eBook Conversion: How Hard Can That Be? | Books & Beer

My Moleskine Kindle case Terry Madeley

My Moleskine Kindle case Terry Madeley

Chris, Joshua and Toby from eBook Architects join us to discuss the process of ebook conversion. Surprise! It’s not as simple as shoving some text in an auto-conversion scrip. Well… not if you want to do it right.

Google+ and Cox weren’t playing nice with Evo tonight. Please forgive us. But we powered through, and over the course of 25 minutes, here’s what we covered on this edition of The Books & Beer Hangout:

  • From Word doc to ebook — what’s involved?
  • The importance of starting with a good book!
  • Why easy-conversion tools may not be the best way to proceed
  • What ebook formats you should care about
  • Pitfalls to avoid before converting your document to ebook form
  • Why you should study current and future trends for ebooks
  • Features of ebooks you’re probably missing
  • The wisdom of checking out the competition before you create your ebook
  • Researching marketplaces to make sure your book is readable everywhere
  • What authors need to understand before working with an ebook converter
  • What you need that you’re probably missing when you create an ebook
  • The process that eBook Architect follows to create an ebook
  • The importance of cleanup before you start the conversion process
  • The future of devices and formats on ebook readers
  • Proper formatting for different devices
  • Will ebook readers become free?
  • What about fixed-format books? Comic books, photography books…
  • Will mobile websites beat out ebooks?
  • Three predictions for ebooks in the next 12 months.

And there was the obligatory drinking of beers. Tonight’s choices: Redbud Brewing’s Arbor. (Skip this one. I think it was infected.) , 400 Pound Monkey by Left Hand, a Shock Top Raspberry,  and a Hercules IPA by Great Divide.

The Books & Beer Hangout is broadcast live every Thursday night at 6P/9E as a Google+ Hangout on Air and on YouTube Live! Circle ePublish Unum on Google+ to watch live, and to join The Books & Beer Hangover right after the show to chat with hosts and participants live!

Can’t see the video embedded above? Download the video or watch it on YouTube.

Amazon Kindle Publishing Isn’t Enough By Itself

As the competition among marketplaces increases, we’ll see more wooing of top authors with promotional offerings, higher revenue share, and other specialized support. But that often comes with the price of exclusivity. Many authors have opted for Amazon’s Kindle Select program, and enjoyed great benefits. But as a growing number are discovering, limiting to only Amazon Kindle publishing is limiting, indeed.

Read Ed Robertson’s excellent examination of the declining nature of exclusive digital publishing deals with marketplaces for more insights.. Not only does he use his own books and experience with Amazon Kindle publishing as an example, but he also contrast that with changes some higher-profile authors are reporting.

The results are telling. Authors must decide if the additional incentives offered with an exclusive arrangement with a single marketplace are of greater value than the increased exposure that comes with multiple channels. And that equation changes on a near-continuous basis as the marketplaces mature.

In the long run (and without knowing the specifics of your publishing goals,) we take the long view: Exposure will probably beat out exclusivity. But with all things, YMMV.


Need personal advice? We offer 1-on-1 consulting services on a pay-as-you go format. Are you a visual learner? Catch the Books & Beer Hangout for a fun, lighthearted conversation on digital publishing issues. And subscribe to our blog and sign up for our mailing list to stay up to speed on our latest educational offerings for authors who want to survive — and thrive — in a digital world.

Are ad-supported ebooks the future of publishing?

kitty your ad here by Shannon Kringen

kitty your ad here by Shannon Kringen

Tonight I had the privilege to speak before a digital marketing class at Arizona State University. I was one of a series of speakers, all dealing with emerging media trends. I talked about the coming of advertising inside of ebooks.

I’m not decrying ad-supported ebooks as the harbinger of doom. Nor am I stating that they are the future. But they are a reality, and not one you should be afraid of.

A history of ad supported content

If you’re my age, you can remember a time when your parents shelled out a few bucks a month for this new thing called HBO. For your (parents’) money, you could watch 2-year-old movies without commercial interruption. Ever. Fee-based television was invented, where the consumers were directly responsible for paying the bills at HBO. At least in part. Cable companies had to shell out big bucks to get access to the signal (via a giant Death Star-esque dish), but those fees were covered by hungry households who couldn’t wait to watch Smokey And the Bandit seven times a day.

But those days were short-lived. More stations came to cable viewers, and cable companies quickly developed advertising options for local and national businesses. While the movie stations (by and large) remained ad-free, the other 900 channels — channels you (and still your parents now retired to Boca) happily paid good money for — were rife with ads. Sometimes even more so than the free broadcasted channels you could pull down with an antenna.

Publishing isn’t immune

But this is the printed word, and there’s absolutely no precedent with which you can substantiate your ludicrous prediction of ad-supported books, Evo! Er… bought a magazine lately? Picked up a newspaper? Print’s not quite dead yet, and has an even longer history of ads fitting the bill. Yes, even when you’re paying for the content. So there.

Amazon beat you to it

By recent reports, Amazon sold four times as many Kindles during this chum-filled buying extravaganza as they did last year. Four times. Back then, they didn’t have their subsidized Special Offers Kindle. Nor did they have the Kindle Fire. And just like always, Amazon isn’t sharing precise numbers. But you can bet the 30% reduction in price was enough of a motivator to get some folks interested in the ad-supported model.

DIY ad-supported ebooks

Adding advertisements to books isn’t something reserved to marketplaces or device makers. Any author can add whatever they want to their books. It just takes a little time, a little effort, and the ability to re-compile and re-publish your books in various market places. It also might take a willingness to deal with the backlash. Backlash from readers if ads start cluttering up their space. Backlash from advertisers if the ads fail to generate leads/sales for them. Backlash from publishers who want a cut of the action. And backlash from marketplaces who also want a cut of the action.

Technically, you can do it. You can even swap out ads every month, republishing your EPUB files to the marketplaces each time to get those ads in front of a fresh set of eyes.

Enter Jurassic Park logic

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. This isn’t something to enter into without your eyes being very very wide open. Not only could you get banned/blacklisted, you may find yourself without anything to sell. If you think advertisers are lining up to place ads in your book, then you don’t understand advertising. This isn’t bleeding edge stuff. Heck, the blade hasn’t even been forged. But I think it will be.

I fully expect to see ad-supported ebooks — either at the device or at the title level the de rigueur in coming weeks/months/years. But if I’m wrong, I won’t lament the fact. I can always pay to watch ads on cable.

Want more cutting edge digital publishing goodness?

We’ve got an ePIC seminar coming up at the end of January that will teach you plenty about getting your book on the various marketplaces (ad-free for now) and how to promote the heck out of you and your book to reach a wider audience. Reserve your spot today!

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Playing with Fire: New Kindle gives authors new possiblities

Amazon's Kindle Fire

We were early converts to ebooks. My wife thought it was silly, but I bought a first generation Kindle as soon as they were released. In a tragic turn of events (for me) she fell in love with the thing and I never saw it again. I had to buy another Kindle (second generation) so I could finally have my own. I now have the Kindle app, along with several others, on my iPad and iPhone. The point is that we’re a household of ebook nerds and were quite unlikely to let the new Kindle Fire pass without getting our hands on it.

The Fire showed up Tuesday in the drab-but-clever Amazon.com packaging they used for their previous Kindles, and we were happy to see it fully charged. Once we got it on our home wifi it took off like a champ. The Fire synched up quickly to our account, though it was a while before we actually got around to reading any books. First we had to play with the games, installed Facebook app, and relatively small Appstore. I think all these extras are why some people are confused about the Fire is for and try to compare it to an iPad.

It’s No iPad, but it doesn’t need to be

The Fire’s is designed to consume content. Books are obvious, Pandora came installed for music, and you can stream movies from Amazon.com and Netflix. I love that the Fire will fit (snugly) in my back pocket, but that small size means there is no way I can use it for much more writing or serious work than my iPhone. It is also a big sluggish sometimes when not using the core book and video apps, which would drive me nuts over a long period of time. The Fire is much cheaper than an iPad, and will never replace its functionality.

That’s fine by me, because I’m more excited about what the Fire does have than what it lacks. Amazon has about 70% of the ebook market right now, which in some respects makes them the least common denominator for ebooks. If you have an idea for an electronic publication that won’t work on Amazon, you’re throwing the biggest chunk of the market out the window.

Now that the Fire supports color, audio, and video, the least common denominator is a whole lot sexier. “Ebooks” can be a lot more than just text versions of regular books. Think of a cookbook that displays videos as you cook, or a children’s book that includes spooky sounds as a character walks through a dark woods. The Kindle Fire supports the KF8 (Kindle Format 8) which starts to allow fun things via HTML5 and CSS.

Unfortunately it is still a Kindle-specific format, but since I can read Kindle on my iPad, read the Nook app on my Fire, and mix things up a dozen different ways I think we’ll still see authors much less constrained while all the dust settles.

Things are getting more and more interesting.

Circle Us on Google+

If you’re on Google+, we now have a business page for digital authors. Add us to your circle and we’ll circle you right back.

Visit us at Social Media AZ Conference

Evo and I are giving our Intro to Digital Publishing talk at the Social Media AZ (SMAZ) conference in Tempe tomorrow. Our session starts at 2:00pm.

If you’re coming down to the event, make sure and say hello!

Amazon’s @Author provides digital authors incredible fan access

A student raising a hand to ask a question at ...

Image via Wikipedia

Authors who are hoping to go digital but never have to interact with their fans got some bad news from Amazon.com last week. They are creating a way for readers to ask questions about specific passages in the books they are reading:

The new program, called @author, lets Kindle users highlight a passage and then ask the author a question about it via their Amazon author page or Twitter. Only questions as long as 100 characters can be asked from within the e-book itself, but more in-depth curiosities can be posted to the author’s official page on Amazon.

Of course, only a handful of questions will actually be answered directly by authors, but other readers are free to chime in and offer their take. If the writer does respond, readers will be notified by email.

via E-Books Get More Interactive With Amazon’s New Author Q&A Feature.

Authors who ignore the feature could find themselves entirely left out of incredible discussions around their work, and missing a fantastic opportunity to connect with readers and turn them into fans.

Savvy authors can use this as not only a nice way to give a reader a thrill by talking with them, but also a source of invaluable insight into what characters, plot points, ideas, and passages are making an impact. This could be a gold mine of information and a powerful way to build a fanbase that helps promote your work to others.

This is just getting rolling, but you can see notices of participating authors on Amazon’s @Author Twitter account.

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Rowling releasing Harry Potter as DRM-free eBooks

P Harry Potter

Image via Wikipedia

I’m one of those few people who is not a fan of Harry Potter, but I can’t help but respect and watch the empire that J.K. Rowling has built around her books. Her new effort – Pottermore – extends her Harry Potter world into the digital space, but the thing that caught my eye was that she is not making a big-name deal with Amazon.com, but instead releasing the books in an open source, Google eBook format:

…Rowling will be self-publishing the digital copies of Harry Potter on Pottermore, a move that could leave proprietary readers reeling from the loss of potential earnings.It seems Rowling will be taking Potter to Google, and publishing all of the books through open-source Google eBooks purchasable through Google Checkout in DRM-free ePub and PDF formats.

via Pottermore + Google = eBooks for Everyone.

She’s not the first author to do this, but she’s by far the one with the most clout. If this encourages readers to explore open source options with their Kindles and Nooks, it might lead to them to wander further afield from the controlled storefronts that currently dominate.

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