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Making ebooks in Pages 5.2: Here's what works now (and what still doesn't)

Serenity Caldwell | April 9, 2014
Even before iBooks Author took the stage in 2012, Apple offered the average Mac user a way to build basic ebooks through its word-processing software, Pages. Now, after four years of stagnation, the company has (surprisingly) started improving the app's ePub export capabilities. Here's a look at what's changed (and what still needs work).

What you can (and can't) do for ebooks in Pages 5.2

Given that Apple's support document for ebook-making hasn't been updated since December, it's a little hard for the average user to figure out what will and won't translate when you export to ePub. Pages 5.2 does pop up a boilerplate disclaimer after ebook generation, but it's hard to know from that exactly what you're doing that's wrong.

So in a nutshell, here's what you can (and can't) expect from an ebook generated with Pages 5.2.

What you can expect ...

It's ePub 3-compliant: For those who care little about the backend of the ebook-publishing process, ePub 3 is the newest version of the standard, and lets you use more styles and tools than ePub 2. The biggest changes: It simplifies some backend code and uses HTML5 and CSS3 for ePub's XHTML standards, which means ebooks can incorporate things like video, audio, custom fonts, special CSS transitions, and more. Pages only supports export for some of these right now, but being able to generate an ePub 3 file is a huge step in the right direction.

It can have video and audio: Thanks to its ePub 3 backbone, the ebook export engine in Pages 5.2 will preserve any audio and video that you add to your document. This is another big improvement over Pages's original export, and a boon for people who don't need the flash and bang of iBooks Author but want multimedia in their books all the same.

It has Retina display-quality images: When the ebook export option first premiered in Pages, iOS devices with Retina display didn't exist; as such, when you exported an ebook, it flattened whatever image you placed to the size of the standard 8.5-by-11-inch white canvas. This worked pretty well for awhile, but when the Retina iPad was released, those 500-pixel images suddenly looked disastrously small. My interim solution was to make the canvas 20-by-20-inch, which worked for image export, but made viewing and text-editing rather a pain.

The point of this story? Pages 5.2 has gotten rid of all this nonsense. When you place and resize an image on the page, then export, the resulting ePub shrinks that image to Retina display-sized dimensions, so that no matter what device you're viewing it on, it should remain clear.

You can add in custom page breaks after paragraphs: Among the biggest irritations in earlier versions of Pages was inserting page breaks and section breaks in an original document but not having them translate when exported to ePub. This has been fixed, which means you can purposefully force your ebook to have certain text on certain pages.


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