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Making eBooks with Texinfo and Calibre

While I greatly enjoy reading, eBooks have mostly eluded me — I still prefer gazing upon ink printed on processed tree pulp, or when electronic texts are convenient, plain old HTML. But as an author, it seems questionable to ignore the multitudes of people who do favor reading on their Kindles and Nooks and iPads.

But how best to support those? I’ve done most of my serious writing by typing Texinfo word processing commands into GNU Emacs. Fortunately, it appears that I can continue writing with my ancient tools, thanks to file format conversion programs like Calibre.

I experimented using the most recent edition of The GNU C Reference Manual. The GNU Texinfo toolchain already easily produces PDF and HTML output, so I loaded the single-page HTML file into Calibre. From there, Calibre can produce a variety of eBook outputs, including the ubiquitous ePub and Mobi file formats.

The resulting ePub file I could view using Apple iBooks on my Mac laptop; delightfully, it looks like other ePub eBooks that I have seen. I don’t have a Kindle, but I presume that Calibre did an equally good job of converting to the Mobi file format.

So hooray! This toolchain will allow me to use my familiar writing workflow to produce eBook content in formats desired by readers who opt for electronic reading devices.

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