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About this manual
An important principle
How Bookalope works
Test book version
Hello, and welcome to Bookalope! This manual will guide you through the basics of using Bookalope for your ebook conversion and print book design projects, and it will point you to the more technical documentation of integrating the Bookalope tools with your existing publishing workflow.
Originally developed by software veteran Jens Tröger, Bookalope is a set of powerful tools designed to help you in all stages of your book design and book production process. It uses a specifically designed AI classifier to ensure your content is clean, well structured, and meaningful. Bookalope not only gives you the tools to create a unique book, it also ensures that your book meets every industry standard. In short, it fast-tracks and streamlines your book production workflow so you can focus on creating beautiful books while the Bookalope tools take care of the technical and tedious details.
About this Manual
You can jump right into any one of the Bookalope topics from here, or you can use the navigation menu to the right (or at the bottom) for a more detailed overview of this user manual.
A complete example
To give you a sense of how the Bookalope tools work, take a look at this example of a book conversion—from uploading your book (a manuscript or an invalid ebook) to downloading a valid and accessible ebook, or any one of the export file formats that Bookalope supports.
This is where the magic happens, where we dive deeper into the Bookalope’s tools.
We’ve collected a number of recipes that show you exactly how to manage and work with various aspects of creating a book, for example how to create a Table of Content, deal with your book’s cover, and more. A treasure trove of How-To’s.
Different users have different workflow needs, and we strive to accommodate yours with our different pricing tiers. This page provides all the information you need about our Bookalope pricing tiers and their features.
Frequently Asked Questions
Want to know more about Bookalope, have a question that maybe has been asked before? Then read our answers to your top questions.
If you have questions, suggestions, or concerns then let us know!
An important principle
In order to work successfully with Bookalope we need to talk about an important and fundamental principle that lies at the core of our tools—the opinionated and strict separation of content from its presentation.
In our workshop at the 2020 Digital Publishing Summit we dove deeper into the importance of separating the content of a book from its presentation, and you can watch the full video here. Working with Bookalope means to work primarily with the structured content of your book—and the content is separate from its presentation in various export file formats. For example, an accessible, reflowable, and responsive ebook requires different presentation rules of your book’s content than a print-ready book for a fixed page size and font face.
Traditionally it’s the book designer’s job to take a book and design a print presentation for the book’s content following the specifications of a publishing house. She’ll express the structure of the book’s content using different fonts and sizes, design headings, main text, spacing, and controlling how text flows across pages and around images. Print book design has centuries of tradition, and we’ve become very familiar with noticing the visually designed content of a book. As human readers we make implicit assumptions, we intuitively interpret the meaning of text based on its visual design.
To illustrate content and presentation further, suppose we have some text content like “This is an important principle!” The distinction lies in the detail: the word “important” is italicized which is presentation, and the italic represents an emphasized term. So, the “emphasized” is the meaning of that presentation. A different designer may have chosen a different visual presentation, for example “This is an important principle!”—same structured content but a different presentation.
Now, when you upload your manuscript to Bookalope, chances are that the structure of your book’s content has already been designed and styled in some way. Maybe it’s not perfect, maybe it’s inconsistent, maybe it’s just a default Word template that helped you focus on writing your book. It doesn’t matter. What does matter, though, is that Bookalope takes your book and extracts the structured content based on the visual styling of your book. In a sense, Bookalope attempts to “understand” the book design in order to get the book’s structure right, it interprets the visual design in order to make the meaning of text portions explicit—and by doing so, accessible.
Bookalope is rather opinionated about structured content, and that’s good and necessary because we can create accessible books only if we work with meaningful and rich content. While at first it may seem cumbersome to review the structure labels of an uploaded document, it in fact ensures that all content becomes meaningful and therewith accessible. By separating the structured content of your book from its visual design presentation, Bookalope enables you to focus on content—independently of the medium for which eventually we will export the book. It also ensures that, when exporting a book as ebook or print book, the content is accessible and meaningful, clean, and styled consistently across the whole book.
How Bookalope works
Converting a book manuscript with Bookalope consists of a few simple steps. We will walk through these steps in detail later, but it’s good to get a sense for them now:
Separate your book’s content from its original styling. Upload your manuscript. Bookalope’s AI then analyzes your book’s design and visual styling, and it cleans up and structures the content. Structuring here means that Bookalope assigns a “label” to every element in the book which has been styled in some way or another.
Enrich and refine structure and content. In addition to structuring the content, Bookalope also checks for all sorts of spelling, typographical, and punctuation issues. In this step you can review the structured content, and you can make adjustments and add more information to the structure (to make your book even more accessible). You can also edit the content to give it that last polish.
Pick a styling for your book and export. You’re all set! You can now download your finished book in your preferred format—for example as a valid and accessible ebook, an accessible PDF for print, structured InDesign as a basis for your professional print book design, or some other format to fit your existing production flow, various flavors of XML included.
Test book version
You can use all Bookalope tools at no charge and you can always download a free test version of your book. That test version is a complete conversion of your book with only one caveat: Bookalope has shuffled a few letters of random words and it shuffled a few random words within a paragraph. While this ensures an almost perfect visual result of your book—equivalent to the full version—this test version is only useful for inspecting the final converted book that Bookalope produces.
We built Bookalope to make designing and converting books easy, efficient, and fun. So here’s a list of some of Bookalope’s great features:
- Built-in accessibility. Often referred to as born accessible, working with Bookalope offers everything you need to ensure that your ebooks (and even your print-ready PDFs) are accessible for every reader. You won’t have to worry about any of the technical details required to build accessible books—they’re all built into our tools by design!
- Multi-language support. Books are written in various languages, and in addition to their primary language they may contain any number of second languages. Bookalope ensures that books are accessible to all readers, no matter their languages and reading abilities, and it manages second languages in your content gracefully.
- Flexible content editor. In addition to a usefully picky content checker Bookalope also features a paragraph editor which allows you to not only make last-minute changes to your text, but also to manage easily and intuitively most of the semantic markup of your document.
- Shared proofs. Once you’ve converted your book, you can generate a public link to the proof of you final document to share with external contributors—an editor or to get feedback from the author. This is an enterprise feature only.
- Built-in ebook validation. By default, every ebook that Bookalope produces runs through EPUBCheck and DAISY’s Ace, and while we’re developing our software we always check with Flightdeck. So, you can rest assured that your generated ebooks meet the highest quality standards.
- Metadata support. Describing your book and providing additional information is important for its distribution and discoverability. Bookalope supports reading ONIX3 metadata and soon MARC, and it ensures that the metadata of exported books is as detailed and precise as possible.
- Automatic content generation. You’re probably familiar with the title and copyright pages in books, and with additional publisher or author or marketing information. Bookalope makes it easy to manage such content and it can generate content from your supplied templates and metadata; it can even inject missing pages or promotional materials!
- External link tracking for ebooks. Online marketing campaigns often use so-called Urchin Tracking Module parameters (or UTM parameters) that are appended to a web URL to gather data about where a website visitor comes from. Bookalope allows you to automatically add such tracking parameters to all external links in your ebook. That’s particularly useful if your ebook contains a publisher’s social media links or other resources, and if you’d like to learn how your readers interact with the external links in your ebook.
- Check and redirect broken links. Your book might reference external resources on the internet, some of which may have been deleted or moved, thus making them stale links in your book. Bookalope checks for these stale links and automatically replaces them, if possible, with links to an archived resource from the Wayback Machine.
- Book cover image generation. If you don’t want to supply a cover image for your book then Bookalope can generate one for you. We developed the cover image generator based on and in collaboration with the Generative ebook covers project by the NY Public Library.
We live in a world of marketing buzzwords, all vying for our attention. Some of the buzzwords commonly used in publishing are born accessible, linear or single-source workflows, digital-first publishing, or XML workflows.
At Bookalope we just want to create beautiful books. But if you’d ask about our workflow approach then we’d tell you that by design Bookalope implements all of these buzzwords. If you want to learn more about how this all work out in practice then please watch our presentation at the 2020 Digital Publishing Summit, or read through the slides.
And finally, we wanted to inspire and challenge you with what intelligent publishing tools could do for you. So what would you change in your daily book production workflow if the tools you’re using to design and create books could:
- fix and update your existing backlog of old, even invalid ebooks automatically?
- optimize ebook markup?
- import Word files and invalid ebooks directly into Adobe InDesign as structured and clean documents?
- take a document from InDesign and turn it into an accessible ebook?
- build accessible, Level AA rated ebooks with just a few mouse-clicks and without writing a single line of code?
For a more detailed and technical exploration of these ideas, we invite you to read our blog Books are software, too.