Long has my inbox-on both LinkedIN and Facebook-been filled with inquiries on various ePub creation software, especially regarding two specific platforms: Sigil and Calibre. Both are free, open-source creations of unselfish and brilliant folks that saw the eBook industry coming a long time ago. I’ve fiddled around happily with Calibre for over a year and been fairly happy, but only just this week did I pay heed to the various forum posts praising Sigil. After watching a few video tutorials and scrolling through the basic crash course I downloaded the open source system in less than a minute.

The pros of this program are immediately apparent: the interface is rather DIY friendly, the icon design seemed crisp and best of all the creation of the TOS (Table of Contents) couldn’t be simpler. One merely highlights the chapter heading as an h1 or h2 (or any ‘h’, really) for each chapter, then hit a button and “voila!” the beautifully-linked chapters appear in a list on the right hand side, glowing in their success and all ready to be tested. This contrasts to the more involved, coded approach that users of Calibre have struggled with, sometimes abandoning their TOS altogether.

I was also pleased to see that Sigil forms all the files necessary for an ePub file (the epub, the cover image and the metadata file) into one easy-to-upload unit, which consumers likewise can download in a less-confusing fashion than juggling three separate files.

The cons of using Sigil were not as clear as the pros, and unfortunately have proven–thus far–to be insurmountable. The program does not ‘like’ imports of text formatted in html and its ePub “validation” process creates a long list of errors to “repair” with very little information on how to find or fix said errors. After combing through various ePub-makin’ forums I managed to glean a few answers and apply them, but as of yet the ePubs I’ve made with Sigil still won’t work on either of the two devices I’ve uploaded them to. It could merely be my own inexperience with the newer program, but I noted that I had viable, readable ePubs using Calibre in less than half the time it took Sigil to generate its list of errors. I was saddened by all this, mostly for the loss of the svelte TOS for whose sake I embarked on a two-day quest for forum help. Hopefully, I can find all the errors and deliver another piece detailing what ‘worked’ but, for now–in my opinion-Calibre remains the top self-publisher’s open-source ePub creator.

Via Greene Ink


  1. I use both programs. You are correct in that they have pro’s and con’s. I find myself importing my rtf files into Calibre, convert them to epub and then make any changes that I need to the file its self in Sigil. It is an extra step but for me it works well.

  2. I have always let Calibre convert my books to ePub, then open the ePub in Sigil to create the TOC and any minor formatting changes. Let Calibre do the heavy lifting, then bring in Sigil for the details.

  3. I can barely make heads or tails of Calibre, and it munges TOCs when converting from epub to mobi. Which is a shame, since it does a better job of converting images than KindleGen. My impression is Calibre isn’t for people who make ebooks professionally; more for readers who want to keep their libraries in one place and convert them from one format to another. Sigil does seem more pro-friendly, but it has a few weird glitches. I’ve heard good things about Oxygen Editor, which costs $349 but is apparently a true professional program.

  4. I prefer SIGIL over Calibre for my customers, and have created several validated files for Kindle, Barnes & Noble and even the iBookstore. The main issue is starting with a clean manuscript, converting to a clean HTML file. But the rub is that a true ePub file is XHTML, so I created my Ebook Formatting Kit, which includes step-by-step videos, sample files and pre-made XHTML, CSS ready templates to make the process easier.

    One part of creating the TOC in Calibre is that it is always put it at the end of the book. Whic is frustrating to me. I Like the ability to choose what headers to add to the toc.ncx file in SIGIL, and the ability to actually edit text in the program is a plus.

    Just to clairify, the TOC in SIGIL is not the clickable toc, but the logical toc and allows the reader to jump from chapter to chapter from within the book. The clickable TOC still needs to be coded on the page.

    The templates provided in my ebookformattkit provide a pre-made TOC and copyright page. if interested, take a look at the kit; and I am always available via email for help.

    Suzanne Fyhrie Parrott

  5. Sigil is a nice OS project, but still has lots of quirks to work around. Creating an ebook is really a straight-forward process as long as you know the steps. I’m in the process of putting together a free ebook formatting template with videos that take users step-by-step through the process of creating an ebook for ePub and Kindle. It should be ready early next year.

  6. I think both Sigil and Calibre are great, I have used Calibre more that Sigil but it seems to me that they are not meant to do the same thing. Calibre is a wonderful tool to manage one’s ebook library, while Sigil is meant to edit ebooks. Calibre does include conversion tools, and its possibilities can be extended considerably via add-ons. But it’s definitely not meant to edit ebooks. In fact it would be great if somebody wrote a calibre add-on which would open the selected ebook in Sigil…

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