Create a Picture eBook in InDesign


This tutorial teaches authors, designers, and book publishers how I used InDesign to setup and create an ePub eBook version of my children's books.

Many eBooks are created by XML coders that raw-code everything. Well, that's great for people who know how to write XML code, but for the rest of us designers, we prefer to work in a visual format (wysiwyg) to create our ePub eBooks. This tutorial focuses on the visual approach.

InDesign does a great job allowing designers to set up a book and export it to ePub format. ePub format is currently the most widely used and accepted format for eBooks. Apple and Barnes and Noble prefer ePub eBooks.

Let's get started.


Setting up the file in InDesign

  1. Launch InDesign and chose File > New
    Use the following settings:
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    InDesign does a nice job offering presets for different eReaders.

  2. Next, I placed my cover art on page one. I found it easiest to create the cover completely in Photoshop, text and all.
    Make your Photoshop file 768 x 1024 pixels--the same size as the iPad's screen. Since it's digital, we don't need bleed. This locks in the size, font, colors, etc. My book cover is primarily art-based, so it works well for me.
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    I only set up 6 pages for this tutorial. My actual book has 28 pages.

  3. Go to page 4. We'll return to pages 2 and three later.
  4. Create a full-page text box and place the first page's copy on that page.
    • Create a style sheet and apply it to your copy.
    • I suggest making your font 12 point. (I've enlarged them for this tutorial)
    • I named style sheet Body Copy.
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  5. Go to File > Place and place your first piece of artwork on the page
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  6. Select the image, cut it, and paste it in the text box in front of your copy.
    Type two returns. This will add a little space between your art and copy.
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  7. Very important: Do not apply the the Body Copy style sheet to the art. To double check, highlight your art with the type tool and apply a [Basic Paragraph] style sheet to it.
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  8. Do the same with the rest of your text pages. I'll set up two more for this tutorial.
  9. Once that is done, let's return to page 2. Create a full-page text box. Select it, and go to Layout > Table of Contents...
  10. A dialog box will open looking like this:
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  11. Under Other Styles: select your body copy style sheet (I named mine Body Copy) and click the < < Add button.
  12. Click Okay
  13. Your cursor will now turn into a chunk of text waiting to be placed.
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    Click in your text box on page two

  14. Your table of contents will be built for you. It doesn't look pretty, but it will work.
  15. Now let's go to page three and create our copyright page.
  16. Draw a full-page text box. Type in your legal copy.
  17. Create a new style sheet and apply it to all the copy on page three. Be sure it's Based On: [No Paragraph Style].
    I titled mine Copyright Page.
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  18. Highlight the first copyright line on the page and apply the Body Copy style sheet to it. This will set that line (only that line of copy) as a table of contents entry--with a page number.
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  19. Go to page two, and select the TOC (table of contents) text box.
  20. Go to Layout > Update Table of Contents. This will update and add the copyright page to your TOC. Pretty cool.
  21. Go to Window > Articles to open that pallet. This is where we'll build our book's page sequencing. We'll also "turn off" the TOC's visibility.
  22. With the Article pallet open, select all of the contents on a page and drag it over the Article pallet and release. A dialog box will pop up and ask you to name the article. Do this for all pages.
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  23. In order to make the TOC invisible in your ebook, but still be used by Apple's iBooks' TOC generator, uncheck the blue box next to TOC.
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  24. Now we have to fine tune the layout a little. Go to the cover page and click on the cover art. With it selected, go to Object > Object Export Options...
  25. We'll use this box to define layout and spacing settings specific to this art file. We're going to add a page break after the cover art so the copyright page won't flow onto the cover art page near the bottom.
    The settings should look like this:
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  26. Next we'll add a little space between the art and text on each page. And we'll add a page break before these large art images to make sure each page starts with a big picture at the top.
  27. Go to page four and select the art image. With it selected, go to Object > Object Export Options...
    The settings should look like this:
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  28. I did this with all the large art images on the story pages of my book.
  29. We're almost done! Let's make the EPUB file...
  30. Choose File > Export. Choose EPUB from the format menu. Name your file and click OK.
  31. The EPUB dialog box will pop up. I set up my instructions to look like this:
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  32. Click OK. This will create your EPUB file.
  33. To test my EPUB file I email it to myself and open the email on my iPad.
  34. Once the email window is open, touch the EPUB file in the email and touch to open it iBooks.
  35. Well Done! Apple iBooks makes a cover for the bookshelf in iBooks.
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  36. Touch your new book to open. (It usually opens automatically).
  37. It opens to your cover art:
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  38. Touch the Table of Contents icon next to the Library tab to preview it:
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  39. And the inside pages look great too:
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  40. Lastly, I've seen many ebooks that place the text inside the pages in a fixed size and layout. That type can be really small. So, I prefer to leave my text as an re-sizable font so readers can choose their optimal size. I liked to enlarge the fonts when my kids were learning to read--much easier for them to recognize:
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Congratulations on your new epub ebook!