Should Amazon Have Adopted the ePub?

March 22, 2013 in Articles, eBook Management, Formatting eBooks, Kindle Devices

New Kindle PreviewerWhat a  kerfuffle, Amazon have moved over to their new KF8 format for all the newer Kindle Fire  devices and the new Paperwhite Kindle devices currently being sold. Basically this means that any new Kindle released in the future will support the KF8 format, which in truth is a little like, but not exactly the same as, ePub3. It also means that the Kindle devices that currently operate with the older mobi based formatting will gradually be phased out.

So Amazon have stuck to their policy of having their own proprietary format for their eReaders. The main bone of contention, highlighted by many online publishers, with this strategy is of course that anyone that has bought one of the millions of older Kindle devices is now stuck with the AZW or similar with far less features than KF8 and the two are not compatible i.e. KF8 formatting cannot be used on the older Kindles without problems. Not that a move to ePub would have helped that situation, because ePubs cannot be read with the older Kindles either (or the new Kindles now). Read the rest of this entry →

Recommended eBook Formats for Independent eBook Publishers

November 12, 2012 in Articles, Formatting eBooks

Putting aside some of the older technologies, eBook formatting now seems to be settling down into three leading formatting options:

  • PDF Format
  • EPUB Format
  • MOBI Format

PDF Format

The PDF format or ‘portable document file’ is an option created by the Adobe software group. PDF files can be created fairly easily by the masses using PDF convertors that typically hi-jack the print function of a word processor or in fact many software programs that have a printing facility. PDF Creator is a program that can be used for this purpose and is available on line as a free download using the link provided.

The whole point of a PDF file is that it allows a document to be easily read and shared between PCs but it is difficult to edit without a special editing program. For example, a word processor file, or excel spreadsheet can be easily converted to a PDF. So from the provider’s perspective, they can retain a reasonable element of protection for their document but can at the same time share it easily allowing third parties to view it but not necessarily edit it.

Adobe give away the software that can be used to view PDF’s for free. So if you own a PC and want to view or print documents easily, including eBooks, the PDF is normally the best option.

Please Note : A PDF is not necessarily the best option for mobile devices or Amazon’s Kindle device. Read the rest of this entry →

Understanding What an eBook Is!

April 4, 2012 in Articles, Formatting eBooks

If you are a writer of books,  or a publisher of information in a printed format, you need to understand exactly what an eBook is, otherwise you could be missing out on a massive market for your products through the simple conversion of your printed, hardcopy medium into a digital one. This is especially true with the whole world seemingly heading towards the convenience of mobile technology and adopting applications that allow them to carry many different books on hand-held devices ranging from mobile phones to dedicated eReaders.

This is a straightforward definition of an eBook:

“an eBook is a replica of a printed book delivered in a digital format that can be diplayed and read on an eReader”

What is an eBook?

The problem authors come up against when they want to convert their printed books into digital versions is understanding that there is not one single standard digital format that e-readers use. Many people will cry – just use a ‘pdf’, Adobe’s contribution to the digital world. But unfortunately a ‘pdf’ is not the complete solution. Yes there is no doubt that Adobe’s ‘pdf’ format has its place in the digital world and  is good for viewing and printing a book from a PC, laptop or iPad. It’s acronym does after all convert to the meaning ‘portable document file’, which is exactly what it is.

Download it to a Kindle and again yes it will work, but you will lose much of the functionality a Kindle has to offer; for example, the automatic starting of a page from a main heading or the simple resizing of text. The same applies to many of the other eReading devices now available through the digital marketplace. They require the files that were designed for them in order to provide the optimum level of functionality.

How complex this all becomes, depends to an extent on the requirements of the author. There are in fact three fairly solid formats that exist which can take care of most eReader requirements in terms of functionality.

  1. The ‘PDF’ format already discussed is best for your home PC or laptop and is also good for printing if the security settings allow it.
  2. The ‘EPUB’ format is your best choice for Nook, Sony Reader, KOBO and most reading apps, including Stanza, Aldiko and Adobe Digital Editions.
  3. The ‘MOBI’ format is best for Kindle and Kindle apps, remembering that Amazon have their own proprietary file format, the ‘AZW’, which is almost entirely based on ‘MOBI’ and only differs slightly with respect to how it handles the digital rights management (DRM) aspect of the file formatting. So the Kindle will read and display properly formatted ‘MOBI’ files without any problem.

There is another usurper creeping into the fray and that is the KF8 or Kindle Format 8 which is specifically for use on a Kindle Fire eReader. Obviously with Amazon being the major player in the eBook marketplace it would be silly to dismiss this late entrant. You can find out all you need to know about the Kindle Fire using this link. But basically this new format introduces a massively extended range of functionality that encompasses, amongst other things, HTML5 and CSS3 support.

Of course there are other formats that exist for eBook readers but the ones detailed above are the current main players. Formatting existing word documents so that they can be converted into the three main formats range from a fairly easy exercise to definitely quite tricky. PDF conversion is certainly the easiest and ePubs that will pass the required ePub check is typically the most difficult.

Useful Free Resources

To read ‘PDF’ files, as books, on desktops and laptops, you will need Adobe Reader.

To read ePub books on desktops and laptops we recommend the free Adobe Digital Editions software app, which incidentally will also support ‘PDF’ files if you want a single solution.

To read any Kindle books on your desktop or laptop you can download the Kindle Previewer software from Amazon.

Ebooks –  How Your Manuscript Is Turned Into An eBook

March 21, 2012 in Articles, Formatting eBooks

Formatting eBooksComputers are wonderful things, but they do have drawbacks: the people who dominate the industry, with a few notable exceptions, have a limitless contempt for the average consumer. These technicians know how their machines function; we, the poor customers, can like it or lump it. And when they attempt to ‘come down to our level’ and offer guidance as to how to make the things work – get anything to work – they assume we already have a knowledge of geek-speak and have hours to spare trawling through semi-literate instructions to find what we want.

Ereaders, the hand-held products like Kindles that display ebooks, present this technical world with additional headaches. We now have a clash of the Titans: traditional publishers with their jargon-ridden world constantly harping back to an era where molten lead was poured into moulds to produce print, and excitable and money-hungry computer-savvy youngsters who relish the thought of bringing readers worldwide into their marketplace. Something had to happen. And it has. Confusion!

Amazon are doing well with the Kindle Publishing programme and if you have your wits about you, and have the time to spare to format your book properly, you should end up with your book listed in the Kindle Store. And your ebook should display reasonably well for readers who buy it.

An expert can usually negotiate the technical hurdles in a matter of hours; a novice should put aside days if not weeks because the learning curve is steep – especially if you want a decent ebook to result.

Many traditional publishers came a cropper when they started to convert their printed publications into ebooks. The quality of the ebooks produced was often appalling. Nowadays the wise ones take great care in only offering ebooks that have been monitored by humans first. Computers proved incapable of spotting the errors that the conversion processes were producing.

Our advice: look around for advice and support, and do look into the DIY route for publishing your book. If you can stay the course, you should see your book online in a week or two. But a more prudent route might be to leave the technical side of things to those who know what’s required. That will leave you free to get on with your next offering, happy in the knowledge that your published ebook is a professional one you can be proud of.

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