How to turn your blog into an ebook.

Converting a blog or blog post collection into an ebook sounds like work. It might bring to mind laborious efforts of copy and pasting into InDesign, and then fighting formatting to get the same content to work as a PDF as well as other ebook formats. Ugh.

Papyrus Editor is a service that works on making that a bit easier, and it almost seems too good to be true. And, while it does have flaws, it’s a great little service that will at least help remove the barrier to entry for many bloggers when it comes to creating ebooks for their website.

Your Blog As An Ebook

According to Papyrus Editor, you can convert an entire blog automatically just by providing a URL. Unfortunately, it doesn’t do the whole blog. In my case, it converted the five most recent posts, hardly the full 1000+. Why just five posts?

Because that’s what I have set for my feed on WordPress, so it’s actually only going to grab those posts. Perhaps this will change in the future. So no. You’re not going to get your whole blog. At least, I didn’t.

Papyrus Ebook

It only grabbed my most recent posts, available based on my blog’s feed settings.

The better option?

You can also choose specific blog posts for your ebook, and it works well. This makes it easy to create ebooks based on topics you’ve blogged about, which is a bit more useful than a huge lump sum of blog posts. I made a book featuring my Minnesota Vikings blog posts, because who wouldn’t want to read that?

Easy User Interface

The user interface is decent. There are a few odd moments where buttons disappear and nav bars hide behind others. Once in a while the save bar hides behind the tool bar. Maybe it’s shy. In Chrome, mouseover doesn’t tell me much about the buttons. There are two arrow buttons I’m still not clear on what they do.

Overall, though, the system makes it easy to work on an ebook with minimal effort.

Templates

Papyrus Editor gives you some preset templates to use, which you can customize to a limited extent. I hope to see a more flexible system when it comes to choosing templates and layout options.

The templates aren’t too bad, but there are some arbitrary restrictions that you can’t control when it comes to output. There is some font wonkiness, with spacing, on some of the templates. It’d be nice to be able to set up a custom template list that you can just quickly refer to and use each time, complete with stock copy for the publisher page and so forth. You can customize templates now, but a dedicated “create your template” would be better.

Still, with the templates you have, you can hop in and get started without having to make design decisions if you wanted.

Drag-and-Drop

The interface is fairly intuitive and the post-by-post import works smashingly easy.

The drag-and-drop chapter feature is amazing. It reminds me of different “write in a block” writing software I’ve tried where you write your book in chunks and drag and drop them where you want them to go. It is extremely handy to be able to manipulate your chapters and sections like this.

Photos, Cover, And Copy

There are limitations to what you can do with your copy. I’d like the option to indent a paragraph, or create that gray box that the new Kindle devices will handle. Understandably, some limitations make sense, considering that all of the things you’d like to do with a regular blog post aren’t going to translate well to all ebook formats, but there could be a few more options.

An option to strip formatting out of content imported from URL would be useful. Some of the content from my blog is formatted in a way that needs to be removed in an ebook, but it unfortunately stays in place. For example, Click To Tweet boxes show the whole paragraph as linked. That’s not useful.

Photos import fairly well. There are some resizing issues (which you can manually adjust). The don’t always stay centered in your exported files, either. Do be sure your images are sized optimally. They are crunched down for the MOBI and EPUB, but for the PDF they stay at a high resolution. I had a book that had many images and had assumed they’d all be crunched down and optimized, but that was not the case for the PDF. The full download was 25MB, which is too much for the book I had made. I had to go back and reduce the image size to 600 x 450 at 72dpi.

Of interest for U.S. readers, the front cover image is not a standard 8.5 x 11 size, and I can’t find anywhere where it tells me how big my cover file should be. So, I’ve had to do some odd stretching to make my covers work as I figure out the sizing. The cover is super important, and it’s unfortunate that there’s some clunkiness with that. You can upload a background instead of placing an image, but a high res cover means you get a corner of your image which you have to drag to size. Ideally, you’d select what image you wanted as a cover from an uploaded media bin, click it, and it would fit fully. Suggestions on the ideal pixel/size would be helpful for proportion’s sake.

Three Ebook Formats

Papyrus Editor produces a PDF, Kindle (MOBI) and EPUB format.

The Kindle export works pretty good, which is nice, since that is the tough one to export from InDesign. You do get a clickable Table Of Contents with the export without any headache. Considering the different Kindle devices, it tests pretty well in all of them. Once in a while there’s a spacing oddity, but generally I was pleased with the output.

The EPUB is OK as far as I’m aware. I can’t say I tested it extensively, as I don’t use iOS or other readers that use it.

The PDF is the tricky part. The PDF export isn’t where it needs to be. The bottom 1/3 of the page ends up blank, sometimes leaving a single line hanging alone on the next page. I don’t mind a chapter break – I rather expect it. But the current export is more than that, and is not really acceptable.

Papyrus Editor Review

An unfortunate PDF glitch makes it not fully acceptable for creating PDFs.

I emailed support at Papyrus Editor (and they respond very quickly, I might add, and are quick to work with you on a fix), and I was told it has to do with their algorithm in determining allotted space. They pushed a fix, and it was slightly improved after it, but the end result is still spotty.

I found I was breaking my paragraphs up unnecessarily small in order to avoid large blocks of text which apparently Papyrus views as unbreakable, like a photo, and not something it can break and flow onto the next page. I have a feeling they’ll continue to work on this. For now, your PDFs aren’t going to be extremely pretty. If you want super pretty PDFs, you’ll have to use InDesign. While InDesign gives you a sexier PDF, I find saving time really sexy, too. Papyrus Editor will save you some time.

Selling Your Ebook

You can give your book away, or sell it.

Papyrus Editor automatically works with Gumroad, so if you give it a price you’ll have it listed there. You also receive an email with the cover image and all three formats so you could easily upload to Amazon or to your own site to sell as you wanted. If you don’t want to use Gumroad, publish it for free, but make it private.

How awesome would it be if you could automatically upload your Kindle ebook to your account on Amazon, making it easy to sell there?

Is It For Non-Bloggers?

Even if you don’t have a blog, you can still use this system.

There is nothing stopping you from writing directly in the interface. You can copy and past other writing in there. It isn’t just a blog-to-ebook system, but an overall system for creating ebooks which has some handy tools for bloggers as well.

If you want to make ebooks to sell or distribute, you can use Papyrus Editor with or without a blog.

Get To It ASAP

I’m still waiting for the inevitable email that always comes from these online services where it says “we’re sorry, but we’re ending our service because Huge Company A bought us and we’re thrilled”, or the “We are closing our doors download your content goodbye” email, one of the two.

Right now, it’s new and awesome. Completely intuitive. Even though there are some areas of improvement, it’s still pretty easy to use. There’s no reason you shouldn’t create some ebooks right now, particularly if you have a blog. Be sure that you have a different account if you have different authors, because the name on your account will be the author reflected on the cover page.

And, finally for the record, no one paid me to write this post, or asked me to.

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Comments

  1. says

    Interesting. Thanks. One of my longer-term blogfriends once used… uh… is it Blurb? Yeah: http://www.blurb.com/ — the end result was okay, but if you do a lot of stuff with embedded audio/video (as she did) you’re SOL.

    [Btw, off-topic: down here in the comments section there's a tab or something which reads "N replies." The value of N always seems to be one greater than I expect it to be. (Right now it says 4 -- but the only replies showing are your three pingbacks from Twitter.) Maybe N includes comments in moderation or something? Not a big deal, just curious.]

  2. says

    Ooooh, more details on that N: N is the SUM of comments, Tweets, FB shares, and miscellaneous pingbacks. So the whole line now reads 5 Replies – 1 Comment (the one I just posted) – 4 Tweets (???) – 0 Facebook – 0 Pingbacks. Which makes sense except for the 4 Tweets.

  3. says

    The fourth tweet in question was that little Retweet that is subset under my initial tweet. I use a commenting system that includes social activity because it makes it seem like my blog has really active comments.

    Even though most of them are me tooting my own horn.

  4. says

    Thanks a lot, Julie for this honest feedback.
    We have noted the suggestions that you made to improve the service and are working hard to improve them.

    If you, and the readers of this blog need any assitance, please drop me an email at gaurav@papyruseditor.com
    Gaurav,
    Developer, PapyrusEditor