With Midnight Hour soon to be available in electronic book form, I wanted to share the process of transforming our printed books from hard copy to an updated electronic version.
At first, the idea of turning a print book into an electronic book seemed simple. Since I have a background in design and layout, and I keep up on technology, the plan seemed doable.
And it was. The result are two books that look professionally designed. Currently Eleventh Hour is for sale and Midnight Hour is on its way.
The process wasn’t without its hiccups, however. First of all, the rights to the original printed works didn’t come with a complementary electronic file. The publisher was unable to provide one, which meant it was up to me to scan the pages and convert the content using OCR (optical character recognition).
Tools for scanning and initial layout:
OpenOffice Writer: I used OpenOffice, not just because it’s free and I didn’t have Microsoft Office, but because it seemed to be easier for this particular application. I did compare the two, but OpenOffice worked very well.
HP F4400 flatbed printer/scanner: I did use this printer/scanner because it was the only thing I had available at the time. But it worked well for the scanning process and the OCR output was pretty accurate.
Scanning process and initial layout:
I set up an OpenOffice chapter template for the approximate size of fiction book, partly because I wanted an idea how it would look in its finished electronic format, and partly because when referencing corrections between the physical book and the electronic word processing copy, it would be easier to locate the correction if I were somewhere in the ball park of the manuscript.
Before scanning the book, I simply cut the pages from the binding. I scanned the pages using an HP F4400 flatbed printer and the accompanying software, which uses Readiris technology. I scanned using the Text (OCR) to RTF File selection. I then used OpenOffice and imported the .rtf file into the document.
Each chapter I scanned, I subsequently put into its own OpenOffice word processing document. It was easier to manage short files than one large file.
Although converting the scanned text to characters was pretty accurate, the formatting caused the most inconvenience. I was actually happy that much of the formatting transferred over, because purely plain text doesn’t keep preferences such as italics and even paragraphs. Still, there was some clean-up to do. At this point, however, all the manual labor was done and the next step was for us to do an initial edit and proofread of the chapters.
NEXT: Style preferences and proofreading
NOTE: Remember to respect intellectual property and copyright laws.