If you really want to get your geek on, I just discovered a great new tool for producing PDF, EPUB and MOBI e-books. The language is called Markdown and the tool I use to build Markdown documents is MarkdownPad 2. Created by Evan Wondrasek, a software engineer in Minneapolis, MN, MarkdownPad 2 is pretty comprehensive. There are two flavors (as with most projects of this kind): the free version and the licensed version. A single-user license costs 14.95 (USD).
The Skinny on Markdown
I first heard about Markdown when I decided to publish my technical book on ASP.NET through Leanpub. To this point, I’d been writing all of the HTML by hand. I just didn’t like what Microsoft Word produced when saving the document as HTML. I love Leanpub CEO and co-founder Peter Armstrong’s take on this: “Really? We can’t do any better than Microsoft Word?” After working with Leanpub’s tools and some of their custom code for Markdown, I began to investigate it in more detail. As usual, my technical curiosity got the better of me. I lost a lot of time digging into the details. And may I steal a moment to opine by asking, “Why does this always seem to happen to me when I’m against deadlines for one or more manuscripts?”
I found the Markdown syntax so simple to remember I became giddy as a STAR WARS fan waiting in line for the next movie. What I like most about Markdown is I didn’t really have to think about it. This allowed me to focus on the writing. But more importantly, I found another use for Markdown: using it to create our church newsletter in multiple e-book formats. Now our parishioners have a choice on how to get our newsletter.
MarkdownPad 2: Windows Markdown Editor
Speaking in the terms of native platforms, there a good number of Markdown editing tools. If you download Leanpub’s manual on writing books using your platform, they suggest different editors based on your operating system. And yes, thine lovers of vim and emacs, Markdown is more than friendly and useful for you, too! 😉 Frankly, this post isn’t really about pushing one tool over another as much as it is to stimulate ideas for using Markdown.
Here, I’ve started a mock newsletter to demonstrate how simple it is to build a document. I’ve stored Markdown formatted text in a plain .txt file. All told, it took me about five minutes to whip this out. In fact, it probably took me longer to take and format the screenshots for this post than to write this sample in MarkdownPad 2.
I realize this is pretty basic, but everyone has different needs. I’m of the opinion that in these times we need to focus on our young folks. They’re our future generation of Christians. The key to delivering wholesome material they want to read is about using technology to publish relevant content. No small task in today’s society where 85% of young people don’t read anything beyond text messages or commercial smut. I’ve found Markdown and the associated tools to write and publish content in it easy to use. I pray you find the same.