A New Pinnacle of Laziness

Two days ago, or more properly two nights ago, I attained a new pinnacle of laziness. Allow me to elucidate.

I use OpenOffice (3.1) when writing. It’s open source, it works well and it doesn’t crash regularly. And it’s not from M$ so that is always a good thing. Anyhoo, when I upload a book I need three formats: Amazon/Kindle, CreateSpace and Smashwords. For Kindle I use .mobi format, CreateSpace requires a PDF and SmashWords uses M$ .doc format. The twoo ebook formats have different ‘boilerplates’ and the paperback (CreateSpace) format is physically different. Besides the different boilerplates each format requires an ‘other books’ list (same for all) and the actual book content.

Prior to my epiphany I saved each book in each format, plus three basic templates. This required manually updating the ‘other book’ list which meant NINE edits for the ‘Double Bait’ release, TWELVE for the next book, FIFTEEN after that, etc. Unacceptable!! What’s more, editing the book content required the same edits on THREE books!

I didn’t do that, of course. I had a single source file I edited which I then copy-pasted into the template I prepared for each format. That ALSO required tab removal (ebooks) and re-creating the chapter breaks for the paperback. UNACCEPTABLE!!

This is when I discovered OpenOffice’s styles, sections and templates. Basically, styles represent a collection of attributes (font name and size, decoration, paragraph settings et. al.) applied to a part of the document. A section is exactly that: a specifically-named portion of a document. A template file, when opened, automatically changes to a standard unnamed document (TemplateFile.ott becomes untitled01.odt).

The epiphany is this: sections within documents can be LINKED to sections in other documents! This means that a section in the template file can be linked to content in an external file! Po-LARITY!! (As my characters would say.) It took but a little bit of tinkering (and a LOT of retro-fitting) to adjust my templates to automatically draw content from a SINGLE external ‘other books by me’ file! Awesome.

The second epiphany came in a blinding flash of the obvious. If I could do that with a book LIST then why not a book’s CONTENT? wow. Again, it took a bit of tinkering and judicious use of similarly named styles within each document and PRESTO! Instant auto-updating properly-formatted book files that take two clicks and a ‘Save As…’ to format! OpenOffice can save as a M$ .doc file and I use a separate program (Calibre) to convert .odf to .mobi.

Of course, I consider it EFFICIENCY!!! B-)

If anyone is interested in specific steps (more detailed than the ones above) let me know and I’ll post it here. If you’re interested in Calibre the web site is:

http://calibre-ebook.com

It’s open source (of course, of course), it’s REALLY COOL and it can convert into multiple ebook formats from just about any source format (well, at least any OpenOffice source format!). It also does ebook management and lots of other stuff but I use it for formatting.

-matt

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