One of my longest standing pet peeves has been the non-manipulative nature of PDF files. I realize they are a necessary evil, especially in the print and marketing worlds where the authors want you to see something presented exactly as authored. PDF is also the most accepted camera ready format for both eBooks and print. For the past couple of years I have been using a program called Able2Extract Professional from Investintech on a casual basis to convert PDF files to Word files in order to comment on content for other people. This software is able to convert PDF documents into just about any format, and it is a must have tool for anyone that works/edits/comments on with PDF’s received from others. They offer a free trial, so it is a no brainer for anyone looking to check out the capabilities.
Those of you that know me probably know that I work with media files (images) a lot of the time (see http://photos.digitalmediaphile.com) but probably don’t know about my forays into personal digital publishing (iBooks) and customized print books.
Recently, I wanted to do something extra special for my cousin’s 85h birthday. I decided I wanted to make him a coffee table book of his family relationships and ancestry loaded with historical images and genealogical info. I also wanted to make an iBook out of the same content for the rest of the family. There were a couple of choices but they involved doing the work twice. Apple’s iBook Author on my Mac could make a wonderful iBook and also export a PDF, but the PDF export is NOT for print quality work. Blurb, which makes quality print books, even onesie’s and twosies, was definitely the company I wanted to use to produce a coffee table book. They have super stringent PDF requirements for their PDF to Book service (or you can use one of their tools, which are more limited in terms of creativity). I really did not want to have to double the work just to get both a physical book and an iBook so I tabled the project for a few days. Then it struck me that I had seen a setting in Able2Extract to convert a PDF to image files.
I had a plan!
I downloaded a trial version of Adobe’s InDesign and the free Blurb template. Using InDesign and the Blurb plugin, I create the contents of the book. Using InDesign is like using almost any modern publishing software, so there was no learning curve. It supports drag and drop so positioning images was easy.
Once I had my layout finalized and proofread, I exported a Blurb compliant PDF from InDesign.
I opened Able2Extract Professional and open the document and selected ALL.
I then selected the IMAGE format for conversion and specified PNG, 100% (and the directory in which to place the converted files).
After conversion, I had a single PNG file for each page.
I then prepared the cover using InDesign and went through the same process.
I copied the output folder to my Mac, and using iBooks Author, dragged each sequentially numbered PNG file to a blank page and position it (or chapter heading page, etc.). This took at most 10 minutes for a 40 page book. I was then able to export a finished iBook!
Net result, I had perfect PDF’s to upload to Blurb. Perfect PDF’s to convert using Abble2Extract Pro. And a perfect iBook that was already proofread, inspected for proper layout, and ready to share with family.