Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Kindle Revisited (a publishing post - not hiking)

About a two years ago I posted on the process of putting our first two books on Kindle - converting-our-books-to-kindle-work-in.html. That involved getting a text file from the original page making software (Pagemaker and Indesign), and putting that text into a Word file just to get Word's ability to put out an html file. Getting the initial text was messy as I had the original Indesign CS. The easiest way to get text out of it was open it in Story Editor and cut and paste that text into Word. Then I would save as filtered web page to get html.

The resulting html was run into Mobipocket Creator, and the file out of Mobipocket Creator was one I could load directly onto my Kindle, and when satisfied, send to Amazon. Once the initial html file was created, I never went back to Word. Corrections were made by editing the html file with Notepad++. Mobipocket Creator also built the initial versions of the toc.ncx file and the contents.opf file. The toc file creates the little tab bar across the bottom of the Kindle screen, and the opf file is where you have the link to the cover image, to the table of contents in the book, and to the start point (page where you want the book to open when the reader first opens the book). This was tedious but straightforward. I had to get the color originals of all the book photos and recrop them for the Kindle size (600 x 755 leaves room for one legend line). A problem was chapter page breaks. That required using a Kindle special statement plus keeping everything but text out of the chapter heading h1 statement. The cover image was 1653 x 2500.

In the two years since that time new Kindles have come out, as well as new Ipads. I just finished putting our new book Patagonia Chronicle on  Kindle. It has to look good on all Kindle devices, and I only have the K3, a black and white version with a keyboard. Amazon has provided Kindle Previewer, which both simulates all Kindle and iOS (ixxx devices), and writes the mobi file which I load onto my Kindle for testing, and is submitted to Amazon when I like the results. Mobipocket Creator is still around, but I decided I needed to stay with current software, so used Kindle Previewer for this conversion.

I now have Indesign CS6, so getting the initial file out of it was easier. I chose output in epub format to a folder called KindleFinal. That automatically produced the initial toc.ncx file, content.opf file, as well as an xhtml file. They are initially hidden, as you see a single epub file out of Indesign. Then I created a folder inside the KindleFinal called something like Epub_Zipped_and_Unzipped_Originals. I moved that epub file into that folder, and renamed it from epub to zip. Next I extracted (unzipped) the entire zipped file into the same folder and looked at each file (with Notepad++). There was a container file, a css file, an xhtml file, a toc-ncx and a contents.opf, as well as an image file with all the images. The css and xhtml were very similar to the html file I worked with 2 years earlier, as was the toc-ncx and opf file. The opf had more stuff in it, as became obvious when I made changes later.

So, at this point I had the zip file in the zipped folder, as well as all its unzipped contents. I would do my edits on those unzipped files, then double click the zip file, which opened a separate window. I would drag the changed unzipped file into the zip file, and click add, repeating the process for each file changed.

2017 update. Had to make a change to existing Kindle book. When I dragged the updated file into the zip archive, it would fail in Kindle Previewer for file not found. Looking at all files display of zip archive, I saw that path for updated file was blank, while all others had a folder id. I put the zip archive in folder view, double clicked the appropriate folder so original file was displayed, and then dragged the updated file in. That worked.

Then on the zip file, I would hit File>Close Archive and exit the zip file. I would then copy the zip file into the outer KindleFolder file. In the outer file, I would rename that zip file back to epub, after backing up or deleting the epub file that was there from the last test. Once the corrected epub was in KindleFolder, I would start Kindle Previewer, and drag the epub into the Kindle Previewer window. That automatically starts the Kindlegen compile of the epub, and writes a file suitable for Amazon or my Kindle if there are minor or no errors. At the end of the generation, I click ok, and the simulated Kindle screen comes up, and I can see how it looks. I would repeat this till it looked good, and when appropriate, plug my kindle into my computer via the usb port and see how it looked on the Kindle. I repeated this process till everything looked good on my Kindle.

The surprises. I did some moving of photos and added some additional ones. This is when I found out that files are named in multiple locations in the epub. One is in the image folder, but they are also in the contents.opf, and I didn't realize that till I got the error msg.

Surprise two was the chapter pagebreaks. The didn't work when run through Kindle Previewer. I didn't believe this, though I had read it, because my earlier books still worked. I even went back to those earlier books and unconverted them from mobi to html,  and ran that identical html thru Kindle Previewer - the resulting file didn't pagebreak consistently. It worked when branched to directly from table of contents, but not when encountered by flipping through the pages, backwards or forwards. The only thing that would always page break is the start of a new file, i.e. each place I needed a pagebreak had to start a new file. My original single xhtml file ended up as 24 files. That was tedious because I had a lot of index entries pointing back all over the book, as well as endnotes all over the book pointing to the back of the book. All those simple bookmark entries had to be changed to links. My suggestion to others is when you export the epub from Indesign CS6, have it split the files at that point (on a paragraph style).

Surprise three was the Kindle Fire. I was stunned by how good the book looked with the chapter break images in color. I had no idea color would make that much difference. The not so good thing was that some formatting errors appeared that could not be ignored. Bullet points were the main issue. On the Fire, the bullets overprinted the first character. I resolved this using some techniques from Joshua Tallent's blog post http://ebookarchitects.com/blog/backwards-compatible-poetry-for-kf8mobi/ . This required putting tests for type of device in the css file as well as adding some code to the bullet point xhtml.

I found working with xhtml and a css file essentially the same as working with html. I had a book by Elizabeth Castro that I found valuable HTML, XHTML & CSS. Also, her blog, Pigs, Gourds and Wikis was helpful.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Patagonia Chronicle, out at last

Our hiking has suffered the last few months, as we first cautiously watched for success of Susan's new medication, and then focused every waking minute on getting Patagonia Chronicle: Walking to Torres del Paine out the door. It finally got up on Amazon a week or so ago, and we have fifty-some on hand. Much nicer than the earlier books where we would have about 3500 books arrive at the door and need to find a place to stash them in our tiny house.

I'm very proud of Susan and of what she has produced:

The book is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. It can be ordered from your local bookseller from Ingram. ISBN 978-0-936034-04-1

The description as it appears in various book catalogs:

Patagonia Chronicle: On Foot in Torres del Paine enables readers to gain a sense of the rewards and challenges of travel south of the 40th parallel in Chile and Argentina — Patagonia. Through journal entries, interviews, historic documents, and essays on subjects unique to the region, the reader samples the richness of the land and its peoples past and present.
The book is for anyone contemplating a hike in Chile’s most famous park. Hikers en route to Torres del Paine will benefit from the detailed park information with descriptions of the accommodations, trekking routes, and trails as well as time and mileage charts, suggested itineraries, and a trail elevation profile.
However, Patagonia Chronicle is more than a trekking guide to that spectacular park: it casts a much larger net. Practical information is abundant. As such, this book will appeal not only to hikers, but also to travelers of all stripes. Besides Torres del Paine, readers discover the gateway towns that most Patagonian travelers enjoy exploring such as: Punta Arenas, Puerto Natales, and El Calafate. They visit Los Glaciares National Park — home of Perito Moreno Glacier and Mount Fitz Roy.
Travelers will also find information about touring Chile’s and Argentina’s more temperate Lake Districts and several other national parks inside and outside of Patagonia. They’ll learn about Ushuaia—the hub for Antarctic visits. And, because most travelers to Patagonia will spend time in Santiago or Buenos Aires on their way farther south, they’ll find the colorful chapters on those capital cities helpful.
Finally, an underlying question raised in the book: how to gauge the risks and confront the fears that must be overcome when seeking adventure in unknown territory can be helpful and inspiring to any adventurer. In Patagonia Chronicle we learn that the author wants to backpack the Torres del Paine back country circuit, but she knows that the trek can range from a moderate activity to a life-threatening one — depending on the extremely unpredictable weather. In life there are always demons to slay: how does one decide when to continue on and when to turn back?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

GR65 Geneva to Le Grand Lemps, not Plan A, but an ok Plan B

Plan A was Geneva to Le Puy - 19 walking days, a fairly leisurely schedule we thought.

We flew into Geneva via London. Barely squeaked by on transfer time in London. Heathrow ran us out of our international flight, through immigration, out to the main area, and back through full security. At least the bag with our hiking poles was checked through to the final destination.

Geneva airport has a free ticket good for 80 minutes of public transport, bus or train, so we got the train, got off at station Cornavin and walked about six blocks north east to Geneva City Hostel. Spartan but clean 2 person room, and pastry and coffee available on the corner the next morning by 7am.

I'd carefully traced the GR65 route through Geneva on my gps map software before leaving home, as well as loading someone's gps track of the entire route to Le Puy, so wasn't concerned about navigating through Geneva. Fired up the gps, saw the city and streets with no problem, but absolutely no trace of my manually added route, or the trace I thought I had added. Knowing in general where the route left Geneva, we started walking southwest and in a while, spotted a pilgrim route marker on a building corner, and between the two of us, managed to follow the markers out of town, and crossed into France before lunch.

It wasn't till I got home that I realized that the French-German guidebook had a map of the route thru Geneva right in the front of the book.

 Much of the day was easy walking, though it was a little warm, but the final push up a long uphill had us both exhausted by the time we reached our first gite - the Fromagerie at Beaumont. No host around, but we settled in, and soon a neighbor stopped by to tell us that the owner would be back later, and his kids would bring us supper.

We were out early the next morning. The photo timestamp says 5:12am. The days were long, and it was early, but I am not totally confident about that timestamp.

This is strikingly beautiful country, brilliant greens, a lot of ups and downs, as our legs were telling us.
This day ended at Chaumont's municipal gite, nice looking, but the sleeping area had no windows and was claustrophobic, so we ended up dragging some mattresses out on the concrete front porch for the night. Monte Blanc was in sight in the eastern sky.

Soon after this the weather began to change. We dropped down to Seyssel on the Rhone, where it was 40 degrees C, and then began to rain. Over the next few days, we noticed that this was a pattern, temperature going up means rain. Definitely no bland boring cloudless skys!

This is all heavy snow country in the winter. Every house has huge piles of firewood, and you see large stacks in the forest. Sleds and similar sit in the yards.

Municipal gite at Chaumont
Chanaz was the next night - pouring rain, and when we finally found the  chambre d'hôte we had reserved, locked and no note or host to be found. This is about a steep a little village as you can imagine and by the time we had found our lodging we had trudged up and down several times. So, we asked at the El Camino gite next door, if they knew our host. No, but they were extremely helpful, and let us stay in their gite for an hour until our hostess finally showed up. El Camino wasn't listed in any of the guides, but was very nice. We would have stayed there if we had not made the other reservation. Didn't want to give pilgrims a bad name by cancelling reservations at last minute. However, if you go to Chanaz, stay at El Camino.

This country is roughly the latitude of Washington state, and has corresponding greenery and weather. Abandoned buildings soon disappear in the shrubbery.
View at Chaumont
Rhone at Seyssel
En route to Yenne
Looking back up the Rhone
The very welcome bar/gite Domaine des Chamois at St. Maurice de Rotherens
Most of the time we were able to find a gite or chambre d'hote, but sometimes there were also Accueil jacquaires. This is a room in an individual's home, who for reasons of faith support pilgrims. We only stayed in one of these once, where there was not another choice, as we did not want to take lodging from someone who might really need it. (they are usually donativo basis). We were not as budget constrained as those planning to go all the way to Santiago. Our stay at one in Valencogne was a very nice experience.
Our Accueil jacquaire room in the Valencogne marie bldg
Our next and last hiking day stay was at La Ferme du Futeau. They were in a state of mourning. There had been two deaths in the family recently, including the woman who used to be the hostess. Her husband and her mother were trying to carry on the business.

Susan in a revealing photo
During this day, Susan's shin had become very painful to the touch. When we looked at it, there was noticeable swelling. We diagnosed it as shin splints. The next morning, we wrapped it with an Ace bandage before descending the very steep path down to Le Grand Lemps. By the foot of the hill, it was obvious that we could not go on. Plan B had to go into effect. With the help of Le Poste staff, we found a taxi to take us to La Cote St. Andre, our planned night's stop. By the next morning, swelling and redness had spread further, and we ended up going by emergency vehicle to a nearby clinic where they diagnosed it as an infection and prescribed antibiotics. By the following morning the redness was gone, but swelling remained and it was still extremely painful at one location. Short summary - 10 more days in France Grenoble and Lyon, including hospital visit and xrays, swelling gradually diminished, some suspicion of hairline fracture but nothing showed in xrays.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

experiences with a stand up desk, or a reasonable facsimile

Standing Desk
I was doing some mundane household task the other day, stomping, bending over, repeating the process. Suddenly this acute pain at the base of my spine told me that I shouldn't have done that. Multidays with vitamin I (ibuprofen) have vastly improved the situation. Fortunately, walking only makes things better so my hiking days are not a problem. What does not help is sitting at the computer all day.

I've sometimes thought about the health aspects of a desk where I stood, rather than sat, but never acted on it. Once more those thoughts came up. This time I decided I had materials on hand that would allow me to do a test. Boxes of books got the monitor and keyboard up to standing height, and a multi level in-out basket got the mouse up. I was good to go. 

After a couple of days of use, my back was normal enough to resume sitting, and I had learned a couple of things about using a standing desk.

1. You need more than just the monitor, keyboard, etc. raised. I found that I also required a working surface at that height. So in a real installation, the footprint would have to include a large hard surface suitable for writing, placing books, documents, a light and so on.

2. It's hard to stand and think. I know that now you are wondering how I manage to walk about without getting run over, but that is more of an instinctual awareness. The problem is contemplative thought. I find that requires sitting or repetitive motion. The relaxation that lets thoughts flow freely isn't compatible with standing in one place. If you Google for "stand and meditate" the first hit says "you cannot stand and meditate..."

Friday, April 27, 2012

No Condor sightings, but a fine adventure - an overnight at Pinnacles National Monument

We realize our Geneva to Le Puy walk is soon going to be upon us, but the planned training program keeps going awry. Life interferes. It may be that as usual, we defer training till on the trail. However, months ago, Susan booked a campsite at Pinnacles National Monument. This place has had a particular attraction for me, ever since I heard that the California Condor Recovery Program was releasing birds at Pinnacles.

As is usual, when the reserved date comes up, we have other pressing tasks, but we ignore them, throw sleeping bags and backpack cooking supplies in the car and take off. Three hours later, and almost due south, we arrive. Thirty miles away the temperature was moderate - 74F. As we wind up the road to the east side entrance, the temperature is creeping up, 76, 78, 80, 82, 84... We endure. Arriving, we find our site, location 68. Very nice. Private, Quail running around, a few lizards. It is still early, so we leave a few objects to show that the site is occupied, and drive up to the Bear Gulch Caves Trail trailhead. I've neglected to inform you of the ? there should be some fancy French term - Cause de Existance? for the reason the place was made a monument, way before the transplanted Condors. It seems that in Lancaster, California, near Los Angeles and some 250 miles south of Pinnacles National Monument, you can find half of a Miocene Volcano, and at Pinnacles on the other side of the San Andreas Fault, the one that shook San Franciso, you can find the other half of the volcano, or at least its core, expressed in pinnacles that climbers and raptors love.
As the fault continues to move north, an inch or so a year. Rocks fall, wedge narrow gaps, and provide caves that bats love, and visitors scramble through.

Once you've scrambled through, there are multiple options, but we headed for the High Peaks Trail, which turned out to have handrails, and steps blasted out of the rocks.
A nice trail, but I recommend doing it at an earlier hour or later hour than 2pm on a hot day.

Finally got back to our campsite, late in the afternoon, setup our tent, twice, as the first time we noticed a milling of ants as they searched for their burrow, under the tent. Had our meager backpack supper, our not so meager glass of wine and went to bed.

Next am, at the first hint of dawn, I was up heating water for coffee and tea, and coaxed Susan out shortly thereafter. After our morning gruel we headed out for the Old Pinnacles Trailhead, and another tunnel/cave. Raptors were in full force, the cliffs streaked with guano, and large soaring vulture type birds overhead. Think they were turkey vultures, though. No white on the underside of the wings. We went thru the cave going west, and on the return took the high cliffs trail. All of these trails were gorgeous. Lupines, paintbrush, other wildflowers all over. Some water in the streams. March, April is a good time to visit. Of course the San Francisco earthquake was in April of 1906, and is due for a re occurrence. As ;you look around, there is a whole history of falling rocks.

But, no condors. When we get home, our friend Tom sends us his youtube of his Pinnacles visit, including of course, condors.

Condors or not, this is a worthwhile trip in the winter or spring. In the heat of summer, maybe not.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Evolution of a spine OR how we moved to print on demand

For years, our house has been characterized by piles of boxed books. One row of such boxes piled five high provides a shelf for Susan's office. Another such row serves as a quasi room divider for the little office space I have carved out of our living room. Each time we sell out a printing, there is a rush to incorporate any corrections or minor updates to the prior printing and get another load of boxes in to be stored.

Well, no more. There is this concept that I love. Someone wants a book, or boxes of books and they are printed to order, and shipped out directly from the printer, never touching our hands. All we have to do is send off a pdf file to the printer - actually two files, one for the interior and one for the cover. Print on Demand or POD.

So our plan was to move the Mountains book to POD the next time it sold out, which we expected in Feb or March. That was a good plan, but it sold out in Nov, so I learned POD by doing. In the US there are two main POD printers, Createspace which is owned by Amazon, and Lightning Source which is owned by Ingram - a major intermediary of books. The recommended plan for small publishers is to put your POD book on both Createspace and Lightning Source, to get it the most exposure and availability.

When you get to the nitty gritty, these two printers have slightly different requirements, so I ended up doing two interior files, because of the margin requirements, and two covers because of slight bleed differences. Those differences were easily handled. The interior reflowed to a couple pages more than the last printing, due to some additional experience based info added to the how to part, and also the margin changes. Any page reflow requires checking every index entry, so that was the major interior work.

The biggest problem was common to both - the book spine. POD printing is less precise than offset printing. If you look at our offset press original, the leftmost book in the image above, you can see that the spine background color is white and the cover is a dark contrasting color. In addition there is an image on the spine that goes right to the edge of the spine. That is a no-no for POD. No sharp lines that define the spine cover boundary because the printing tolerances of POD are not exact enough to guarantee that you will not have a fraction of the cover showing along the spine, or vice versa. The cover and spine have to blend so that this is not noticeable.

Our solution was to wrap the front cover around the spine and onto the back, and then to change the font color so the title would still stand out. The image above shows our evolution to the finished product. There are four covers that are just folded test covers. We had to make the mountain higher so that all the letters had a dark background. Then we tried several font colors - white was best. The last two are the actual POD books. Lightning Source is the thinnest due to its use of a lighter weight paper. The little image had to be further cropped on the sides, but overall, I was quite pleased with the results from both of those POD printers.