Thursday, February 16, 2012

Making my own Kindle-readable files

In the abstract: wouldn't it be nice to write a book, and pop it up on the web for people to download and read? (Ha ha! That would be work.)

In the more immediately practical: I'd like to make a recipe collection for myself.

I've got a little wooden box for recipes on 3x5 cards, but that doesn't really work well for me. And my laptop is nice for getting web recipes, but it takes up a good third of my counter space, and it goes into a dimmed-screen power-save mode almost instantly upon being left alone, which means I have to wash my hands every damn time I want to look at the recipe. I want to try my Kindle, which uses less power (none, actually, if you don't turn the page), hibernates less frequently, and takes up less counter space. If I could make a Kindle-readable file of my favorite recipes - the ones I've hammered out well enough that I'm not editing them anymore, anyway - I could have a nice compact personal cookbook that I could also share with my cousin whenever she asks for a recipe.

The easy part of this would be writing up the recipes; Kindle will read .txt files. But I want to be able to index them, too, so you can just click at the table of contents to get to a specific recipe. So the file needs to be a .mobi. My first attempts to create a file with links in Open Office and then convert it from .rtf to .mobi with calibre didn't work, so I went hunting on the web.

There's apparently free .mobi creation software, Mobipocket - but when I went to the download page, it says it requires Windows. That's a problem for me and my MacBook. Maybe I didn't look hard enough, but I couldn't find another .mobi maker.

But there's also free .epub creation software, Sigil. Kindle doesn't read .epub - jerks - but calibre converts between .epub and .mobi pretty handily. And I found a basic tutorial on how to make a table of contents in Sigil, which would then carry over through the conversion process. I downloaded the software, made a little test file ("Chapter one - blah blah blah; page break. Chapter two - blah blah blah."), converted it and stuck it on my Kindle - and voila! It works!

I made a quick cookbook file with the recipes I've been most bothered by lately (and I named it "How To Serve Man"), and used it yesterday. It was nice. It was a fairly quick recipe - cocoa brownies - and the Kindle didn't hibernate on me at all while I was making it. The biggest problem I had was that the ingredients were on one "page", and the instructions were on the next, so if the instructions said "add the flour" and I'd forgotten how much flour I needed, I would have had to wash my hands and turn back a page. I do not consider this a big problem: I could fix it easily by writing the amounts into the instructions. Also, the instructions for this one were simple enough that I actually hadn't left the ingredients page, anyway.

I'm pleased with the experiment. And editing the cookbook isn't hard - the basics of Sigil are really user-friendly - but the fact that I'll have to go through Calibre to make a new .mobi file out of it every time I make a change will make re-compiling it a little awkward. I mean, only two minutes worth of awkward, but nonetheless.

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