Publishing to Nook (Barnes & Noble ePub)

In my last post I outlined how to create a good, clean Word 97-2003 document formatted for the Kindle (Amazon KDP).

While generally most writers enjoy better digital sales on the Kindle platform than the Nook, it’s worth investing the time to make work available in as many formats as possible for readers who may prefer one platform over another.

A place such as Smashwords can greatly facilitate getting work into the various formats for the respective platforms.

For the do-it-yourself types, here is my guide.

Amazon utilizes a proprietary AZW format that is compatible with the larger-file-size MOBI format.  Both formats can be read on a Kindle device or using one of the free Kindle Reading Apps.  You can upload a Word 97-2003 document and Amazon’s Kindle upload process will convert it to a MOBI file which you can review before publishing.  After publishing, it’s further converted to the AZW format.

Barnes & Noble’s Nook uses the ePub format.  The file you have to upload is typically best when it’s already in ePub format, although their process can sort of convert a variety of other formats (including HTML, .DOC, .DOCX, RTF, and TXT) into ePub with varying degrees of success and completeness.  Barnes & Noble’s guide for formatting and publishing appears on its main PubIt page under PubIt! program details, FAQs, and marketing toolkit.  If you’ve already registered, the same page appears under the Support Tab of your control panel when you login.  Their formatting guide is fairly simple and straightforward – especially Microsoft Word formatting – although their ePub Formatting Guide may be too esoteric for the average person.

For this guide, we’ll be using the ePub editing tool Sigil (free download).  An online guide is here although what we’ll be doing is fairly straightforward.

I do not own a Nook, so I cannot attest to whether the Nook devices portray ePub books exactly the same as the free Nook Reader Apps or similar e-reading apps such as Adobe Digital Editions Reader.  I will say that with the latter apps, I have seen that certain Font and Line Spacing decisions are reflected in what those readers portray on-screen.

I’m going to assume you already have a clean Word document from your Kindle upload.  If not, I’ll again refer to my last post which explains how to get a clean and well-formatted Word 97-2003 document – and specifically one with “sticky” punctuation (em-dashes, hyphens, and ellipses), only single blank lines between paragraph titles and text, and flags such as four centered-and-spaced asterisks to denote scene breaks.

Starting with such a document:

Part 1 – Basic Prepping for Nook

1)  Save a copy of the Kindle document with a new name since we will be modifying it slightly.  Make sure to save as a Word 97-2003 format.

2)  Delete the 600×800 Cover image.  Nook uses different sizing than Kindle.  Unfortunately, Nook is also inconsistent with what sizes are best since there are different styles of Nooks with different viewing sizes.  See Natasha Fondren’s excellent and comprehensive post about Cover dimensions for the various platforms.  It’s simpler to convert an existing 600×800 image into 600×730 (which will size for the Nook and have some space above and below on the Nook Color) than to convert to the 600×1024 used solely by the Nook Color (and that will be shrunk to fit in the Nook).  Basically, using whatever Cover editing program you have available, lop a little off the top and bottom to get the right size.  My covers are usually 6″x8″ real size with however many dpi (dots per inch) required for particular Kindle covers.  So I simply take 0.35″ off the top and 0.35″ off the bottom to get a 6″x7.3″ cover which I convert to 600×730 pixel size.  Insert >> Picture to get the new picture formatted for the Nook onto the first page of your document.

3)  In the Kindle document, all text was Times New Roman 11-point and all Titles were in Times New Roman 14-point.  We want to change the text size to 12-point.  So Edit-Replace by selecting Format >> Font from the search box for both the “Find what” and “Replace with” fields as below (click on image for full-size):






4)  And now we want to replace all Titles with BOLD Times New Roman 14-point (click on image for full-size):






5)  Change all Line Spacing to 1.5 Lines.  The spacing from your Kindle document may have been either set to Exactly 14-point spacing or to Multiple 1.15 spacing.  This can be quickly changed with an Edit-Replace by selecting Format >> Paragraph from the search box for both the “Find what” and “Replace with” fields as below.  Be sure to clear any previous formatting from prior Edit-Replace searches (click on image for full-size):






6)  Change any hyperlinks in the document that may have directed to related works sold on Amazon to those sold on Barnes & Noble.  Right-click on book titles in the bibliography section (if you have one) and select Hyperlink and update the hyperlink.  Obviously, if no books are yet on Barnes & Noble, you’ll need to upload them all first and then edit the files with the links after they’re published.

7)  Insert Section Breaks after each page of Front Matter and after each Chapter.  This is where ePub diverges from Amazon’s Kindle process.  The latter utilizes Page Breaks.  But ePub relies upon Section Breaks instead.  While inserting Page Breaks occurs naturally in Word 2010 under Insert >> Page Break, Microsoft elected to make Section Breaks a little less intuitive.  Go to Page Layout >> Breaks >> Next Page to do this.  Insert each one exactly where a Page Break would be (at the end of each page).  We’ll clean up the no-longer-needed Page Breaks in the next step (click on image for full-size):






8)  Search for and delete all Page Breaks.  Edit-Replace using the following search fields, replacing ^m with nothing (click on image for full-size):






9)  Save the document in Word 97-2003, just so you have a reference copy.

10)  Save the document again as Web Page, Filtered which is the format we’ll use in the next part to create the ePub.  Note that when the document is saved as Web Page, Filtered, it creates a nearby folder containing the cover image.  Do not delete this folder or move it.  Close all Word and Web Page-Filtered documents and prepare to use Sigil to create the ePub.

Part 2 – Creating the ePub using Sigil

1)  Open Sigil (which can be downloaded here).  Open the Web Page, Filtered document after browsing to it.  It will resemble a Word document as far as its “W” icon – but when you pause the mouse over it you will see “HTML document” denoting it (click on image for full-size):






2)  Insert Chapter Breaks.  There is a “Chapter Break” button in Sigil with a stylized “Ch” for doing this.  You’ll need to scroll carefully through the document, placing your cursor in the blank line between each page of Front Matter and between each Chapter, and then click on the button.  As you proceed, you’ll notice that Sigil is chopping your document into numerical sections that are tabbed.  Do not insert a Chapter Break after the last page of the book or you will only produce a blank page.  Below are images of the process.  The first image shows the first Chapter Break being inserted.  The second image shows it completed for all sections. (click on images for full-size):






3)  Tag Front Matter and Back Matter.  In the “Book Browser” pane on the left in Sigil, right-click on each section of Front Matter and Back Matter, choosing Add Semantics and an appropriate Tag for that section.  Typical ones will be: Cover, CopyrightPage, Dedication, Acknowledgements, Table of Contents, Foreword, or Bibliography (click on image for full-size):






4)  Add MetaData tags for Title, Author, and Language.  Select Tools >> Meta Editor and enter the Title, Author, and Language (click on image for full-size):






5)  Generate Table of Contents.  Click on the Generate Table of Contents button on the right.  From the pop-up window, deselect any item that you do not want to be in the Table of Contents for users to be able to jump to.  Do not skip this step.  Even though a “Table of Contents” already appears in the right pane of Sigil, from my experience it requires actually clicking the Generate Table of Contents button to activate (click on image for full-size):






6)  Click on the Green Checkmark on the toolbar of Sigil to Validate the ePub (click on image for full-size):






7)  Before fixing the errors identified by Sigil (and there will be some – hopefully just minor ones), save the document now.  It should automatically prompt to save as an EPUB format file.  This is what you want.

Part 3 – Fixing Errors Identified by Sigil

If you began with a clean document following my Kindle instructions and the instructions above, there is a good chance you will only see two types of errors in Sigil:

attribute ‘clear‘ is not declared for element ‘br

attribute ‘name‘ is not declared for element ‘a

You’ll probably see one ‘clear‘/’br‘ instance for each piece of Front Matter.  And one instance each of both ‘clear‘/’br‘ and ‘name‘/’a‘ for each Chapter.

I’ll translate what these actually mean in plain English:

The divisions between pages didn’t translate well into Sigil.

The automatic hidden link bookmarks to the Word-generated Table of Contents didn’t translate well into Sigil.

As far as why this happens, I’m not entirely certain, as I haven’t experimented enough with the HTML or variations of document.  From what I can discern, the HTML Error Line of:  <p><span><br clear=”all” /></span></p>  which you get to when you double-click the first instance of attribute ‘clear’ is not declared for element ‘br’ relates to the breaks between pages (click on image for full-size):






1)  Double-click on the first instance of attribute ‘clear’ is not declared for element ‘br’

Delete the HTML line that appears.  It may be something like these:

<p><span><br class=”sgc-3″ clear=”all” /></span></p>

 <p><span class=”sgc-19″><br clear=”all” /></span></p>

Be very careful when running your mouse over the lines of HTML code.  Sigil allows drag-and-move of text, and it can be very easy to modify the HTML code.  And Sigil’s “Undo” button does not appear to undo changes to HTML code.  In any event, these instances of attribute ‘clear’ is not declared for element ‘br’ are artifacts and safe to delete from my experience at least.

2)  Double-click all other instances of attribute ‘clear’ is not declared for element ‘br’ and repeat with deleting the HTML line that comes up (and they should all be a clear=”all” line with variations of class=”sgc-xx”).

The other common error was attribute ‘name’ is not declared for element ‘a’ which is simply attributable to the hidden bookmarks that Word uses to construct the original linked Table of Contents.  I experimented with deleting the hidden bookmarks, which seemed to create new errors, as well as not using Sigil to generate the Table of Contents – which resulted in the Table of Contents not being right in the ePub result.  The links could probably be coded in HTML from the beginning to remedy the situation, but the fix itself is actually easy.

In this case, it isn’t the entire line of HTML code that is bad, but only the reference to the hidden bookmark itself.

In case you don’t understand what I mean by “hidden bookmarks,” open the Word 97-2003 document that you saved earlier.  Go to Insert >> Bookmark  When the following pop-up window appears, un-check “Hidden Bookmarks” and then re-check it again so they appear (click on image to see full-size):






Word creates links from the Table of Contents to each of the Chapter Headings when you auto-generate a Table of Contents as we did in the Kindle Publishing Guide.

What we need to do is to delete only the reference to these hidden bookmarks which will be only part of a line of HTML code that’s otherwise fine.

So if we click on the first instance of attribute ‘name’ is not declared for element ‘a’ it should take us to the Chapter Header for the first chapter, and highlight a line such as:

<h1><a name=”_Toc314183869″><span class=”sgc-21″>ONE</span></a><a id=”start”></a></h1>

Only the parts in Red:  <a name=”_Toc314183869″>  and </a> need to be deleted.  Be very careful when highlighting and deleting these instances.  Notice that in the above example there is also <a id=”start”></a> which is where the “start” bookmark denoting the beginning of the story appears.  If you accidentally delete </a> the associated with “start” the line will be errored.

Subsequent chapters will be simpler:

<h1><a name=”_Toc314183870″><span>TWO</span></a></h1>

See screenshot below (click on image for full-size):






Note that as you fix these errors, the error codes remain in the pane below until you re-run clicking on the Green Checkmark on the toolbar of Sigil to Validate the ePub.

It’s wise to save as you go along – but save as a copy of the initial ePub that you already saved in Part 2 above.  The ePub you saved in Part 2 should have all the formatting done, and if the HTML code gets mangled accidentally due to an inadvertent drag-and-move while trying to delete part of a line, you would at least have something to go back to.  So keep the backup ePub from Part 2 until you’re certain you have fixed the HTML errors without introducing new ones somehow.

When you have clickedon the Green Checkmark on the toolbar of Sigil to Validate the ePub and you get a message of “No Problems Found!” you’re ready to upload to Nook (click on image to see full-size):






The ePub you upload to Barnes & Noble will probably be identical to the preview file they provide for downloading to verify.

When you upload, there is a Preview button that takes you a screen where you can see very rudimentary representations of what your book will sort of look like on either a Nook Color or a Nook (click on image for full-size):






Feel free to click through a few pages just to get an idea.  But you won’t be able to actually verify how everything worked – particularly the links from the Table of Contents – until you click on the link I circled to download your converted ePub.

If you have a Nook or Nook Color, you can probably copy the downloaded ePub file to your Nook device.  Make sure you identify which ePub you downloaded so you don’t accidentally open the ePub you created with Sigil.  To be honest, the downloaded file appears to be pretty much identical to the Sigil-created one, from my experience.  Same file size and nothing appears changed.  But I haven’t done an in-depth look at the HTML to see whether any small things were added, deleted, or modified during the upload to Barnes & Noble and subsequent download of their test ePub file.

You can download the free Nook Reader Apps or similar e-reading apps such as Adobe Digital Editions Reader to preview the ePub.  I personally prefer Adobe Digital Editions because Barnes & Noble made their Nook Reader App a genuine irritation for adding a deleting eBooks.

Example:  If you were to right-click on your downloaded ePub file and select “Open with Barnes & Noble Desktop Reader” you would normally assume that Barnes & Noble’s Nook Reader App would open the file so you can read it.

You would be wrong.

Instead, all that happens is that the Nook Reader App launches, and opens to whatever book you might have last been reading.  You will now have to manually add the ePub book.  And this is not an intuitive matter, because whoever designed the App (and I use the word “designed” in as kind a manner as possible while biting my tongue) helpfully forgot to make the App actually simple to add or remove books.

Sometimes oversights happen.

Here’s how to add an ePub to your snazzy Nook Reader App so you can read it (and if you’re already losing interest, feel free to right-click on the downloaded ePub and select “Open with Adobe Digital Editions” – you’ll discover the folks at Adobe designed their software to surprisingly open up documents when you select it that way.

Fancy that!

The developers of the Nook Reader App did, however, include a User Guide.  Here it is (click on image for full-size):






“What should we put in a User Guide?”

“I dunno.  Just put some marketing stuff in there about how cool it is.  Like how you can go “ape crazy and enlarge the words to give your ailing eyes a break (because we all know they aren’t what they used to be!). It’s not rocket science, it’s just a better, easier way to read.”

It also isn’t rocket science to create an actual User Guide.  But that’s just me.  And yes, the Nook Reader App really is intuitive at its most basic core functionality.  Just not when it comes to adding or deleting ePubs.

How you add ePubs isn’t by right-clicking on the ePub and opening them – like Adobe Digital Editions can accomplish.  Oh, and KindlePreviewer and Kindle Reader App can both also open a MOBI or AZW file by right-clicking to open it.  Instead, for Nook Reader App you must go to My Library and then click again on My Stuff and you’ll see a little button at the top for Add New Item.  You can click on it to add the ePub (click on image for full-size):






In case you’re wondering how to actually delete ePubs from Nook Reader App – such as if you realize there’s a mistake or something you wish to add, remove, or change in the document and re-upload – it’s almost as simple and un-obvious as adding an ePub.  Here’s what you do:

If you’re using Windows 7 like I am, navigate to the following path in Windows Explorer:

C: \ Users \ (Your Name) \ My Documents \ My Barnes & Noble eBooks

You should see a list of any ePubs you manually added.  You can click on them to delete them.  It’s really that simple!  Just a click of a button (and a bit of navigation).  A shame no one added such a button to the Nook Reader App!

I’m quite sure Barnes & Noble was simply matching features with Amazon’s own effort in providing an e-reader App for users.  But to be sure, let’s see how Amazon’s Kindle Reader App deletes eBooks (click on image for full-size):






Barnes & Noble can now proclaim that Amazon did not provide a button to delete eBooks either.

They, um, allow you to right-click on any eBook in your Library and choose to Delete, Go to Last Page Read, Beginning, Table of Contents, add it to a Collection…

To be fair, while Barnes & Noble didn’t think of right-click functionality for their Reader App (or helpful User Guides or Delete buttons) they did provide an “Options” button for each book.  It…allows you to “Read Now.”

This is the essential difference between Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and it’s a shame – because adequate competition makes a market healthy.

But on the one hand you have Amazon allowing easy uploads of native Word 97-2003 documents and Barnes & Noble preferring users to go to a bit of extra work converting and formatting ePubs.

We have Kindle providing not only Reader Apps but also a more simple Kindle Previewer.  Barnes & Noble provides a Reader App as well, but its functionality is limited and usability crippled by oversight of basic abilities to add or remove eBooks.  It was obviously designed solely to work with eBooks purchased from Barnes & Noble’s own store, and it probably does that quite well.  But while it had the ability incorporated into it to manually add ePubs, either someone overlooked making that a simple matter, or they were reluctant to make it easy.

Amazon’s KDP site has a clean design friendly for people to upload.  It includes a link to an extensive user guide,  another to the KDP forums, and a few more useful links.  Barnes & Noble’s PubIt site features more space devoted to trying to encourage visitors to buy the most recent bestsellers while hiding its user guide with an extremely tiny “view” link.

I hated that Borders Bookstore’s initially promising online store was allowed to wane and give way to just trying to let Amazon handle their online presence.  I don’t like when companies essentially hand over advantages to their competitors.  There’s nothing wrong with imitation being a form of flattery and Barnes & Noble occasionally accomplishes this – such as their effort with the Nook Tablet.  It would be great if they were seen as anywhere close to as viable platform for self-publishers.  Instead, they’re seen as a consideration for a few sales but not typically anywhere close to balancing Amazon.

3 thoughts on “Publishing to Nook (Barnes & Noble ePub)

  1. Pingback: CreateSpace Document Settings | Matthew Lee Adams

  2. Hello sir, great post.
    I have an ebook ready for Kindle platform. I made it up in html and book looks exactly the way i want in kindle previewer all devices.
    I want to know whether the same html file can work for epub or i have to change something(s).
    I also wrote an ncx an opf file for kindle. will they be same too?
    Please respond

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