CREATING YOUR OWN TRAVEL EBOOK

Posted by Pat on January 25, 2012 in Travel |

Creating a personal travel guidebook is relatively easy and free. If you research and plan your itinerary, destinations and attractions, then creating an eBook of your research is a way to leave behind all those weighty travel books (or tearing them apart for the few pertinent chapters). There exist online services to do this for you but it is not personal and their information comes from the same web sites you will use. I am creating my project on a Mac but this can be done on Windows using MS Word.

Once you have created your eBook, you can then upload it to your IOS device and take it on the road, anywhere in the world. There are some real advantages to this as you will realize. If you have a Mac, you probably have all the tools you need.

The easiest way I have found to create my eBook is using Pages. As a longtime user of MS Word, I find it easier to create my project in Pages (I used 08). Not only is Object Placement easier, but I find the hyperlink and bookmark features easier to use. Because there is not a version of Pages for Windows, you would need to use Word.

Before beginning, you might think about the organizational format of your project. What type of information and in what order, what headings to use, what size and color of font. Do you want to use the Styles toolbox in order to later create an extensive Table of Contents? For ease, decide this before starting your project. Many of your ideas will come as your project is created and it takes on a life of its own.

Another consideration is how much time and research you want to invest. The more research, the more you learn about and understand your destination. For an independent traveler, this is critical. I am years beyond showing up with a Eurailpass and the address of the nearest American Express office. However, as a traveler I am actively in search of people, adventure and experience. For a traveler, research is a win-win situation. As St. Augustine is quoted as saying, “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” Let’s create some pages of that book and whether on a tour or on you own, you will be taking control of your travel experience.

Hint: Your Service Provider may limit how many MB you can upload at a time. Check this out so you keep the size of your final document within this limit. To keep your file size lower, reduce the image file size of captured pictures, but not so much you loose clarity when expanded on your device. By saving a tiff file to jpg you might save several MB throughout your document.

First, open a blank document in Pages. I am assuming you already know the basics of working with Pages. If not, either explore on you own or utilize the Help menu. There is no need to choose a particular template.

For a first page, you might want to create a cover. This is just for looks and serves little other purpose. Be sure to exclude this page when adding page numbers into your document (requires Section Attributes). A step I found annoying is, if one does not create a cover first, it is much harder to do so later. I can add pages but they will appear at the end, never at the start of my document. To insert a page, you will need to insert a page break, shifting all the information down and risking having to re-tweak your entire document. I didn’t do the cover when I began so maybe next time.

Hint: It is a little easier, especially in a large document, to View>Show Page Thumbnails and work with a “Two Up” format (you will find the later in the bottom left corner drop-down list).

For my first page, I created a Table of Contents. I will later return to this page and activate each chapter as a hyperlink to a bookmark in the document. If you want an extensive Table of Contents to assist in searching, you will need to utilize the Styles Drawer as you create your document. Going back after completion and assigning styles to headings is more difficult. My eBook is over 100 pages and without the Styles Drawer, I created a basic Table of Contents.

To insert Page Numbers, select either the header or footnote section of the page, Insert>Page Number. You can adjust position of page number and this will repeat on all pages.

Next, begin your research and enter information. For example, I created a chapter for each city I will visit and included sub-headed sections for transportation, hotel reservations, things to do and see, restaurants, departure information, and notes. If I found something interesting, I included it. I entered my information using cut and paste, drag and drop, capture and copy, or just typing and inserting text boxes when needed.

Within each of my chapters I included maps; hyperlinks to information (love using Wikipedia and Wikitravel); hyperlinks to Frommer, Rick Steves, Lonely Planet, the local tourism office; any travel guides or hyperlinks where I found helpful information. This included hyperlinks to a currency exchange, howtosay, and hyperlinks to the trains and buses. Everything you can imagine has a hyperlink. All you do is click on the hyperlink in the top URL box and drag it to your document. Such as Pronunciation of trieste – how to pronounce trieste correctly. Pretty clear indication of what this hyperlink will do. (The uses for this and the services of Google Translate are endless.) It the hyperlink isn’t clearly titled, rename it and it will still work. You also can assign a hyperlink to any word or photo.

I also enliven my pages with photos and graphics. These do not have to be huge because as you view them on your iPad you can expand them out for better viewing.

The Inspector is your friend though out the creation of your project. Critical to the flow is the correct Object Placement of photos, clips, Text Boxes, etc. As per Inspector, a photo (an object) will or will not move with the text. I suggest being consistent with your choice. Use your preference for Object wrap to arrange your text flow. Choose what you like best but remember if you later insert more information or objects into your project, everything after it will be moved down. If objects are not Inline, you may have a lot of tweaking to do. I use Floating because I like the control of placement then lock the object into place by making it Inline. Saves a plethora of tweaking if I later have to shift information down.

Hint: Remember that every hyperlink will be unavailable to you when you are out of range of Wifi (3G may not be a $reasonable$ option). There are things you can do on the iPad to make the most recent Map available but in general, do not plan on having the ability to access hyperlinks while on the streets. That is why you want to capture and paste maps, schedules, and other necessary information directly into your eBook. Then you can see that schedule anywhere, anytime. As you work, create a page that includes both information and hyperlinks to expanded descriptions and explanations. You decide what is needed.

The utility I use a lot is Grab (Applications>Utilities folder). Using this handy tool, I can capture anything I want and paste it into my document. I use this often with Google Maps – a lifesaver for travelers. Let’s consider my arrival at the Ravenna train station where I won’t have a Wifi connection. For my eBook, I will use Google Maps to get directions from the train station to my hotel. Then I Grab a picture of my route to paste into my document. I will also Grab a picture of the actual walking directions (remember my previous hint about image file size). When I arrive in Ravenna, I refer to my eBook map. Better yet, if I had loaded my hotel directions into Maps while I still had a Wifi connection, that Map will be available on my iPad when I arrive, and that cute little blue bubble will locate me and track my every step as I walk to my hotel. Try it and you will love it!

Under my chapter for Trieste, I have included a copy of the train schedule for getting there, a copy of my hotel reservation along with active hyperlinks to their web page and email (telephone for those with Skype), map and directions to hotel, hyperlinks to online information about the history and sites of Trieste, map and hyperlink to a Buon Ricordo Restaurante I do not want to miss, timetables for trains departing Trieste for Padova, and more. For color, I add city crest, flag and photos. An area for Notes is also handy so I can later annotate my eBook if I wish.

So how is it going? Check size of your eBook. Remember to stay within your Service Provider’s limit for uploading. Of course, as an option, you can create a very extensive eBook for each of your destinations and then include everything but the kitchen sink.

A last step is to return to the Table of Contents on page one and create hyperlinks for each chapter, heading, sub-heading, etc. This can be as detailed as you choose. Using Inspector, I went through my document and assigned Bookmarks for all my chapter headings. Then for each chapter on my T of C page, I use the Inspector to “Enable as a hyperlink,” Link to Bookmark  and select the Bookmark from the drop down box. Now, for my hundred-page document, I click on the chapter Trieste page 84 and immediately go to page 84 where Trieste begins. Because each chapter is from 3-8 pages long, I chose to only bookmark the start of each chapter.

(For my second EBook, I utilized the Styles Drawer and assigned heading levels. Then I just clicked onto my Table of Contents page and the TofC was automatically created and updated. Easy. And when I exported the EBook as a PDF, these headings and subheadings automatically became active hyperlinks to the text.)

Now you are done, or think you are. I find I am continually adding and improving as I read and research right up to departure time. But eventually, you will want to get your eBook onto your IOS device. There are two ways to accomplish this.

First go to File>Print, and in the bottom left PDF drop-down list, tell it to Save as PDF. It is this document that you drag and drop into your iTunes Library. You should see a green + sign indicating it is being added to iTunes. Once in your Library, you can drag it to any of your mobile devices that your eyesight can tolerate. For me, the iPhone or iPod is just too small but lacking the iPad, it will do.

An alternative to iTunes is to drop your PDF into Dropbox (I am assuming if you have this nifty free application on your computer you also have it on your mobile device. If not, you should Dropbox – Simplify your life).  Once in Dropbox, I sync with the cloud (that’s little c not Apple Cloud) and then I open my PDF file in my iPad’s Dropbox App, choose an Action, and tell it to Open in iBooks (iAnnotate PDF or GoodReader).

My final Pages document is around 28mb and converts to a pdf of 25.7. When I see the document uploaded in Dropbox, it registers as 24.6. Go figure, I just know that both these processes for getting my document onto my iPad work.

Hint: Your book and its hyperlinks work a little differently among iBooks, iAnnotate, and GoodReader. In iBooks, it will ask you if you want to leave iBooks and open the link. Clicking Open will open the link in Safari. Return to iBooks (using the 4-finger swipe is easiest) and you open where you left off in your book. Experiment and you will find what works best for you. You can open your pdf in all three Apps.

Now I have my Travel iBook that is always available to me. Biggest advantage to this system is I DO NOT need internet access to use my iBook. Hyperlinks yes, but my maps, information, addresses, schedules and much else will be there whenever I need it.

For added convenience, I include a pdf of my passport, emergency contacts, credit card information, and the list goes on. It goes without saying to have a backup of critical information, to passcode your device, and to guard it with your life. Common sense should always be your guide. That and your very own, personal travel eBook.

Hint: Some tourist offices will have a downloadable travel guide, Eurail has a complete pdf rail guide online, and look for walking tours and museums with podcasts. Also, free eBooks are become more numerous on the web each day. Google your interests and see what is available. Download these to your iBooks or Podcast library and carry them with you. Love a particular guide book? Buy it via an online bookstore and add it to your library.

Applications needed:

  • Pages (part of iWork Suite or $19.99 in App Store; $9.99 for your IOS but the IOS App only works with Pages 09). I have Pages IOS App but prefer using my desktop to create the eBook for use on the iPad.
  • Adobe Reader  (free)
  • Dropbox  (free)
  • Grab (in Applications>Utilities folder)

If I choose to later annotate my finished eBook while on the road (add a note or information), I can open my eBook in the Pages IOS App (after I update to Pages 09), or iAnnotate PDF, available from the App Store for $9.99.

Have fun and happy traveling.

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