Creating an ebook from a blog

I recently stumbled upon a blog with very nice articles. I didn't have time to read them on the screen at that moment, but would have loved to be able to read them at my own pace on my Kindle later.

So I started my terminal and with a few commands was able to convert the whole blog into a mobi file that I could load inside my Kindle.

Here is how I did it. This might give you and idea of how to solve the same kind of problem on your own.

Download html pages

Fortunatly, the blog I was reading had all its content displayed on only two pages. Each page listed about 10 posts, then I had to go to the next page. The blog was using the manifest Wordpress theme, and was hosted on wordpress.com. So I guess it was a really simple installation, with no custom plugins.

The blog itself was using some kind of javascript request to load the whole content as I scroll, but I could access real pagination using the /page/2/ url.

$ wget https://blogexample.wordpress.com/ -O index.html
$ wget https://blogexample.wordpress.com/page/2/ -O page2.html

Convert HTML to markdown

Once I had the html files, I converted them to markdown using html2txt.

$ html2txt index.html > index.md
$ html2txt page2.html > page2.md

This gave me simpler versions of the text. I then had to manually edit the files to remove the useless content (blog title, link to comments, footer links).

I also replaced the titles (which were links) to their simple text form. I did it once in vim, then recorded a macro and played it on the whole file. I also did a few other cosmetic fixes on the file (fixing specials chars for example).

Here is an excerpt of the vim script I often use when editing markdown extracted from ebooks or online sources:

" Dialogs should use the em dash (–) and not the simple dash (-)
silent! %s/\v^-/–/e

" Use common guillemets
silent! %s/“/"/e
silent! %s/”/"/e

" Same goes for apostrophes
silent! %s/’/'/e
silent! %s/‘/'/e
silent! %s/`/'/e

" Fixing ". .." and ". . ."
silent! %s/\v( ?)\. \.( ?)\./.../e

" Force space after dot and comma
silent! %s/\v(\.|,)([^ "\.])/\1 \2/e
" Force space after caps
silent! %s/\v(\l)(\u)/\1 \2/e
" Force space when case change inside a word
silent! %s/\v(\u{2})(\l)/\1 \2/e

" Fix lines that only contain whitespace
silent! %s/\s+$//e

" Condensate multiple new lines into only one
silent! %s/\v\n{3,}/\r\r/e

Putting it all together

Now with two formatted files, I just had to merge them together and add a few more information in the header.

$ (echo '# Ebook title\n\n' && cat index.md page2.md) > book.txt

Now that we have a nice text input, we just have to convert it to a mobi file using the ebook-convert script from Calibre.

Note that we need to have a .txt file here, ebook-convert won't accept a .md file as input.

$ ebook-convert book.txt book.mobi \
  --formatting-type markdown \
  --paragraph-type off \
  --chapter '//h:h2'

And, we're almost done. We just need to add a bit of metadata to our file, so the Kindle can correctly display it in its list of file.

$ ebook-meta book.mobi --authors="DOE John" --title="Ebook title"

The end

And this is it. With just a few real simple shell scripts (wget, cat), coupled with more complex scripts made by others (html2txt, ebook-convert) and a bit of manual tweaking in vim you can easily automate some processes.

If you want to write a script that will do that for every available Wordpress blog available out there, this will be a whole new level of complexity. Sometimes, quick and dirty does the work just fine.


Tags : #epub #mobi #ebook #calibre

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