In the Electric Book workflow, a translation is a subfolder of the original book. Text files go into a subfolder of /text, e.g. /text/fr. We recommend naming the translation folder with the language code, but that’s not required.

This structure assumes that the translation and its parent will be kept in sync for the most part, the translation always being a faithful reproduction of the parent; but this isn’t required. A translation can be quite different to its parent.

Translations vs adaptations

If the translating team works independently, and especially if they want to make content changes that diverge from the parent, their translation is actually an adaptation. For instance, adding a new image or page-design feature, or changing design elements like fonts and colours.

An adaptation could be a completely separate repository, which starts out as copy of the parent project, but from that point on is treated as a new project, overwriting the original files in the repository with the new language.

Setting up a translation

To make a translation:


The text files of each translation are saved in a text subdirectory. So all text files of a French translation live in book/fr/text, and all text files of a Xhosa translation in book/xh/text.

Styles, fonts and images

Translations inherit styles, fonts and images from the parent language, unless files in those folders exist in the translation directory.


If you add a stylesheet to a translation’s styles directory (e.g. book/fr/styles/print-pdf.scss), those styles are added to the parent CSS. Your pages will load the parent CSS, followed by your translation CSS.

This way, you only need to add to your translation CSS those rules that override parent styles.

You need to create a translation stylesheet for each format that you want to augment, and it must have the same name as its parent: app.scss, epub.scss, print-pdf.scss, screen-pdf.scss, and web.scss.

For instance, say you’ve used a large quote mark before all blockquotes in English. In French, you may want to use a guillemet. Your French stylesheets might only contain this:


blockquote:before {
  content: "«";

Note the three-hyphen YAML frontmatter, which tells Jekyll to process the file.

An important, advanced example is custom hyphenation. If your book’s parent language is English, and you’ve used auto hyphenation with a custom hyphenation dictionary, you do not want your French translation to use your English hyphenation patterns. You want different custom hyphenation patterns for French. So in book/fr/styles you’ll add a stylesheet for each output format, and a new custom hyphenation dictionary.

Your new translation stylesheet might have this content:

# French translation styles
# These override the parent language

$hyphenation: auto;
$hyphenation-dictionary: "hyphenation.dic";
@import 'partials/print-hyphenation'

This snippet:

  1. Uses three-hyphen YAML frontmatter so that Jekyll processes the Sass file.
  2. Sets new values for Sass variables $hyphenation and $hyphenation-dictionary that may be different from your parent-language styles. The $hyphenation-dictionary value points to a hyphenation.dic file saved alongside the translation stylesheet.
  3. Imports the relevant Sass partial _print-hyphenation.scss to override the parent-language version of the same partial.


This works well if your images contain no text, and all the images are the same in both the parent and translation languages.

If any images are different, then the translated images should also be saved in the translation images folder, e.g. book/fr/images/epub. This is most often the case, because cover images almost always need to be translated, and are therefore different.

When linking to images, remember to always use the `` tag in the path, e.g.:

![Dog chases bus](/dogbus.jpg)

The `` tag is smart enough to know the path to your images, whether you’re in a translation or an original language, and whether your images are the same as the original language or in a translated images subfolder.

This means that you can keep the same image filenames for translations, as long as they are in a translation subfolder.

You must also include the `

` tag once earlier in each markdown file to load the book/images/web tag, along with a range of other useful tags.


Each translation must be added to the meta.yml file. All translations are a subset of works, alongside work-level metadata like title. Within translations, you list each language. Each language inherits the parent language’s metadata unless overridden with its own metadata.

The translations node is equivalent to works, but for translations. The system knows a page is a translation if it’s in a book subdirectory listed in translations in meta.yml. For instance, for a French translation, with our translation files saved in book/fr/, we would say:

      directory: fr
      language: fr

If our translation files are in book/francais, in meta.yml we would say:

      directory: francais
      language: fr

Here is an example of the translation section of the meta.yml file that includes translations into Xhosa and French. Note how the translations can, but don’t have to, include their own work-level metadata. Where it is included, it overrides the parent language’s metadata. This means each translation can even have its own files list.

        directory: xh
        language: xh
        title: Title in Xhosa
            date: "2016-05-07"
            format: "Digital download"
            identifier: "" # e.g. ISBN or UUID
            image: "cover.jpg"
              - "0-0-cover"
              - "0-1-titlepage"
              - "0-2-copyright"
              - "0-3-contents"
              - "01"
              - "02"
              - "03"
        directory: fr
        language: fr
        title: Title in French

The language selector

When a translation includes the same file names as the parent language, translated web and app pages will include a language-selector icon, to allow users to switch between languages. For this to work:

Epub-specific languages

In some situations, you might want the language set in your epub’s Dublin Core OPF metadata (dc:language) to be different to the language of the translation. For instance, Kindlegen will not convert epubs in languages it does not recognise. In this situation, you might need to set the epub’s Dublin Core language tag to, say, English, even though your epub’s content files are still in, say, Asanti Twi.

To set this, add a language to the epub section of your translation:

  - directory: "potatoes"
      - directory: "twi"
        language: "twi"
            language: "en"


To translate things like the navigation button and bookmarks dialog, edit _data/locales.yml.

Translating the landing page

If your project is translated, it is best to create a landing page for each language. Create a folder in the root directory named after the relevant language code, e.g. fr. In that folder, create an file. This is the landing page for that language. It’s best to copy and then translate the existing file in the root directory.

Translated landing pages need their own translated image for open-graph metadata (i.e. social-media cards). The filename of this image is defined globally for all languages in _data/meta.yml as the project image. A file with that name must then be available for each language that has its own translated landing page.

The parent language will use the project image in assets/images/web. A French landing page, for instance, will take its project image from assets/fr/images/web.

So, for each translation, you need to create a folder in assets named for the language code, e.g. fr. In there, create an images folder, and in there a web folder. If you are using the output script (or gulp) to process images from _source folders into web and other image formats, then rather create a _source folder in images. The automated image-processing script will create the web folder and copy your image there from, say, assets/fr/images/_source to assets/fr/images/web.

Technical details

By default, the home page (aka the landing page) is in the project’s parent language. If the landing-page URL contains a query string defining a language (e.g ?lang=fr), by default the <title> element and masthead will be translated by Javascript, using phrases set in locales.yml. However, the social-sharing (open graph) data will remain in the parent language, e.g. English.

So for social-sharing purposes especially, it is better to provide fully translated landing pages in each language. To do this, create a folder in the root directory named after the relevant language code. In that folder, create an file. This is the landing page for that language. It’s best to copy and then translate the existing file in the root directory.

If that page exists, and a user navigates to a landing page containing a query string defining the language, they will be redirected to the actual, fully translated landing page for that language.

Translating project pages

Project pages are pages that are common to your whole project, not just one book. Examples are the landing page, the search page, the contact page, and the about page.

See ‘Translating the landing page’ above for how to translate that page. Then you can create translated versions of other project pages by adding them to a language directory in the project root in the same way. E.g. the French version of the ‘About’ page would be in fr/