Apple's Pages desktop application can now export directly to the ePub format used by iBooks.

You know the feeling… you’ve got the great american novel trapped somewhere inside you, but you just don’t know how to get your book onto the iBooks bookshelf on your iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch. Well, a new update to Apple’s iWork productivity suite just made it easy. Now the Pages application on your desktop has the ability to export directly to the ePub format required for a document to be read like a book in iBooks.

It’s pretty neat, really. All you have to do is format your Pages document using the guidelines published by Apple in this support document, and then choose File > Export and pick the ePub format. If you format it correctly, your chapter and sub chapter headings even get organized automagically into a clickable table of contents. You’re also given the option during the export to use the first page of your document as the cover art that appears on the bookshelf. That can include text and images, so it’s easy to make a very nice looking cover.

Because the ePub format is dynamic and elements like the font size and page orientation can be manipulated within the iBooks app, you are limited to exporting simple Word Processing documents. Documents in the more complex Page Layout format cannot be exported to ePub. They can be exported to PDF which can, of course, also be opened in iBooks but it doesn’t provide as rich a reading experience with animated page turns, etc.

Once you have saved the document as an ePub, all you need to do to get it into iBooks is drag the file over the Library section in iTunes.

Don’t have iWork or, worse yet… you’re on a Windows machine? Your best option for creating eBooks in the ePub format is definitely software called Calibre. Calibre is easy to use, it’s free and it’s available for Mac, Windows and Linux. If you do have a Mac and you don’t have iWork though, you should definitely consider it. There is a 30-day free trial available and at only $79 it’s a great value. Now with the addition of ePub export, the value is even greater.