Here is a thing about eBooks

I want to read Let the Right One In, preferably on my iPhone.  Mandy and I watched and enjoyed the film together, then she checked the book out of the library, read it & loved it.  I didn’t get around to reading it when she had it out, so I re-requested it (it’s a very popular book & there are only two copies in circulation in the Phoenix library system, so it took a while) and it came in a couple weeks ago and … I still didn’t get around to it.  I’d like to try reading eBooks (I basically never have), on my iPhone, and I’d like to see if having the book always available, in my pocket, makes me any more likely to actually get through it than merely having the huge block of paper lurking around the house, taunting me about not reading it.

Also, Mandy loved it so much that she has stated that she would like to read it again.  So:

1) I could go to a book store and buy the book (the paperback is broadly available, on account of the movie), or just order the paperback from Amazon for … looks like $8.88 used or $10.85 new (or the hardback for $9.90 used / $14.69 new) … then we’d own it & I’d be able to read it and Mandy would be able to read it over and over, and we could even lend it out if we wanted to.

2) I could buy the kindle version from Amazon for $9.99 and read it on my iPhone.  And only my iPhone.  And Mandy can’t read it again without us buying or borrowing it again.

I can’t find the book as an eBook anywhere else (though admittedly I’m not experienced at trying – where do YOU look for eBooks?), so this may be the only e-option for this title.  Amazon’s DRM means that I can either pay twice for the two people in my household to be able to read the one book, or buy the paper book and then a totally unrestricted number of people can read it.  Let me rephrase: I can buy the electronic version for $9.99 and I’ll be the first and only person ever allowed to read that copy OR I can buy a paper copy for $8.88 that’s already been read by an unknown number of people and I can be one of many people who are allowed to read that copy in the future.

There is a reason publishers like DRM and dislike used books, and it has nowt to do with readers.

I believe that publishers should do everything they can to encourage reading as much as they can in every possible way that they can.  I believe that anything publishers do that discourages reading, or that fails to encourage reading, is working against their own best interests.  I believe that the amount of money society spends on reading material relates directly to how much people are reading – so that the best way to increase spending on books is to increase reading. Duh! Please, Macmillan, encourage me.

video: Publishing Revolutions

I’ve just finished a new video, on some of the exciting changes taking place in the publishing world (I recommend you watch it in High Quality & full screen, if possible):

If you watch it a couple of times (once to absorb everything I’m saying, then again to absorb the production techniques) you’ll see that … at the beginning of working on this video, last Monday, I had never done any 3D animation and only a modicum of modeling (mostly in SL), and had never used Kinemac before.  (I bought the Macheist 3 bundle earlier this year, for access to that and BoinxTV, mostly.)  As I worked for about a week and a half on this video, I became more and more experienced with the software, more aware of what it was capable of, and more comfortable doing more advanced things with it.  So at the beginning, the big 3D text is pretty neat, but by the end I have an entire bookcase of individually hand-animated books leaping in and out of a box.

There’s things I’d like to change about it.  Not just improving the animation in the first half, either.

On Demand Books is now saying they’ll have two million titles available by years’ end, rather than one, for example.  Plus, I feel like I may have represented the kindle more strongly than the iPhone – while I believe the 41million iPhones/iPod Touches in circulation worldwide, each with hundreds of individual book apps and at least 4 different major eReader apps, each with robust eBook catalogs and (coming soon) in-app purchasing will do significantly better and reach wider and have more of an impact than the roughly half-million, all-US-based kindles.

I’m already working on the script for the next couple of videos.  More thoughts on what it means to have over 1400 new titles published every day.  More thoughts on print on demand.  Something about eBook pricing.

Dragons’ Truth eBook updated

The kindle version of Dragons’ Truth, my All Ages / Young Adult novel, has now been updated to look a lot better than what has been there for most of the last year.  It took about four hours to go from the source document to a well-formatted kindle version, this time – I’ve got a pretty functional “workflow” now that I think will continue to serve.  I should probably write it down.  (It certainly didn’t hurt that Dragons’ Truth is >50k words.)

In addition, Dragons’ Truth is now available through Smashwords in all the formats they offer (and directly to your iPhone or iPod Touch through the Stanza app).  Going from the kindle version to a Smashwords version I was happy with took about 40 minutes.  It would have been 20 minutes, but I wasn’t happy with how the Chapter headings were coming through, and I had to switch to my PC to get the result I wanted.  Some difference between how TextEdit and WordPad handle .rtf files means that as picky as I am, I have to do half the formatting in one and the rest in the other.  Very smooth.  No upload problems, formatting came out as expected, go have a look for yourself.

Four books down, three to go.  (Not counting the poetry.)  If they all go as easily as Dragons’ Truth, I’ll have corrected kindle versions and Smashwords versions in as little as 15hrs’ work.

It’s 5AM.  I’m going to bed.  Tomorrow: no eBooks work.  Podcast work, instead.  Night.

making eBooks

eBooks are still a bit of a headache for me. Smashwords helps.  Last year I had to manually convert my books into 8 different formats (each) by hand.  Actually, I just quit after I hit 8 formats.  There are a few other formats I couldn’t manage to get my books converted to for free.  Now, I’m thinking maybe I only have to re-create each book 3 times: I take the paperback (which gives me 1 PDF), convert it once to make a printable PDF, once for the kindle, and once more for Smashwords, which will then give me my book back in eight more formats.  (All DRM-free, of course!)

The PDFs are easy.  I already have to do the work in InDesign to create the paperback, and Adobe software loves to output nice PDFs.  Adobe recently announced that they’re updating their software soon to create epub files easily, which would be nice, but Smashwords seems to do a better job, right now.  Note to people not in publishing: epub is the future of eBooks.

Making a well-formatted document for the kindle is … well, I’m getting better at it. Luckily I’m not doing anything fancy with my books.  No charts, no pictures, no tables, no complex layouts… well, not in the books I’ve been putting in, so far.  My poetry can wait.  Because it’s going to be a headache, and probably won’t ever sell in volume sufficient to cover the value of the time I’ll have to spend to get it looking right on the kindle (and will never look good in most other eBook formats).  I’m just putting novels in. Still, I have to go through each book line by line manually marking it up.  Then, because the kindle has a limited range of fonts and doesn’t support extended characters, I have to go through basically character by character and -in some cases- not only change to characters without diacritical marks where I’d used them in the original text, but also rewrite entire sections where the use of specialized fonts and unsupported characters are actually integral to the text.


Last year, before Smashwords, I would have had a similarly frustrating process to go through six more times, once for each of the other formats’ idiosyncratic proprietary requirements.  Now, by simply doing a quick find-and-replace of Amazon’s proprietary page break tags with a few line break tags, I can upload the well-formatted HTML file I created for the kindle version to Smashwords and -pretty much- get a good output within a few minutes.  It’s still lacking the extended characters and custom fonts of the original/paperback version, but most of the eBook formats don’t support that stuff, either.

I’m still developing a “workflow” for eBooks, probably go through and do the main markup in one pass, then save it out as two files & add the kindle markup to one (& remove special characters) and the Smashwords markup to the other.  I’m not really much for “workflows” but its something I’ve been thinking a bit about, lately.  At Tools of Change 2009, there were multiple, competing products in the exhibition hall & various presentations trying to help publishers manage their “workflows.”  At the upcoming ABPA conference (which I don’t plan on attending), one of the six sessions (the rest of which are trying to address the future of publishing via subjects like: alternative and online sales channels, online and social marketing, et cetera) is about creating and managing production workflows.  Apparently this is a problem area for publishers.  Apparently, solving the “workflow” problem is a very cutting edge, future-of-publishing sort of issue.

So I’m thinking about it.  Workflow.  Huh.  I’ve got some notes.  Maybe if I “plan” a “workflow” for my next book, it’ll go more smoothly?

What am I talking about?  The main hiccups in my last two books’ production were 1) Lightning Source not meeting their contractually stated production schedules and 2) volunteer, unpaid proofreaders taking unpredictable periods of time to get back to me.  One of these things I can’t effect, and the other I can only fix by spending money I can’t afford to spend.  Maybe I should add “wait an indefinite period for proofreaders” to my workflow.  Or maybe I’ll research reasonable time periods professional, freelance proofreaders take and how much they charge and negotiate expectations and/or my budget to find a reasonable solution.  Otherwise, my production of books works pretty smoothly.

I seem to have gone off topic.  Sorry, it’s late.  Maybe I’ll go to bed.  Ooh, but first I should link to my latest eBooks.  The eBook of Forget What You Can’t Remember is available in the Kindle Store for less than $8.99, at Smashwords for $3.99, and for those of you who can’t afford that price or don’t have a credit card, as a free eBook in a whole mess of formats.  The eBook of More Lost Memories, a companion collection of short stories, is available in the Kindle Store for less than $8.35, at Smashwords for $3.99, and if you can’t afford that price or don’t have a credit card you can email me for a free copy.  Enjoy:

I’ll be re-working all the eBooks I did last year soon, too, to get them on Smashwords.  I’m excited about Smashwords largely because of their partnership with Lexcycle – which is to say, because it makes my eBooks available for sale to iPhone users, in an iPhone-compatible format, and through an increasingly easy-to-use iPhone app-based storefront.  If you have an iPhone, download Stanza and take a look for yourself!