Why Are You Using Word to Write Your Ebook?

I am about to tell you a secret that many ebook producers would like you to never find out—using Word is not the best way to produce your ebooks.

That’s right, probably the best known “fact” about writing electronic books is a lie.

You’re now telling me “but Amazon says to use Word!” Yes, they do. And so does almost every other ebook publishing site out there. In fact, most of the information you can find about writing ebooks assumes that you’re using Microsoft Word and implies that there is no other way to do it.

Why Using Word is a Bad Idea

Some of the most common formatting problems that occur in ebooks happen because of things Word is doing behind the scenes. The problem is that Microsoft Word is not a text editor—it’s a word processor. And it is processing those words into a document format (DOCX) that is designed for printing. When you use it to create an ebook, your words are first processed into the Word format and then that is converted into the ebook format (epub, Kindle/mobi, etc.).

In theory this shouldn’t be a problem as Word uses XML, but the problem comes when you are writing your book. There are a few things that can happen to cause formatting errors in an ebook that will be invisible in Word. Things like:

  • Invisible formatting codes can cause spaces in the middle of words.
  • Characters that look correct in Word, end up muddled or just wrong in your ebook.
  • Spacing that is precise down to the partial inches in Word displays incorrectly in your ebook.

And there are other problems that crop up with Word-created ebooks. But what I find most interesting is that no one questions the first premise—using Word. Instead, people blame themselves, their editors, the tools they use to convert Word to ebooks, and anything else they can think of.

I would like to propose a new way of creating ebooks. Kick Word to the curb and use the skills and tools you already have for blogging to build ebooks that work.

Use Your Blogging Skills to Create Ebooks More Efficiently

You may be surprised to learn that you can use what you already know because you’re a blogger to create ebooks that work without using Word. But it’s true. And if you’re like me, you’ll find that it’s easier than using Word becuase you’re using tools that you’re already familiar with.

Here are some simple steps you can use to create an ebook without using Word:

  1. Write your ebook chapters using your blog software. Use either the visual or the text editor and write the chapter like you would write any blog post. The only difference is that your chapters are probably going to be longer than your posts. I like to save my chapters as draft posts, so they aren’t live on my site, but you can post them to your site, or use blog posts you’ve already written.
  2. The only thing that will be missing from your chapter written in the blog tool is paragraph markers. Most blogs add them automatically after you publish. But even if you’re not publishing your chapter, you can add them in. Simply click on the “Preview Changes” button and then view the source for the preview page. Search for the first line of your chapter. Then highlight the <p> tag right before the first line, and then copy your entire chapter, down to the very last line. Paste the chapter into a text editor like Notepad, and add a </p> at the very end.
  3. Save the chapters in an HTML ebook template.
  4. Open the file in an ebook editor like Calibre.
  5. Convert the file in Calibre to whatever ebook format you like.

About Jennifer Kyrnin

Jennifer Kyrnin has been teaching people how to publish online content since 1997. She writes the About.com site about HTML and web design. She has published several books on web design and writing online and has assisted authors in creating ebooks and publishing their work and making money doing it!