Using Publish eBook to Create PalmDoc Books
#1  Bob Russell 07-09-2005, 11:28 AM
Want to create PalmDoc documents for eReader from text or MS Word documents?

There's an approach I tried recently that might just be exactly what you want if you have MS Word on a Windows PC... it's a utility available at the Publish eBook Website from Peter Gorod. (See the author's previous MobileRead post.) One of the advantages of this tool is that it is supposed to be able to carry over a lot of formatting.

The macro is based on the Word2PML macro, but Peter said he's not sure who wrote that so couldn't give proper credit. The utility is free, but is released as "charityware" which means that if you like it, you are asked to give something to a Catholic charity.

Here's the basic idea of how to get started.

1) You download the zip file from the website, and extract the contents into a directory. No "installation" is necessary. It includes a MS Word document with macros in it. It's been tested in MS Word 2002 (XP), but may work in other versions as well. It also includes the DropBook1.5.2.exe utility from the Motricity/eReader folks, which is the engine that makes it all work.

2) You open the following document in MS Word: Publish eBook.doc
Make sure that you have reduced the Word macro option to medium security, or it won't run. You don't start any programs. The system is VB scripts in the "Publish" document, so you run it by opening that Word document, which includes a page with some options to set and a "Publish eBook" button to get it started with a conversion.

That's all there is to it!
But a few things that I learned in my brief trial that you should keep in mind...

* Here's what it does behind the scenes. It grabs the text or HTML source file and converts it into a .pml (Palm Markup Language?) file that is what DropBook uses as input. That's created in the same directory as the source document. Then it launches DropBook to produce a PalmDoc document (in the same directory as the source file and the pml file.) If you choose the options, you can have it automatically delete the intermediate pml file, and automatically set it up in the installer to hotsync to your device on the next hotsync. I prefer to do that transfer with my card reader, though.

* Don't use any non-text characters in the title of the book. (You'll probably be prompted for a title if you start with a text file. But I think it grabs title and author metadata from Word documents automatically.) If you use something like a dash in the title, like I did, you'll get error messages.

* If you get far enough to get a .pml file, but can't finish the conversion to .pdb, you can always use DropBook manually. Nothing to it -- you just run it, point to the .pml file, and click on convert. It's so fast on my text full-length book that I wasn't sure if it even did anything!

* Check to make sure that the source document text flows properly. I originally had some problems with short lines on my pda screen, but this is not a problem special to this utility. If you have a paragraph mark at the end of every line, you will want to do something like the following to prepare the file.
Change every single occurance paragraph mark to a space, but keep the double paragraph marks to handle regular paragraph breaks. In MS Word:
1) Replace all ^p^p with <p> (or if that occurs in the document, use something unique instead)
2) Replace all ^p with a space
3) Replace all <p> with ^p^p
4) Save as a .txt file with Windows default char set and don't choose CR/LR option for each line.

You can test the results by opening in notepad and shrinking the width of the window. It should flow properly if the CR at the end of each line is gone.

This trick works for other document conversions, and may also be helpful if you just want to read a txt file from iSilo and want it to flow right.
If you run into trouble, there's even a forum where you can post issues.

If you try it, let us know what you think. All in all, I found it to be a very nice way to create PalmDoc documents. I hope Peter continues to support it as we move to Longhorn and future Office versions.

#2  Colin Dunstan 07-09-2005, 11:35 AM
I tried that macro a few months ago but never came to the point of using it. What is the advantage of using eReader over other e-book readers such as iSilo or Plucker, only that it is more difficult to convert source material? As far as I see it, eReader only offers one "advantage" to publishers: it's DRM. Am I wrong?

#3  Bob Russell 07-09-2005, 11:55 AM
Can't explain why very well, but I prefer to read eBooks in eReader. It has a good feel to me. I guess part of it is that I like the background and the font. And I plan to (finally) buy a dictionary for it because I really like having the ability to look up words easily on the fly.

I also like that it's not iSilo. I had better explain that, because I love iSilo so it's not that iSilo isn't good enough or anything. What I mean is that I use iSilo all the time, and for all kinds of reading including some books and mostly for web clipping to read on the go. But I like having a separate application, eReader, with a different style (I suppose that it feels different to me mostly because of the way you open a book and because of the font/background texture), and completely devoted to reading books. When I open it up, I don't have to look for my book. It's right there and I can just start reading without thinking about where it is. No big deal, but there's something pleasant about having your book just open up for you when you launch.

I don't mind DRM as much if it's just a novel or current events sort of book that I read and throw away, so I like having lots of real "commercial" books available for eReader. But, yeah, I don't buy any books with DRM that I might want to keep long term, because they're too dependent on the technology.

[Edit] Oh, forgot to also mention.... as far as the trouble to convert, it's not a big deal to me because reading a book is such a major investment of time. So I really don't mind taking a few minutes to prepare the ebook for the format I want.

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