word. You may need to fine tune options for this part depending on the style, font and degradation of your book.

Step 6. Open up the project file in Microsoft word, here you’re going to fix everything that Abby misinterpreted. ‘Find and Replace’ will come in handy with operations like: ‘Find [double-space] and replace with [single space]’

Step 7. Read the book. That;s right, that’s why you need at least a whole day. There is no OCR in the world that is going to get it 100% right for you 100% of the time, so you need to breeze through the thing and get it legible for your ebook.

Step 8. Add a cover page in Word. Or better yet, design yours in Adobe Illustrator if you can swing it, then export as a high res jpg and import the cover art back in to Word. Highlight the chapter titles on each chapter, and set them as Headings. Then tell Word to create a ‘Table of Contents’ page for these chapter headings.

Step 9. Export and import into Caliber

Caliber is going to take care of all of the weird e-book formatting requirements layed on you by Amazon, Barnes and Noble and so forth, but not iTunes. For your book to be on iTunes you are going to need to use iBooks Author

Does your client want their ebook to be listed everywhere? Then you need to use both, sorry buddy.

Fly through the tutorials for both programs to add the correct metadata for each vendor, set the cover to their requirements, and run automated formatting checks on your work before submitting the e-book in epub format for publishing. With a bit of luck and some retries or twelve your old dusty book ends up for sale on the internet, like for forever, Just like all of Larry & Steves..
Hardcover to E-book