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How to create your own e-book

By Dualmasti - Monday, May 28, 2012


Books are a necessity for students and for working professionals. There’s no way of avoiding the PDF format. Paper might be the best medium but the ease of eBooks makes it worth the switch. A lot of us are busy and need our huge collection of books with us while travelling. eBooks make it possible. There are plenty of eBook readers and we’ve seen plenty more at CES this year. But what if you wanted your text books, journals, etc in the eBook format? There’s only
one way – make your own !

All you need really is a scanner and if you don’t, a camera will do just fine. The software required for the process is all available for free. Theoretical books are best converted to PDFs. With diagrams and pictures, things become very complicated for free OCR software and it can get cumbersome. The only simple solution you have is Adobe Acrobat Professional. It would be simple to use just images as PDFs but then each eBook would cross a couple of hundred megabytes each. We’ll use free OCR software to convert these images into text. FreeOCR (www.freeocr.net) is one of the simplest and cheapest alternatives to expensive packages such as Adobe Acrobat Professional. Download and install the program while you’re connected to the internet. The installer downloads some packages during the installation process.

Step 1 : From paper to the screen

FreeOCR allows pages to be scanned directly into it. Place the book spread on the flatbed  scanner and close the scanner top. Set the scan settings to black and white if possible. Make sure there is no dirt or complicated patterns on the screen. In the FreeOCR window, clear the sample text by clicking on the Clear Text Window button at the center of the window. Then, click on Scan. FreeOCR might ask you to select your scanner if you have many devices connected to the PC.


Converting of images and scanned pages into
simple text in FreeOCR
If you don’t have a scanner, a decent camera will do. Click photos of the pages straight down and with as little page-folding as possible. Click all the photos in a sequence and you remember the first photo of the sequence.

Step 2 : Images to text

Once you have all the pages scanned and properly named on your drive, it’s time to start converting them to text. But first, you need to select the region you want to convert to text.

                              PDFCreator creates PDFs out of pretty much everything you normally print

You wouldn’t want the page numbers, the page titles to come in between the text. There is a selection tool in the left toolbar. Click it and choose the area of the page you want converted to text.

Once that’s done, click the OCR button. The text should convert to plain text in the window on the right. OCR software aren’t good at detecting line breaks, so we need to get rid of them so the text flows well as a paragraph. Click on the Text menu and click Remove Line Breaks. This saves you the effort of manually removing every line break in the scanned text. FreeOCR will remove all of the line breaks. Browse through the text to find any spelling mistakes and hyphens or other special characters. Follow the same steps for all the pages you need to scan.

Step 3 : Text to eBooks

Once the text is finalised, it’s time to copy it to a word processor to fine tune and format the text. Click on the Word icon and a new word document will be opened with the text in it. If you are using any other word processor or page layout utility, you can simply copy and paste the text to it. PDF has become a standard for eBooks because of the way it looks. Fonts look smoother and you can resize without degrading the quality. The file size is also small which makes it portable. We’ll use a free PDF creator called PDFCreator (http://sourceforge.net/projects/pdfcreator/) to convert our plain text files into PDFs. Once installed, use the word processor or layout software to print the pages/book. PDFCreator makes a virtual printer that outputs PDF files to the disk. Select this PDFCreator printer. You’ll be prompted to enter details for the PDF being created. You can also change the compression settings for to reduce file size.

And that’s it. You have your eBook PDF ready. You can carry it everywhere you go – your netbook or your mobile – and since ebook readers are rapidly gaining popularity, even on your eBook reader.

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