The Technical Writer’s eBook Dilemma

At an early age, I wanted to work in the technology sector but did not have a resume full of accomplishments and ecstatic references. Instead, I had some experience at school working in the electronics shop and a glowing reference from the lady at the daycare behind my house, for whom I did lawn work.

At the time, the Internet wasn’t a thing yet, so I opened the job listings in the Boston Globe and started cold calling. Nothing worked. I was too young, too inexperienced, still in high school, and so no one took me under their wing. That is, until one day, when I decided to look up smaller businesses.

One Monday morning, I grabbed the yellow pages from the top of the refrigerator and started calling any company that seemed like they had anything to do with computers. I came across a small business right near my home, and they hired me.

I wanted to be a programmer and start writing code, but they had a different idea for me. They wanted me to document their entire product line. Now keep in mind, this was software designed for real-time manufacturing, not a Pacman player’s guide. I had a lot of work cut out for me. At the time, word processors were not exactly what-you-see-is-what-you-get, so I learned Borland’s Sprint word processing application. I wrote thousands of pages, created training material, FAQ’s, administrator guides, user guides, and all sorts of other material from my base catalog of work.

Ultimately, this career launched me into many forays working for other companies, starting my own businesses, and eventually coming back to technical writing again and again even during those various career changes. What I love about technical writing is I get to help people and teach them best practices. People have a drive to learn, and when they don’t know something they naturally purchase a book on the topic.

As a technical writer, you are working with large images, creating reference tables, laying out your ideas with images and other types of content. It is possible, but not always reasonable, to keep all the material you write stored inside one large file. There are plenty of tools out there to help you avoid that. Some great ones, as a matter of fact, like MadCap Flare, Adobe Framemaker, and much more.

But what word processor does most of the world use? Microsoft Word. Technical writers and authors have unique requirements that make Microsoft Word a terrific product to use in the writing process. It is simple to use, provides an intuitive interface for pulling in graphics, and granular layout features you need to format a publication for print or electronic output.

The dilemma we frequently encounter with Microsoft Word, Apple Pages, Google Docs, or any DOCX file editor, is it becomes unwieldy to manage such large documents. The reasonable answer is to save each chapter as its own unique file. However, you run into more difficulty because when it comes time to output all these files to a single eBook, what do you do?


Earlier in this story, I told you how I wanted to be a software developer. I have kept up those skills over the years and am finally releasing the Optical Authoring eBook Toolkit. To the best of my knowledge, this is the very first product on the market that can read multiple DOCX files, then stitch them together to create a single ePub or Kindle book that you can freely distribute.

If you are interested in learning more about the product, watch the video below.


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