Thanks to TTL for pointing to this article about the EPUB format, used by many ebook readers including Sony Reader, the Nook, and iPad.
They point to a very promising free multi-platform tool for making/editing ebooks, Sigil. God love the hard working geeks and open software.
Sigil appears at first glance to be very user-friendly and simple, I always appreciate that.
Update: hmmm, I can't see how to wrap text around images, though, and I can't find any manual/guide, can anybody find one?
(Meanwhile I'll mess around a bit with InDesign CS4, a rather more humbling tool! (But I'm not likely to run into anything it can't do...)) (Gawd, humbling is the word. I can feel that the last time I did any serious desktop publishing was with PageMaker 6!) (Hmm, despite what the article claims, I don't see any export option for EPUB format.)
Update: t it turns out that InDesign has a separate export command for "digital editions". Why?? Why isn't it simply under Export, it's the logical place to collect Export options. (In any case, "digital editions" is Adobe's proprietary EPUB readers, heavily readied for Digital Rights Management, of course. Some would almost say draconically so, though that's probably up to the individual publishers.)
Thanks to anon for linking to this.
It seems it's not Sigil's fault it can't wrap text around images, this article says:
"the EPUB file you create won’t look the same as the printed version of your book unless your original design is quite simple. For example, if your book contains sidebar notes and images with captions, the position of those elements will be discarded in the EPUB file and all the content will be displayed in one continuous flow—with the sidebar notes, images, and captions inline with the main body text."
Well, that certainly keeps things real simple!
Of course, when I think about it, an EPUB file will also have to be display on 3-inch screens, and you can't really have text side-by-side with images on such a tiny screen and still have things readable!
So basically for IPUB books one should not count on any formatting at all pretty much except bold and italics. (And I'd keep italics to a minimum, hard to read on tiny screens I'm sure.)