eBooks on Ancient Buddhist Texts

Over the past few weeks I have been converting the translations in the English section of my Ancient Buddhist Texts website into .epub and .mobi format, and they are now all uploaded to the website and ready for use in your eBook Reader.

It all started when a friend of mine in the States, Ven. Khemaratana, wrote saying that he was getting a Kindle Reader and was wondering if the documents on ABT would ever be published in a suitable format, and even offered to help with the conversion.

At that point I must admit I had not much idea about eBooks, [1] so that started a massive amount of research not only to find out all about eBooks, but also finding software to convert the material I have into a usable format.

At present my base Word .docs are ready for .pdf export, but that is in many ways unsuitable for eBook Readers, and the .html cannot be used because of the complexity of the annotation, which simply gets garbled on a direct import and export.

I tried out about a dozen programmes, both readers and writers, with varying degree of success, and eventually came up with the following workflow, which takes no less than 6 programmes to achieve what should have been a straightforward task 🙂

What I am trying to do first is get a usable .epub, which is a standard format that can be read by most of the Readers out there, including iPad, Barnes & Noble, Sony, PocketBook and many more – but not by the Kindle, that will have to come later.

Here is the workflow with annotations in brackets.

Word 97:

  1. Save as new .doc (we are going to change the formatting, and don’t want to lose the original)
  2. Convert to Unicode (macro needed for this as the .docs I have use my own non-Unicode font)
  3. Remove the Table of Contents (.epub has its own ToC)
  4. Remove all manual page breaks (these appear as gaps in the .epub)
  5. Remove all unwanted indents (I make a lot of use of indentation in my books for clarity, but eBooks are better off without it, as they may not have much width)
  6. Left-align text (with a small width this looks far better than justified text)
  7. Check the whole document through

FastStone Image Viewer:
Make a Cover (first I have to find a suitable image, fortunately I have a large photographic database to choose from. The FastStone Image Viewer, which I have reviewed elsewhere, allows text writing to a photograph)

Word 2007:
Insert Cover, an end page giving a link back to the website and Further Reading and update the styles

Atlantis Word Processor:
Export to epub (this is by far the best exporter I have come across, and it is being purchased for me, solely for this purpose. But no editing can be done without making the .doc impossible to open in Word 1997)

PaleMoon (Firefox Clone) & ePub Reader add-on:
Check the formatting, chapter headings, etc. (this is the best reader I have come across)

invariably at this point it has to be reformatted in some way or another, so it then needs to be opened again in Word 2007, changed and saved, and then reopened for export through Atlantis

at one point I was then going through the following procedure to remove unwanted brackets around the footnotes, this proved so time-consuming that I have stopped doing it now:

Extract the files

InfoRapid Search & Replace:
Run a Batch file to remove curly braces from footnote links

Rezip the files, and change extension back to .epub

PaleMoon & ePub Reader:
Check everything is OK.

The final step, once I have a good .epub file to work from is quite simple:

Import .epub and convert to .mobi (which can be read by Kindle Readers, which is what I was trying to achieve in the first place).

I hope people will benefit from this work and will now be able to read their favourite Dhamma books without having to fire up a computer and web-browser!

At present though I have no plans to convert the other sections on the website as they seem to me to be unsuited to the format – I may change my mind when I’ve had a rest!

I will soon convert Godwin’s documents in more or less the same way, but I think it should be much easier as there are less formatting changes to make. I will post an update when those documents are ready.


Screenshots in Different Readers


ePub Reader
The Life of the Victorious Buddha
showing cover and table of contents
in ePub Reader


The Great Chapter
showing annotation
in Calibre (epub format)


Amazon Kindle
Cover of Earliest Recorded Discourses
showing mobi format
in Amazon Kindle


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  1. apart from .pdf, which seem to count as a variety of eBook.

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