Tag Archives: ebook design

Inside the Box: The Anatomy of an Ebook

Over the next few posts, I’ll be showing you how ebooks are coded and formatted. We’ll look at the anatomy of an ebook, and what makes it tick.

You’ve heard me call an ebook a website in a box. This time we’re going to talk about what’s inside the box.

First thing’s first: let me share an ebook with you. It’s the ePub file for a short story of mine called White Robes.

You’re welcome to read it, obviously, but for the purposes of this post (and the next two), we’re going to be opening up the box and dissecting the ebook.

This is the actual production file that I’ve uploaded to Amazon, by the way — it includes all of the coding and formatting that I typically include in creating an ebook. It will be the model that I’ll be using over the next few posts in discussing an ebook’s innards.

Continue reading Inside the Box: The Anatomy of an Ebook

The Convertible Cloud: Ebook Conversion Online

This is the next in my on-going series of post on ebook creation; it focusses, obviously, on ebook conversion online. It was originally posted over at Joel Friedlander’s wonderful site for indie publishers, TheBookDesigner.com

The Convertible Cloud: Ebook Conversion Online

Previously, I’ve compared some of the computer apps that you can use to convert your manuscript into an ebook.

This month I’ll talk about online conversion tools — all of the ones I’m going to discuss are attached to the retailers and distributors that you are going to be interested in.

 

Eye of the Hurricane: Top Ebook Retailers

 

Let’s start with the most popular retailers and their conversion tools (or lack thereof).

 

Once again, I’m assuming that you’re in the US — which isn’t a given, I know. (Most of this information is true for non-US publishers as well.) Also, I’m defining “manuscript” as synonymous with “Microsoft Word document” (either .doc or .docx), since that’s the most common file format for authors to work with, and that’s the format I used in comparing the desktop conversion tools.

 

As before, these are the major retailers you will probably be looking at:

Continue reading The Convertible Cloud: Ebook Conversion Online

Jump in the Convertible: Ebook Conversion Tools

This is the fifth installment in my series of posts about ebook creation. Like the others, it was originally posted on Joel Friedlander’s wonderful resource for indie publishers,TheBookDesigner.com

Over the last few months I’ve discussed preparing your manuscript and your images for conversion into ebook form. This month, I’m going to look more closely at a subject that I’ve touched on: choosing an ebook conversion tool. Just to review, I suggested that there were four basic ways to convert your manuscript into ebook format:

  1. From scratch
  2. Saving from a word-processing or page-layout application into ePub format
  3. Using a conversion app or online service
  4. Hiring a designer

We’re going to ignore option #1 — if you’re the kind of person who wants to dig that deep into the guts of ebook creation, I don’t think that you’re going to be patient with this process. I’m not going to dwell on option #4 (or the second half of option #3), since the emphasis of this series is how to create your own ebooks. Using a conversion service or ebook designer is always an option, and I’ll discuss later how to choose one. But for now, we’re going to look at choosing the software that you can use to create a book yourself. Here’s the list of software that I will look through with you: .[1] Continue reading Jump in the Convertible: Ebook Conversion Tools

In the Picture: Prepping Images for Your Ebook

Last month I discussed how to clean up your manuscript to prepare it for ebook conversion. This time I’m going to be looking at how to do the same thing with images.[1]

There’s one big difference, however: where the advice that I gave you about getting your text squeaky clean was equally valid for preparing to convert your words to either print or ebook format, these suggestions are ebook-only.

What’s the difference?

Well, in either case, you’re going to start by finding the perfect picture to go with your words. You’re going to crop the picture (cutting out any extraneous bits) and enhance it (or get someone who knows how to do so) so that it looks beautiful.

However, there are two enormous differences between the image files you want to use in an ebook and ones you’re going to get printed on paper:

  1. In a print book, color is expensive, while in an ebook beautiful color costs (essentially) the same as black and white.
  2. On the other hand, in print, you want the image file that goes off to the printer to be as high quality (that is to say, large) as possible, while in an ebook, every kilobyte costs you (I’ll explain how below).

 

Continue reading In the Picture: Prepping Images for Your Ebook

MS to Ebook: A Cleaning Guide

This is the third installment in my series of posts about ebook creation. Like the others, it was originally posted on Joel Friedlander’s wonderful resource for indie publishers, TheBookDesigner.com

Over the last couple of months, I’ve been talking about just what an ebook is, and four basic methods for creating them.

This month, I’m going to get a bit more into the nitty-gritty — how best to prepare your manuscript for conversion.

Whichever of the methods you use to create your ebook, it’s essential to have the original file be as clean as possible.[*]

What do I mean by that?

Basically, it comes down to one thing: Continue reading MS to Ebook: A Cleaning Guide

4 Ways to Create an Ebook

This is the second in my series of blog posts about ebook creation. It was originally posted on Joel Friedlander’s wonder resource site, TheBookDesigner.com.

Last time I talked about just what an ebook is — a website in a box. Ebooks come in a number of flavors, but for the purposes of this discussion I’m going to stick with the most common and most malleable format of ebook, the ePub file that is the basis of all of the major retailers’ ebook offerings.

There are four basic ways to create an ebook (that is, an ePub file):

  1. From scratch
  2. Saving from a word-processing or page-layout application into ePub format
  3. Using a conversion app or online service
  4. Hiring a designer

The trade-off among these methods involve quality, time, and price. As the old saying goes, you can generally pick two. In order to get all three, you’re going to need to become an ebook maven yourself, which will take a fair amount of time, but which will allow you to control all of the variables yourself. Let’s look at the options, and you can see whether that’s the road you want to take. Continue reading 4 Ways to Create an Ebook

Which Ebook Format Should I Choose, ePub or PDF?

I was asked recently which file format was better, ePub or PDF. (Just as well that the Kindle-only mobi format was left out! It’s easy to convert from an ePub file anyway.)

Which is better depends on what purpose the file is going to serve. Continue reading Which Ebook Format Should I Choose, ePub or PDF?

What IS an Ebook?

bigstock-Woman-Holding-Traditional-Book-91915880Recently, I was honored to have been invited to post on Joel Friedlander’s The Book Designer on the subject of ebooks — a subject I love talking about, having been designing ebooks since 2010. (In this industry that makes me practically an old-timer.) This is the first of a monthly series of posts on the subject. It was originally released here.


There are lots of very complex questions when it comes to ebooks:

  • text and image formatting,
  • different file formats,
  • various workflows for creating ebooks,
  • and much more.

Defining “eBook”

For this post, before we get into the more esoteric issues of ebook design and publishing, I’d like to start by defining the subject: just what is an ebook?

This may sound like a very simple question to answer, but it isn’t as straightforward as you might think, and being able to answer it correctly will make many of the thornier issues of creating ebooks just a bit easier.

Continue reading What IS an Ebook?

How Long Can Video in Ebooks Be?

Video PixelsEnhanced ebooks have been a cause of much excitement over the past few years — and with good reason. One of the things that an ebook can do that a paper-and-ink book can’t is to add embedded video and sound. (There are many other ways to enhance an ebook— but those are the most common enhancements.) Here’s a chance to make the book something truly new!

At Bay Area Independent Publishers Association, we have a group that is meeting regularly, discussing enhanced ebooks, led by a long-time digital publisher, Joe Sinclaire. One of the members of that group recently shot me an email recently asking about how long a video she could reasonably add to an ebook — two minutes? Five minutes?

Here’s my answer: Continue reading How Long Can Video in Ebooks Be?

A Plea to Book Designers: InDesign Is Not a Linotype Machine

Lead Type by Andre Chinn (andrechinn) @flickr.com. Used through a Creative Commons license.This is a plea from the heart to all of the page-layout/book-design folks out there on behalf of us lowly ebook designers, but it’s also, I’m afraid, a bit of a rant. Bear with me.

Here’s the gist: PLEASE DON’T USE THE SPACE BAR OR THE RETURN KEY TO MAKE YOUR LINES LOOK PRETTY!

I’ve worked on two ebook conversions recently where the designers had used spaces (or possibly hairspaces) and line feeds to make the pages flow cleanly and attractively on the printed page. They would use the hairspace/space between letters in a word and resize it to make the letters space out attractively — this was usually in the chapter heads or subheads, since spacing in display type can sometimes be tricky. And they’d use the return key (or possibly the shift-return combination) to force a line break in the middle of the paragraph — to avoid hyphenation, for example.

The problem is that when an ebook designer takes your book and converts it into HTML (since ebooks are just self-contained web pages), those little adjustments lose their meaning and are treated for what they are: spaces in the middle of words or paragraph breaks in the middle of sentences.

Continue reading A Plea to Book Designers: InDesign Is Not a Linotype Machine