eBook Publishing Made Easy: Google Docs + Sigil + Calibre

[Updated August 2016] How hard could it be?  Those are usually the last words I utter before descending into a quagmire of technical pain as I work through how to use and master a new technology. Fortunately this time, making an eBook and related hard copy book turned out to be a straightforward and fairly easy process to master… once all the appropriate tools were identified and lined up, that is. An added bonus is that all the software is free to download and use on both Windows, Mac and Linux computers.

This project started a couple of months ago when a coworker kindly suggested that I write a paper based on a presentation I give to classes of law students on software tools for research and collaboration: Research & Collaboration Tools for Students, Staff & Faculty: Creating a Modern Memex. With that encouragement I started writing with my current favourite writing tool, Google Docs.

Related YouTube Video: eBook Publishing Made Easy

Step 1 Google Docs: Google Docs is particularly good for collaborative document editing but it is also capable enough for academic writing. This means that it supports footnotes, endnotes, bibliographies, tables of contents, inline images, and style sheets among other things. For the purposes of this project, it also does a great job of exporting all of these features and formatting into an EPUB document, which is exactly what we need for the next step of our project… adding meta-data to an EPUB file in Sigil.  Note, you should not proceed to the next step until you have completed writing, editing and revising your document. This is because if there are any changes you need to make after this point, you’ll need to redo steps 2 and 3 every time you “edit” your document.

Step 2 Sigil: Once you’ve imported your EPUB file into Sigil, you should proofread the document to make sure that the formatting is acceptable to you.  The other thing you’ll need to do is add title, author, and copyright information to the document by going to the “Tools” -> “Meta Editor” menu. If you neglect to do this, the title and author information will be incomplete when the eBook is opened in a reader which looks quite ugly, to be honest. Another way to make the book more attractive is to add a cover photo. You can do this by going to “Tools” -> “Add Cover…”. For a longer document, you might want to add a table of contents: “Tools” -> “Table of Contents” -> “Generate Table of Contents…”  Once you’re happy with the look of your eBook in Sigil, you can save it as an ePub document by going to the “File” -> “Save As…” menu, and saving the book on your hard drive. To open your new ePub document on your iPhone or iPad, just email it to yourself and then open it on your device. On Nook & Kobo devices, you typically need connect your device to a computer via a USB cable and then copy the files to your reader. If you only need to read your book on iPad, iPhone, Nook & Kobo readers, then your done! The ePub format is readable on almost all devices, except for Kindle readers. To create a file for Kindle devices, you need to use another open source piece of software called Calibre.

Step 3 Calibre: Calibre can convert your ePub document to almost any other eBook format under the sun, which is to say it is a powerful tool but can be somewhat daunting at first. In order to make your EPUB document readable on Kindle readers, you need to convert it into the MOBI format.  To do this, select on the menu, “Add Books” -> “Add books from a single directory”, then browse your hard drive to find the ePub version of your document, then select it. After a minute or two, your ePub document will show up in your Calibre “library”.  Once you see it in your library, select it with your mouse and click on the menu, “Convert books” -> “Convert individually”. A dialog box will appear and you need to click on the “Output format” dropbox in the top right of the window, and select “MOBI” as the format you want to convert your ePub document into. Then click “OK”.  The program will work for a minute or two. When it is done, click on “Path: Click to open” on the right side of the window, and it will open a file browser window with both the EPUB and MOBI version of your eBook. Make sure you note where these files are as you’ll need to know where they’re located so that you can access them yourself, or share them with others. To transfer your MOBI file to your kindle device, you’ll need to email the document to a special email address that Amazon has setup for your Kindle account. That wasn’t too hard, was it?  Finally, if you’d like to sell your book, we have two more steps.

Step 4 Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing: If you want to publish your book in the Amazon Kindle store, you’ll need to create an Amazon Associate account. Then upload your MOBI eBook to the store for Amazon to offer for sale for you.  You’ll need to fill out a number of forms along the way but it is a straightforward though time consuming process.

Step 5 Lulu Print Publishing: Lastly, if you’d like give people the option to purchase a hard copy of your book, you can use a service like Lulu to print and sell the book for you. Just setup an account, upload a PDF version of your document (Google Docs will export documents to PDF format for you), and then create a custom book cover using the web based tool they provide you with.

You’re done!  If you’d like to see an example of a book that I recently published, check out all the different versions below. I’ve published it using the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Enjoy!

Research & Collaboration Tools for Students, Staff & Faculty: Creating a Modern Memex:

Related Downloads


  1. An informative article. What would also be interesting for a newbie is how to cut through all the technical literature relating to protecting the content of ones ebooks. The big bit players like Amazon and Lulu clearly have proprietary products that prevent the copying (select-copy-paste) as well as the ability to view the underlying html

  2. My youngest son is using http://www.createspace.com to publish on demand and eBooks to sell on Amazon. Since createspace is owned by Amazon it may make publication easier by reducing the number of steps involved.. I have not researched it much but my understanding is that there are no up-front costs.

  3. Hi there,

    we have just started http://liber.io which lets you export your Google Documents into ePubs. Its a free service and its still in beta, so any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

    Best regards, Nicolas

  4. Thia is very clear and helpful and has enabled me to convert my book from word to epub and MOBI. However, can you tell me how to upload from Calibre to my WordPress website? I’m stuck with this.
    Thank you!

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