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):
Saving from a word-processing or page-layout application into ePub format
Using a conversion app or online service
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→
Recently, 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.
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.
Enhanced 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?
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.
So, the Kindle app for Windows 8 doesn’t seem to accept “personal” documents. That includes the PDFs and such that one can read on other Kindle platforms; it also includes .mobi files sold through retailers other than Amazon.
Bug or feature?
If a bug, how badly do we want them to fix it?
If a “feature,” do we think that we’ll see it spread to other Kindle platforms? And how can we discourage that?
I’m a little worried — as someone who sells Kindle-compatible .mobi ebooks on other sites (including my own) — that our monopolistic friends are closing the sandbox.
Anyone else have any thoughts?
ETA: Apparently, it’s a “feature.” Kindle for Windows 8 is based on the Amazon Cloud Reader — no local storage, and also no “personal documents.” So no Smashwords (or Stillpoint) downloads, for example.