1. SapereAude

    SapereAude Contributor Contributor

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    Kobo foibles

    Discussion in 'Writing Software and Hardware' started by SapereAude, May 8, 2022.

    I hope this is allowed in this discussion area. Technically, it's not hardware or software for writing, but it IS hardware and software for getting your scribbles ready for e-book publication.

    I self-publish for both print and e-book, and as I have probably commented in other discussions, I find it incredibly frustrating that there isn't a really decent program for converting from either Word or PDF into the .EPUB format. Every converter seems to handle some aspects well ... and totally screw up on others. And then, no two computer-based e-readers display the same file the same way, so it's virtually impossible for a guy like me to release an EPUB and have any idea what the readers are going to see.

    Not too long ago I discovered that Kobo, the Canadian e-book seller, sells dedicated e-book readers under their own name. The Kobo eReaders look to be near clones of Amazon's Kindle readers, except that where Kindles only handle .MOBI and .AZW3 files, the Kobo readers handle both EPUB and PDF. So I finally broke down and bought a Kobi Nia e-book reader, primarily so that I can upload my own .EPUB files and see what they'll look like to people who are dumb discerning enough to buy them.

    The instructions say that to copy an EPUB file into the Kobo reader, just use the Windows file manager, connect the reader device to the computer using the USB umbilical cord, and drag and drop the file from the computer onto the device drive designation ... and that's it.

    So I tried it with a sample of three of my books. Sure enough, after copying them they showed up in the library on my shiny, new Kobo eReader. However, I also installed the Kobo reader app on my desktop computer, and the newly uploaded books did NOT show up in MyBooks in the app. I searched the internet, found instructions on how to sync the device and the desktop app, went through the process (about six times), and the books still didn't show up. So I went to the Kobo web site and opened a chat session to see what I was doing wrong.

    I wasted an hour and a half in a chat session on their help site, dealing with a help desk rep who gave every indication of being a typical, brain-dead, off-shore drone working off a script. She sent me links to the things I had already tried. At one point she sent me a link to an article in Spanish. Then she wanted me to install Adobe Digital Editions -- even though that's for importing PDFs, not EPUBs. After all that failed to resolve the issue, she FINALLY figured out that I had successfully imported three books into the device (which I had stated at the beginning of the chat), and that the problem was syncing the titles to the app.

    At that point she advised that syncing books from non-KOBO sources doesn't work in the desktop app, only the Android and iOS apps. But I just tried syncing the Android app, and it didn't work there, either.

    So, for anyone else who might be considering using Kobo as a test bed for their own e-books, be advised: You can copy your own files onto their own, dedicated reader devices, but you can't sync them to either the desktop or Android apps to see what they'll look like on computers or tablets. (I have no way of testing the iOS app, so I can't comment on that.)
     
  2. Amontillado

    Amontillado Active Member

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    I think the problem is the desktop app doesn't sync with the reader, at least by default, it syncs with the Kobo store. I don't own a Kobo, so I may be goofing up the terminology, I may be completely lacking in understanding, or (more likely) both.

    It looks like you can transfer files to the reader via USB, and you can download or sync from your Kobo web account to your desktop app.

    I understand you want a Windows solution, but I found this regarding Macs - https://ebooks.stackexchange.com/questions/3628/how-to-add-external-epub-to-kobo-desktop .

    The salient process there is:

    You need to create a new folder in your user's Documents folder called Digital Editions.

    Copy the ePub file into this folder.

    Don't hit the sync button, that won't work. You need to hit ⌘-Shift-S and the app will ask for permission to synch with your Documents folder.

    Hit yes and the e-book should then appear under My Books.
    If the Windows desktop app has a Control-S or Alt-S shortcut to sync, try adding other modifiers like alt, shift, and control. Or the Windows key.

    Another post from 2011 dashes all hope:

    Unfortunately, the Kobo Desktop app. only supports materials directly downloaded from the Kobo store in the format we often call kepub. These get downloaded when you do a sync within the Desktop itself.

    It would be cool to learn how to do this. If you find a solution I'd be very interested. It's frustrating when a vendor overlooks or conspiratorially omits an obvious feature.
     
  3. SapereAude

    SapereAude Contributor Contributor

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    I'm not looking for a solution, because at the moment it's pretty clear that -- by design -- no solution exists. I asked the chat agent to submit a complaint and she said she would -- but I don't believe it. The Kobo web site doesn't include either an e-mail address or a physical, postal address, so there's no way for me to send a letter to someone high enough in the food chain to actually sit back and say, "Hey, this is dumb, let's fix it."
     
  4. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Its not really Kobo's fault - you're going about it in an ass backwards fashion... at the end of the day the point of testing is to check that the book your customer downloads formats correctly on the reader. Side loading a file you already have to a device tells you little of use, and expecting that side load to magically sync to another kobo app makes no sense

    Upload the book to kobo , set the price to free, 'buy' a copy ... its now in your kobo store library and will sync to all your kobo devices. having bought the thing, go back and change the price to whatever your RRP is .

    You can do the same with most other market places, except amazon who don't let you set it to free...with them you have to take the hit of setting it to 99c buying it and paying around 65c (since you only get 35% royalty on a 99c purchase)
     
  5. Amontillado

    Amontillado Active Member

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    Unless you want to see how the next guy will see it on his Kobo app.

    Then there's the Apple way. Yes, yes, I know. Drink koolaid, do all your writing in a Starbucks, I get all that. I'll stand still for anyone who might want to launch a pie to my face. It's all good.

    But here's the Apple workflow. Open the Finder, what you Windows fellows would call the file explorer. Double click on an epub file.

    There you go, that's it. The epub is now in the Books app on your desktop, your iPhone, your iPad, your Macbook. Choose "delete everywhere" from any of those and it's gone.

    If styles weren't so goofy in Pages, I'd probably write in it. Maybe. It seems to produce clean epub exports.
     
  6. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    That was my point though - the next guy won't be viewing a document you side loaded from your pc.. he'll be seeing a document he's downloaded from kobo... so if you want to see what he sees you need to buy the book from kobo... at which point you can view it on any kobo device or app.

    my main point however was expecting that a book you've side loaded would magically sync from the reader its on to all other kobo devices despite not being on your kobo account (because you didn't get it there) doesn't make much sense... and complaining to kobo about it makes even less
     
  7. Amontillado

    Amontillado Active Member

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    Ok, I see that. I was thinking the same file loaded to the desktop app should look the same no matter where it came from, but the file that comes from Kobo's cloud is in a modified format. I get what you're saying.
     
  8. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    I had a Kobo a few years ago, maybe first or second gen. I wasn't impressed with the reader or with their online marketplace. I never bought another one, though the idea of having more freedom than Kindle is appealing.
     
  9. Amontillado

    Amontillado Active Member

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    I think the corporate term for what Kobo has done is "silo." The user can load a file on the reader, the Kobo cloud can load a file on the reader, the cloud can load a file on the desktop app, but the user can't load a file on the desktop app.

    Commands and features should be orthogonal. I think that's a trendy term. Hey, I think I got "silo" right.
     
  10. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    I think a user can load a file on the desk top app... what the OP appears to want is for the one he loaded on the reader to magically be on the app as well... the only way to achieve that would be if the side loaded files were on the kobo account... but it doesnt work like that with any service (except apple if you upload from a mac)
     
  11. SapereAude

    SapereAude Contributor Contributor

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    Yes, I was indeed looking for the sideloaded books to appear in the desktop app -- and I don't regard that as being in any way magical. That said, if there's a way to sideload the files directly to the desktop app that would be almost as good.
     
  12. Amontillado

    Amontillado Active Member

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    Blind alleys where a workflow that ought to work hits a brick wall are frustrating, particularly when it seems the developer decided for me what I might want to do.

    Apple Pages, for example, will create epub output that's probably as nice as Vellum. Pages looks simple, but actually has a lot of features, including a desktop publishing mode.

    Unfortunately, the way Pages does styles causes repeated contact, with enthusiasm, between my forehead and my keyboard.
     
  13. SapereAude

    SapereAude Contributor Contributor

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    I may yet try formatting a book in Word, then importing it ito pages just to see what the EPUB output might look like.
     
  14. Amontillado

    Amontillado Active Member

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    If you have time for that experiment, I'd be fascinated to hear your thoughts.
     
  15. SapereAude

    SapereAude Contributor Contributor

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    I made time for that experiment, because I'm still looking for a solution. But I don't think there is a solution.

    Importing the Word file into the on-line version of Pages is easy, and then downloading it as an .EPUB file is also easy. I attached my cover file, and that came through the conversion as the cover. But ...

    When I opened the EPUB file in Sumatra reader, it didn't recognize chapter breaks. A chapter would end mid-screen, and the heading and text for the next chapter follows right there on the same page/screen.

    However, when I opened the same file using the Calibre e-book viewer (not the full Calibre editor), the chapter breaks worked as intended, so a chapter ends wherever it ends, and the reader has to click to the next page to see the start of the next chapter.

    Barnes & Noble's Nook reader didn't recognize chapter headings being center justified. (It also defaults to a maddening full-screen two-page view and I can't find any way to change that.) Cool Reader recognizes the chapter breaks AND center justification ... but changes the font used for the chapter headings.

    Obviously, not all e-book readers are created equal, and it's driving me nuts. I'm going to have to try a few more to see how they all work (or don't work). If I can find any others. I'm right where I was when I started this discussion. There was a time when I was blaming the display issues on the software doing the conversions, but it's looking more and more like the problem lies in the reader software not interpreting the EPUB code the same.
     
  16. Amontillado

    Amontillado Active Member

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    I think that's a lot of the problem with ePub. The creator has limited control over how things are presented. You get to make suggestions.

    The problem is likely geek-fixable with page-break-before in the epub's CSS or some extra nudge in either Pages or Calibre.

    Why epub has gotten so much attention in the market and so little support with creation tools is a mystery. It should be a universal export format.
     
  17. Amontillado

    Amontillado Active Member

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    I took another look at Vellum's web site. It appears it produces different epub files for different readers. As comedian Bill Engvalls would say to ebook reader developers, "Here's yer sign..."

    I'd like to goof around with Vellum. It's too expensive for that, and who knows, ebook reader manufacturers may someday insist on common sense in their design departments. A long shot, I know, but it could happen by the time I'm ready to publish anything.
     
  18. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    you can get vellum free to goof around with - you only have to pay when you want to export a file... but in short yes it creates optimised epubs for each market place
     
  19. Amontillado

    Amontillado Active Member

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    I should have mentioned that - the free version is installed here, but as you said I can't create output files. The free preview is a great teaser. I open it up and think, man, I wish I had that installed.

    Then I realize it's probably more important to have something to publish than it is to have a slick way of publishing it.

    Write first, publish second.
     
  20. SapereAude

    SapereAude Contributor Contributor

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    :Sigh:

    I suppose what I should do is buckle down and learn some basic HTML coding, and just do it right.
     

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