I intend to publish a book in Kindle in both English and Japanese. Right now, I have the English version written in a Microsoft Word document. I would like to start translating the Japanese version soon (while the English version is still being worked on).

Is there any software or generally accepted method for managing this process? I'll be doing the translation myself with the help of an editor, but I'm afraid that I'll start losing track of things when changes are made to the English version (i.e., such changes won't be reflected in the Japanese version).

One option would be to wait until the English version is 100% complete, but I'm wondering if there are any effective methods for translating while the "original" is still in development.

  • Not sure if it's ontopic?
    – DVK
    Commented Dec 25, 2013 at 5:11
  • @DVK I was having similar thoughts, but the solution(s) is about monitoring creation of an electronic book with computer assisted solutions. I think it falls just inside of scope. Commented Dec 25, 2013 at 11:18
  • 1
    @JamesJenkins - my concern is that this isn't really about "eBooks" as "random documents". But it's useful enough that I decided against raising on meta, unless I see VTCs from others
    – DVK
    Commented Dec 25, 2013 at 13:26

3 Answers 3


I recommend you consider to move to an explicit mark-up system (LaTeX, reST/Sphinx) that allow you to:

  • split the work in smaller files that are automatically combined
  • use revision control (Mercurial) on the files so you can see what changed between versions (roll-back of changes, easy differencing, have multiple people work on the same file with conflict resolution support)
  • have the possibility to include more extensive comments (that will never show up in a printed version).

You can continue to edit the files in word, you should just not use its What-You-See-Is-All-You've-Got features for layout and styling.

This might seem overhead if you never used tools like LaTeX/Sphinx. Having persistent predictable output is something that will be invaluable for anything serious (more than 10 pages I would say). I have seen academics trying to do their thesis in Word (and more recently LibreOffice) and be driven up-the-wall by documents breaking after a section or picture was moved around or missing hyphens while exporting to PDF.

Revision control systems like Mercurial allow you to save often, mark specific revision and compare those against the latest (or each other) and push your whole writing effort to a (private) remote copy of the full repository (with all the revisions) in an efficient way. This is much quicker than keeping track of revisions by hand ( e.g. saving as book_20131225.docx) or making off-site backups in any other way.

The people at TeX-LaTeX StackExchange are very helpful and for revision control you can ask on StackOverflow.

  • The computer geek in me loves this answer... but is any "geeky" VCS something an average ebook creator would be comfortable with using? +1 anyway
    – DVK
    Commented Dec 25, 2013 at 13:25
  • @DVK in my experience, computer users (not software developers) can easily work with a VCS for these tasks, as they seldom need branching and merging. Admittedly, for complex situations I sometimes helped out, but any one can setup a repository, add a new file and commit on a regular (every hour) basis (that is learning 4 commands or so) and that is a huge step forward compared to saving to hand-revisioned files (with date in name), which you don't want to do on more than one file.
    – Anthon
    Commented Dec 25, 2013 at 13:35
  • That requires a certain amount of discipline that non-technical people don't always have. This is why MSWord's journaling approach IMHO is more reliable for random person, whatever its downsides as typesetting engine.
    – DVK
    Commented Dec 25, 2013 at 13:45

If you're using MS Word, use the change tracking features ("review" button on the ribbon in MSOffice 2007 => "Track changes").

This way, you know what changes you made on what pages since the last translation pass.

Once you apply all those changes to the translation, you accept them (which folds them into main document and leaves the change list empty for the next round).

Having said that, as someone who have actually done translations myself, I would recommend that you just avoid the headache and wait till almost 100% completion.


A similar approach to the one proposed by Anthon - to use Latex - is to try a much simpler, relatively basic way of editing the text where you also markup (similar to how we edit these questions and answers). One of the well used formats is called markdown. Here's a blog post by an author who switched to using markdown instead of Word or other document writing tools http://ianhocking.com/2013/06/22/writing-a-novel-using-markdown/

And you might find the service offered by leanpub helpful. They:

Because the files are textual in nature they're easy to manage and track using source control software such as Mercurial, Git, etc. Text based 'diff' software utilities make changes easier to track e.g. to compare updates between English and Japanese versions of your book.

What they don't seem to do is offer any way to easily allow you to edit two versions of a chapter (etc) in parallel. Nor do they provide an easy way to publish the 'same' book in different languages. Here's a suggestion:

Import the English version of the book and split the book's contents into separate text files, one per chapter. Create a second 'mirror' book on leanpub, this one set to Japanese. For each chapter in the English version, copy the text into the relevant folder for the Japanese version of the book. I'd also change the filename slightly e.g. to chapter1.jp.txt for the Japanese language version and you might even decide to do the same for the English language version e.g. chapter1.en.txt so they're unambiguous and easy to recognize.

As you update the text in the respective file for either language, use a 'diff' tool http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diff to easily see the change(s) you're making. Then apply similar changes to the equivalent file in the other language.

Note: you don't need to actually publish with leanpub, but you can. And you retain copyright of what you write (unless you choose to assign copyright, etc).

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