A relative has written a novel and she decided to put it up online for free. The only hard requirement is that it has to be self-hosted. Is there some book publishing framework or a plugin on top of some generic framework? I looked briefly at pressbooks plugin for wordpress and I might have to go back to it, but it was kinda awkward to setup.

Edit: to answer the question posted in comments

  • The idea is to make this book readable in a browser. No need to convert it into any eBook format. Mobile browser support would be nice. If we decide to provide the book in ePup, MOBI or other eBook format, we will deal with it at that time.
  • The book is currently in Word, but it doesn't matter. We are prepared to reformat it manually into whatever publishing tool we decide on (i.e. copy/paste the book chapter by chapter and present it in a readable form in a browser). I was hoping to find a theme for wordpress for this, but I cannot seem to readily find one that will do exactly what I want.
  • Currently she has access to a PHP based hosting, but again, it doesn't matter. If the best tool requires some specific hosting (rails, django, node, whatever) I will get her a hosting service.

We were also hoping for getting features like social network integration and comments and such.

  • OK, if you want to do that manually, I'm out. Calibre could convert the Word document to HTML if you want that, so then you'd just need to upload the resulting HTML and CSS files. And if you later decide for EPUB/MOBI, Calibre can do that as well. As it does many other formats. Take a look at these posts for details.
    – Izzy
    Commented Oct 25, 2016 at 17:15
  • 1
    Interesting. I will look into that. I think I got sort of tunnel visioned into a publishing framework, I need to look at just creating a static website.
    – Mad Wombat
    Commented Oct 25, 2016 at 17:18
  • 1
    Mad, if you "were hoping for getting features like X", that should be part of your question body. For optimal results, you could split your requirements into "must have" and "nice to have". Meanwhile, I will cleanup the comments again – they are not really intended for discussion (meet us in our chat room if you want to discuss things :) // PS: I've integrated the important details from the (now deleted) comments into your question. Feel free to edit it again if needed. Good luck!
    – Izzy
    Commented Oct 25, 2016 at 18:13
  • You can also put a torrent up. Alleviates the burden of distribution while self hosting.
    – Tanath
    Commented Oct 31, 2016 at 18:07

2 Answers 2


How about gitbook? It has offline editor, and this is example of novel published using gitbook. Go to https://boris-marinov.gitbooks.io/the-case/content/01.html to see example using comment inside gitbook. If you need to selfhost, it just need nginx, here is example conf :

server {
       listen         80;
       server_name    fajri.my.id;
       return         301 https://$server_name$request_uri;

server {
        listen 443 ssl spdy;
        server_name fajri.my.id;
        ssl on;

        ssl_certificate /etc/nginx/ssl/nginx.crt;
        ssl_certificate_key /etc/nginx/ssl/nginx.key;

        root /_book;
        index index.html;
  • It looks like gitbook is designed as a book hosting service. The offline editor helps editing your book offline, but the book is stored as a bunch of markdown files and I do not see any easy way to get it exported as anything else. Your nginx config example seems to just assume that the book content is in /_book, but how do you get the book there?
    – Mad Wombat
    Commented Oct 26, 2016 at 16:20
  • I'm sorry I'm missing something, personally I'm prefer with gitbook cli. When you want preview of your book, type gitbook serve. It will render your markdown into html, and put the rendered html in _book folder. Then copy _book folder, put it into nginx, or s3. Commented Oct 26, 2016 at 16:37
  • I was hoping for something with a few more features, online editor, comments etc. But if I don't find anything else, I might end up using this. Thank you.
    – Mad Wombat
    Commented Oct 26, 2016 at 17:32
  • Gitbook has plugin, some featured plugin is disqus. Also gitbook has online editor too, just signup, and go to editor. When you want to publish your book individually, you can clone your git book (i.e git clone https://git.gitbook.com/clasense4/clsdemo.git), then build using gitbook build. Commented Oct 26, 2016 at 22:53
  • It seems that gitbook plugins are intended to be used with the gitbook.com hosted content. Besides, disqus is a third-party service and I wanted self-hosted. Thank you anyway.
    – Mad Wombat
    Commented Oct 27, 2016 at 14:53

This has essentially already been suggested in the comments, but I'm going to make this an official answer and expand on it.

You should just host it on a standard webserver as an HTML/CSS page. If you have a linux host, apache2 is a good choice, if you have a windows host, IIS is a good choice. (For webserver recommendations)

Calibre can convert it for you from DOC/DOCX to HTML, and from there you just have to make a link to the page.

That being said and as an aside, if it were me personally, I'd also convert it to other formats while I was at it, and offer those for download.

Most browsers will display PDF format, and it makes a good web ebook format. Most people with e-readers have a preferred format of MOBI or EPUB, so offering those formats are nice for those people too.

Here's an example site whose format you might mimic that offers free ebooks, with a link to a page that allows you to read the book on their site in HTML along with links to download other formats.

Project Gutenberg: The Sky Is Falling by Lester Del Rey

As you can see, they have it in HTML, EPUB, Kindle(MOBI), and Plain Text, but of course on your own site, you can provide or not provide any formats you wish.

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