Ebook Design

A Linux User’s Guide to Formatting Ebooks (Part III)

In Part I, we learned how to set up LibreOffice for indie authoring, and in Part II, how to prepare our manuscript for XHTML markup.

Now it’s time to Save As plain text, so we can mark up your manuscript using vim’s special automagic powers.

Saving as plain text is not as simple as it sounds.

Not all plain text is alike. We want to keep our curly quotes, accented characters, M dashes, and all the other proper, non-ASCII characters your manuscript is no doubt littered with.

True plain text would be ASCII. What we want (and you may intone this in Gregorian chant, if you like) is UTF-8. UTF-8 is God. Worship UTF-8. (Unless you’re writing in a non-Western character set like Chinese or Farsi or what have you, in which case, you should intone “Unicode” in an appropriately nasal manner.)

So this is how you Save As UTF-8 plain text in LibreOffice. Go to File –> Save As, then in the dropdown box, Select Text Encoded:LibreOfficeSaveAsUTF8

But don’t stop now! Be sure to tick Edit Filter Settings. It’s easy to miss this step — I sure did, and wound up googling my brains out (a process mysteriously similar to dewaxing your ears with a jellyfish, but I digress).

Now click Save. LibreOffice will prompt you to confirm. Click Use Text Encoded Format:LibreOfficeConfirmTextEncoded

Here the rubber meets the road. Select UTF-8:LibreOfficeUTF8AtLast

The dropdown list (not shown) for Character set includes everything from Korean to Esperanto and back again. This is where you would set your non-Western character sets.

Linux users should leave Paragraph break at LF. Windows users may need to select CR & LF. Unless you’re using a pre-OSX Mac, I don’t know why you’d want CR as your line feed character. But then, I’m not an expert on that aspect of things, if you are, chime in below in the comments and show me up for the ignorant buffoon that I am.

Click OK.

Your file has now been saved as UTF-8 plain text. Close LibreOffice, and let’s move on to the king of text editors: vim. (Sorry, emacs, I didn’t say operating systems. I said text editor. (Obscure geek joke. Fuggedaboutit.))

Now that you’ve got your manuscript saved as UTF-8 plain text, it’s time to format your manuscript as XHTML. Sound difficult or painful? With the tools in Part IV, you’ll be done in less than half an hour.

Written by: J.M. Porup

Novelist J.M. Porup is An American Dissident in Exile. Read More


Leave a Comment