Jutoh – The Answer To Self-Publishing Prayers

Jutoh: What it is

jutoh Jutoh is a software package that permits the creation of ebooks.  That was difficult!  No, seriously, it is just that.  You can import your writing from various sources or use the (admittedly) basic built-in editor.  When you are ready, you can then export your ebook in various formats.  There’s also a basic cover designer.  Jutoh is programmed and published by Julian Smart of Anthemion Software.  If you want something to provide a “writer’s desktop”, with a wide variety of very useful features, I would recommend that you also take a look at Writer’s Café, from the same source.  This concerns the whole process up to creating the finished product.  It provides tools that can help in the actual writing of your works of fiction.  Combine the two (very simple), and you have everything you need!

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My Own Story

When I first started writing ebooks, the only option that I could find was Open Office’s PDF export.  To be perfectly honest, I don’t like PDFs.  More, I was aware of the Kindle and iBooks, along with other ebook formats.  That’s what I wanted!  I wanted something that came as close to behaving like a real book as possible.  After a lengthy period of searching, my eldest son, Damien, sent me a link to Anthemion Software’s Jutoh.

Now, I’m not going to pretend it was all smooth sailing from that point.  To be honest, I’m not a great one for reading guides to software.  To me, the best software is usually as intuitive to use as possible.  Jutoh appeared to be just that.  Naturally, not having actually read anything about using it, I started colliding with problems, most of which could be sorted in moments by simply reading the User’s Guide.  What I did learn, however, was that Julian Smart, the creator of the software, is superb at providing remarkably patient support, whether it’s just pointing to a part of the User’s Guide, or delving deeper.  I can say in all honesty that I have never experienced such excellent levels of support!

These days, I write away in Open Office, open a new project in Jutoh when ready, and import the Open Office document.  Very little work is required after that.  I have saved configurations that I import at the beginning.  Close the project, reopen it and apply the configurations.  That just leaves designing a cover, or using one already made, adding a few extras, and then I can run the ebook generator for each format I want, including a special format Open Office document for submission (after conversion to a Word document) to Smashwords.com with no problems.  Life simply can’t get any simpler.

Jutoh can be as simple or as complicated as you want, according to what you want of your ebook.  If you opt for complicated, you can rest secure in the knowledge that Mr Smart can help in an emergency.  You will get quick support through joining the Yahoo Group.

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Testimonials for Jutoh

“I just put a new Teen novel up on Kindle – using Jutoh, it came out clean and easy to read, even with my differing fonts.   I started to get good reviews right away; and as you know, that is the life-blood for self-publishing.”

R. W. Jensen, Author of Diary of a Celebrity Horse Trainer

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“I started using Jutoh almost a year ago. Up until then I was going crazy trying to get my first book formatted to meet the Smashwords premium catalog standards, but it seemed no matter how closely I followed Smashwords’ own directions I kept having problems. I was not a happy writer.

Since I’m fairly technically inclined I decided I had no choice but to learn HTML and format the book that way. While I was looking for HTML tutorials somehow I ran across a review for Jutoh from an indie author and so I checked it out. I was blown away and in love from first usage.

Here’s what makes Jutoh such an invaluable tool for me:

  • It runs on every major platform. I like to use GNU/Linux, the fact that it’s supported is great. Occasionally I need to use Windows or Mac, and it’s even better than I can install it legally on all three platforms using my serial number.

  • It uses HTML for formatting, but I don’t have to dig through the code unless I really want to. eBooks really do need to be formatted in HTML, but having use of Jutoh’s WYSIWYG editor makes my life so much easier.

  • Producing a book for nearly any bookstore is painless. Want to upload to Kindle? Push the button for .mobi. Publishing on iTunes or Nook. Piece of cake, that’s the .epub button. Smashwords, my old nemesis? Again, as easy as pushing a single button. (OK, Smashwords has the extra step of opening the file and resaving it as a .doc file, but even my grandma can do that.)

  • The community is active and vibrant, and Julian (the creator) is a champ at service and support. And bug squishing. I’ve yet to run into an issue that the community couldn’t help me through, and I’ve had some strange ones come up. I’m sure there are other communities this helpful, but the fact that most Jutoh users are authors adds something special to it.

I’ve gotten handy enough at formatting that I’ve even been able to take on some clients, and Jutoh hasn’t failed me yet. If you are willing to learn your way around inside Jutoh (and the learning curve is short), I would encourage you to try it. It will let you focus on writing more and formatting less, and that’s what all writers want, isn’t it?”

Adam Tervort http://adamtervort.com

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Of the dozen or so eBook creation apps on the market aimed at the non-HTML crowd, Jutoh is the ONLY one I can recommend without reserve. It’s what Word or Word Perfect would be like if they produced epub and mobi files, and it’s just about as full featured as either. It produces the best looking HTML and CSS out there. More importantly, it’s very easy for amateurs to use. Making a table of contents (TOC) has never been easier. There’s no perfect substitute for coding by hand, but Jutoh comes closer than any app of its kind.

Charles Seper – professional eBook formatter and owner eBook Pioneers

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The kobo mini eReader – and a bit more

Well, I hope everybody has enjoyed the last couple of days.  Our Christmas Day was very quiet, just myself and Jenny this year.  Boxing Day (more properly, St. Stephen’s Day) was a bit more busy as we visited our daughter and her family – which exposed us to two grandchildren and several other people, who were in high spirits!

To the matter of this post’s title.  I was delighted to receive the kobo mini eReader from Jenny!  I’d used an iPod Touch and an old iPhone for reading ebooks, but it was less than perfect, especially with the battery running down quickly.  The kobo was another matter entirely!

kobominiThe mini eReader comes packaged as simply as possible.  You get the eReader and a usb cable, plus a couple of leaflets and the normal guarantee information.  Personally, I believe that the usb cable is too short, giving little chance of having the eReader at a distance from the computer.  You have to connect using the usb cable to charge the device.  I haven’t tried any other method – I have a mains adaptor which allows Jenny’s Kindle and my iPod Touch and iPhone to charge quicker but I’m not sure that’s safe with the kobo, and I can also charge some devices through a usb port in our car but I’m again not sure it’s sage for use with the kobo.  Apart from the length of the usb cable, it’s a pity that the user manual doesn’t come in paper form with the eReader.  I eventually found it as a PDF on the kobo site and it provided information that’s actually quite essential for effective use of the device.  I can only assume that it’s not included as a means to maintain an economical price.  The eReader’s screen is protected by a transparent film but I found that this started to hinder use of the device after an couple of hours or so.  I’m not sure whether this means that commercially available screen protectors would be worth getting for the kobo.

Your first task on receiving, or buying, your device is to attach it to a computer using the usb cable.  This, of course, means that you either have to have a computer yourself or you need somebody with one to help you!  Having connected devices, you are then guided through downloading and installing the kobo desktop app.  You really need Adobe Digital Editions too!  You need to register with kobo, so you’ll need an email address, even if you don’t have a computer yourself.  The rest of the setup procedure is quite simple and is accomplished fairly quickly.  If you have a Facebook account, you can connect to it with your eReader, so you can post to your timeline when you are reading particular books.

Unlike the Kindle, the kobo mini eReader is a touch screen device.  The “home” screen is quite nice, with access to the device’s settings much better than the system used on the Kindle, in my opinion.  There’s a limited set of options available on a single tap, plus more advanced options as an offshoot of that.  I did find it rather odd that the four “extras” were buried in the advanced settings menu.  Then again, having used the built-in browser, it’s not a big deal.  The web browser is probably the worst aspect of the device!  At normal zoom, it flickers and is almost invisible. That was quite a disappointment.  The home screen also displays the health of the battery and any wifi signal strength.  The top of the screen offers options of “Reading” or “Bookstore”, with the former automatically selected and the latter leading to the kobo bookstore.  From “Reading”, you can opt to enter your library, go to kobo’s “Reading Life” record of your activities, or synchronise the device with your computer, either via the usb cable or, if you have the facility, by wifi.  From “Bookstore”, you can opt to “Discover”, Browse or Search, plus there’s an opportunity to browse current offers.  If you have placed books in your Wishlist, this will be indicated right at the bottom.

On the “Reading” screen, tapping on the Library option offers you the opportunity to browse through all the books you have loaded, any newspapers or magazines, any previews you’ve downloaded or go to your list of library “shelves”.  These shelves are set up by you.  They allow you to organise your books more efficiently. I tend to just use author shelves, but you can use whatever system you prefer, and the books may appear on more than one shelf.  Using shelves is certainly advisable if you have a large number of books on the device.  “Reading Life” has two options: Reading Stats or “Awards”.  The latter reward you for being active on kobo, allowing you to collect “badges” or “trophies”.

On the “Bookstore” screen, “Discover” permits you to access a list of similar books to what you’re reading or a list of books recommended for you by kobo.  “Browse” lets you do so by using Categories, Reading Lists or a selection of Free ebooks.  “Search” is obviously your opportunity to search either the kobo bookstore or your device’s library.

When you open a book, the screen starts uncluttered.  Tapping on the left takes you backwards, on the right takes you forwards.  Tapping the centre brings up additional options and information.  The top left shows the Home icon so you can leave the book  (opening it again will return you to where you left off) and the top right shows any wifi signal, battery health and the standard setup box.  Along the bottom, the left shows what percentage of the book you’ve read and the right offers four icons giving access to reading options.  First, an open book icon, accesses a menu of “Table of Contents”, “Annotations”, “Search in Book”, “Definition” and “Translate Word”.  The table of contents pops up in its own screen and allows quick navigation.  Annotations gives access to any notes you’ve made or highlighted passages.  Definition accesses the dictionary and Translate Word does what it says.  Next, the double-headed arrow icon pops up an information box on your location in the book and a slider to let you navigate faster.  The double A icon lets you change font, font size, line spacing, margin sizes and paragraph justification.  The final icon, a spanner, accesses miscellaneous general options.

I think that’s enough detail about the mini eReader.  A little exploration and experimentation is worthwhile.  I’d prefer to go on to some personal observations, now.

The eInk  display works very well, except for the web browser.  Light isn’t an issue, other than when it’s very dark.  Not being backlit, you will need a light of some kind in a dark room.  My device froze a few times, without obvious cause but perhaps because I was working too fast for it, forcing me to remove the back cover and use the reset switch hidden under it.  The power slider is OK, but could possibly do with having a ridge or ridges at one end.  The touch screen is just sensitive enough.  All in all, I like the kobo mini eReader!  The weakest part of it all is the kobo desktop app.  You can add ebooks (in the right formats) from any source to the device.  This is a fact which kobo make much of.  Unfortunately, the desktop app doesn’t recognise anything unless it’s obtained through the kobo bookstore!  This means that the synchronisation is rather pointless in some respects.  Your library, and any shelves, will differ from eReader to desktop unless you only shop through kobo!  You can use Adobe Digital Editions to add ebooks from other sources, but it still won’t update the kobo desktop app library.  Personally, I regard this as a major failing that kobo need to fix as soon as possible.

I’m happy to recommend the kobo mini eReader.  It’s just the right size – not too small and still pocket sized.  Like the original Kindle, the eInk display works well in almost all circumstances.  Using it is simple and the display is easy on the eye.  It isn’t all-singing-and-all-dancing, but it’s exactly what it should be for any serious reader.

~ Steve

While the writer writes…

I guess most authors have a fairly set routine for when they’re actually writing.  I’ve certainly seen comments about how to set up to get the best results in terms of working.  One of the most common guidelines is: “Have a clear workspace with no distractions”.  If that’s essential, then I have to record myself as a total failure.

I have limited mobility so I tend to live most of the time in one location in the house – my sofa!  To hand, is my computer and printer, set at my side with the screen angled towards me.  The room, our lounge, is of course full of plenty of distractions, the television being the biggest.  To avoid feeling entirely cut off from the world, I have the TV on pretty much continuously.  A lot of the time, I select favourite programmes, which means endless cycles of repeats, but I’m also a fan of cricket and NFL (American football), and occasionally I have soccer on.  So, I sit here with the computer and TV both on.  The landline ‘phone is also in the room, along with my mobile ‘phone.

While I’m writing, then, the TV is happily keeping me company.  Does it impact on my writing?  I guess it does, but only when something new is happening on it, which is much rarer than you’d think.  Many writers have music playing while they write, to keep them relaxed as much as anything.  I regard having the TV on in much the same way.  If the room was in total silence (actually unlikely as we live beside a major road), I would soon become depressed sufficiently for total lethargy to set in! I need to know that the world exists outside, even if I’ve become absorbed by what I’m writing, to a degree that makes me less than responsive to outside influences.

More, my workspace tends to be cluttered!  That’s been true since I was 18 years old (several decades ago) and first started working in an office!  I surround myself in the things I either need access to (my medications, for example) or which may act as temporary activities between writing sessions, plus any research materials that may prove useful.  So, I definitely don’t have a clear, uncluttered, quiet, workspace!

One thing is good.  We very rarely have visitors.  While I generally don’t write while Jenny (my wife) is at home, regarding that as being rather rude, if I am driven to do so, I know that I can.  The arrival of visitors would most definitely block any writing activity.  Fortunately, I’ve never been overly sociable, loving the comfort of my own home and not needing more than my family, so I don’t actually feel as if I’m deprived by the lack of visitors.

To add to the scene, I will smoke my cigarettes while I write, consumption varying wildly according to the degree of concentration.  If I’m able, I’ll also have a drink handy at times, usually a mug of tea or coffee.  I don’t imbibe alcohol, partly because of the medications and partly because I have very little desire to do so.  In the past, I enjoyed drinking wine, sherry and port, with a few odd drinks besides, but I can’t recall ever having drunk anything alcoholic while writing.

Of all these things, my medications have the biggest impact on my writing, other than periods when my health is particularly bad, by dulling my mind and making me sleepy.  I may not have my workspace clear and carefully organised, but it works for me.  I guess what I’m trying to convey is that aspiring writers should take all advice into consideration and then use or discard it as best fits them!  They should, above all else, feel comfortable.

~ Steve

Books and Children

Book-child-readingThere can be absolutely no doubting that children should have access to books.  Sadly, many children show less enthusiasm for them than they should.  Why?  I think part of the problem stems from school.  Very young children are usually avid readers, loving the books that they are allowed to borrow from preschool, and even the earliest years of school proper.  Unfortunately, over time, reading the mass of text books and set books that they must review erodes the interest.  Reading becomes a chore, and thus something to be avoided.

Yes, I know that movies, TV programmes and computer/console games also impact on the desire to read, but I honestly believe that they have less of a rôle in the problem than the burden of reading placed on children by schools.  Apart from text books that are so dry and uninteresting that it’s amazing the authors managed to stay awake long enough to write them, the concept of “set books” imposes the tastes of educationalists upon children.  There’s no doubting that some books are definitely worth promoting as reading matter, but to force any book on a person, of any age, will not make a favourable impact on their desire to read.  To add to the forced reading, the child is then expected to write a good review, according to a set formula.  Under this mountain of pressure, only the most avid readers will continue to read for pleasure, usually those who have access to a large number of books at home, or via a good local library.

How can we fix this situation?  There are many excellent books being written for children of all ages, so the supply is fine.  Some books will break through the barriers because of hype and mass marketing tactics in general, such as the Harry Potter series by J K Rowling.  Generally, the hyped books still have to be good enough to keep the child interested.  Some TV series contribute by having a complementary series of books.  All this helps somewhat.  Ultimately, however, we really need to look at the system used in schools.  The initial “borrow what you like” attitude should be carried forward.  The selection of “set books” should be increased significantly, and include popular books – not just those with critical acclaim.  I know that I wrote far better reviews of books that I enjoyed reading, when I was a child.

As a matter of interest, one of my own children had the same set book, George Orwell‘s Animal Farm, every year for three years!  That’s obviously a ridiculous situation.  I know for a fact that initial liking of the book was quickly replaced with a weariness that means that very few of the children from that time will ever read that book again.  I also know, from my own children, that self-selected reading was always far more enjoyable than forced.  Of my three children, two continue to enjoy reading.  Sadly, the third can’t be described as a keen reader.  All had a large fund of books at home at all times.  The two “natural readers” have survived the system, despite its faults.  The other reads those things that are related to other interests, and I tend to think of them as being a “natural text book reader” (though the interests in question aren’t founded on non-fiction subjects).

I believe that ebooks could make a very big difference in the number of children who enjoy reading.  Being based on the use of popular technology, and with an ever increasing number of interactive ebooks, they should have greater appeal.  It’s important, of course, that such ebooks reflect traditional reading matter in format, starting from picture-heavy books, through partially illustrated titles, to almost pure text.  Another aspect of ebooks is that font sizes can be adjusted, helping those children with sight problems.  I envision a time, too, when ebooks will incorporate other enhancements, such as audio pronunciation guides and assistance for people with reading difficulties, such as those with dyslexia.  It’s an exciting time and we need to think clearly about how to make the maximum use of ebooks to encourage more children to read for pleasure.

~ Steve

Synchronised and happy

Yesterday I finally got around to figuring out how to get the most out of using any platform to do my writing on!  Quite simple really, and I’m kind of embarrassed that it took me so long…

I use Dropbox to transfer files between machines.  For example, my desktop PC, iPhone, iPod and netbook can all share files with each other simply by dropping them into a Dropbox folder.  Depending on file size and connection speed, it isn’t long before I can access such files from any of the machines!  Excellent stuff.  The one problem has been that only the desktop PC is really good at uploading several files at a time.  Well, that was the case.  The netbook doesn’t play well with Flash, so uploading multiple files through the Dropbox web site wasn’t an option.  Yesterday, however, I found and installed the Linux version of Dropbox’s app.

Basically, by creating a folder in Dropbox for anything I want to synchronise the files for, and pointing the relevant software, like Jutoh or OpenOffice, at that folder on each machine, I can make sure that I’m only using the latest version of a file/project.  The one rule that I have to remember is that I shouldn’t have the file/project open on more than one machine at a time!

I now feel as if things are just about where I want them to be.  I can stop worrying about whether I’ve remembered to copy files backwards and forwards!  Whatever I do, wherever I do it, the file/project is (virtually) instantly updated everywhere.

If you haven’t thought of using a service like Dropbox, I strongly recommend that you do so!  One thing to remember though.  Dropbox is not designed to be an online backup service!  It provides file sharing and synchronisation.  If you want backups, you need to do that some other way!  Your Dropbox synchronised filesa are stored online, but they are also stored locally on any machine with the desktop app installed (PC, Mac, laptop, netbook, etc.) so if Dropbox ever vanishes, you will still have your files available to you, but proper backing up is very much a desirable habit!

The perils of computers

Using a computer as a tool when writing holds very real dangers!  The other day, my PC decided that it couldn’t see its CD/DVD drive.  OK, so I take steps to try to sort that out.  The obvious thing to do is to insert the Windows XP installation CD and run the install-repair option.  Obvious, isn’t it?  Well, of course it enters an infinite loop, demanding a CD that simply doesn’t exist.  Off we go, on the netbook, to find advice on the internet.  Most of it is the same and works as well as a chocolate teapot!  Then I find something different.  The result?  Death of a computer!!  Fortunately, I had a brainwave and it worked – take the CD out of the drive!  That dumped the install session, though the PC proceeded to keep rebooting itself as it couldn’t find an operating system.  Fair enough, I’d probably crippled Windows by following that advice off the internet.  Problem: what was I supposed to do now?

Well, after wishing computers had never been invented and that I still had my trusty old manual typewriter (a massive beast that I probably wouldn’t have the strength to use any more!), and sitting with the blank screen staring at me accusingly, another brainwave.  If taking the CD out had dumped the installation process, then it should be safe to put the CD back in, provided I got into the BIOS and temporarily switched off the hard drive as a boot device.  Oh yeah!  It worked!  Now, I could tell Windows to reinstall.  OK, so it’s a process I hate, but it had become necessary by now.  Fortunately I have a very fast PC so it took far less time than the hours it had once taken, way back.

The horrible part of reinstalling the operating system, is putting everything else back on too.  And the worst part of that is trying to find the drivers for the system components, like the sound card and the Ethernet card.  Then, too, there are all those updates Windows demands… *sigh*  I’m still discovering software that I haven’t yet put back on.

While this was all going on, I still managed to finish a chapter of the novel, somehow.  That’s the best news of recent days.