Ebook formats and the unnecessary fuss

There’s an awful lot of confusion and kerfuffle going on at the moment around ebooks. It’s not new, as the kerfuffle has been kerfuffling for a while now. And I’m sure it will continue. The primary concern seems to be people panicking about getting their books (be they author, indie author, publisher or whatever) out in as many selling venues as possible. There’s the iPhone and the iPad, the Kindle and the Kobo, the Sony Reader and a million other options. Then there are all the various ebook formats.

ebook-readersWell, as far as I’m concerned, it’s a fuss about nothing. Supply and demand is a great leveller. People that produce a product, the successful people at least, are keen to remove customer confusion. Often they let the customers do it for themselves. That’s happening with the retailers.

At its most basic, an ebook is not very different to a print book. When you produce a dead tree book you have to get all your content correctly laid out in your chosen program. The real pros use InDesign or something like that, but you honestly can produce professional looking books with MS Word and Adobe Acrobat these days. You make sure you set your styles right, you get your layout and font the way you want it, you add in your page numbers and headers by section and so on. I’m not here to explain all that stuff right now – it’s pretty easy to learn.

Once you’ve made yourself a text block for a print book, you’ve already got an ebook. You take your print edition text block and you remove all the page numbers, headers, sections and everything else. There are numerous other options open to you, like embedded images and videos, hyperlink references, a hyperlinked Table Of Contents and a variety of font styles, but essentially all you need is the print file with all the page-relevant data removed. Again, there are numerous “How To” files and sites out there to help you with that stuff. But that’s not really the primary cause of concern. It seems to me that a lot of people are stressed about getting their ebook available on all the popular devices and in all the popular formats.

Ladies and gents, don’t stress about it. All those product makers out there would have you believe you need to jump through hoops for them. Not true. Jump through a couple of well chosen hoops and all the rest will fall into place.

Let’s start with the big names and the current poster children: Amazon, Kindle, iPhone and iPad. Very easy. Go to Amazon’s Digital Text Platform or DTP. Here it is. Sign up and follow the instructions to upload your text block. Wait for approval. Now your book is available directly from Amazon wirelessly to anyone with a Kindle reader. And an iPhone or iPad, because those people can get the Kindle app for their device. Bloody gold, these app developers. (If you think of something and the thought, “There should be an app for that!” goes through your head, then there almost certainly is one already. If not, you might have just had a million dollar idea.)

iphone-ipadSo you don’t need to be a web developer to make an iPad app of your book. You don’t need to pay other people hundreds or thousands of dollars to do it for you. Sure, it would be great to have an iPad app built specifically for each of your books, but you don’t need them. People will still read your book if you make them aware of it, catch their interest and then direct them to a place to buy it from, be it a standalone app or a file for their Stanza or Kindle app.

You don’t want to use Amazon? No problem. I’ve extolled the virtues of Smashwords.com here before. They are a truly great ebook publisher and retailer. You can upload your book to them as a Word document (as long as you follow their Style Guide to the letter, which isn’t hard) and they’ll make your ebook for you in every format you’ll ever need. Including .mobi, which people with Kindles can read. And epub, for the iPhone and iPad. And they’ll distribute out to numerous well respected ebook retailers around the world. It’s bloody child’s play.

There are ways to make all kinds of versions for all kinds of readers and have a really swanky looking selection of ebooks. But people that are keen to read your book will read your book. If they have a certain reader and you direct them to the correct file type, that’s it. With Amazon and Smashwords, you’ve got all you need.

Of course, if you’re all protective and believe in DRM (Digital Rights Management) then you won’t want to use Smashwords, but you can enable DRM on the Amazon DTP and still have Kindle editions available to all Kindle owners and anyone else with a Kindle app. For nothing. In no time. And you can set your price and make a royalty.

See. It’s bloody easy. Chill out.


Buy Dark Pages direct from Blade Red Press for AU$15.00

Dark Pages, the anthology of dark speculative fiction, is now available directly from Blade Red Press. You can pay via PayPal and you can use a credit card if you don’t have a PayPal account. Just click on the Buy Now button on this page and follow the prompts.

The book is only AU$15.00, including postage, anywhere in the world. Spread the word!


Dark Pages ebook now available

For those of you in the e-revolution, you can now read the Dark Pages anthology on your Kindle, iPhone or any other e-reader you choose. Dark Pages is now available on Kindle from Amazon and in any other ebook format from Smashwords.

You can find the Amazon Kindle edition here.

You can find multiple format ebook editions at Smashwords here.

It’s a great book, with fourteen awesome stories by fourteen awesome authors. Get it now and tell your friends!


Wear the lilac towel day

Today, May 25th, has become a day of considerable significance. Two fantastic authors, Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett, have made May 25th a day to remember. Back in 2001, two weeks after the death of Douglas Adams, fans began Towel Day. On Towel Day you carry a towel with you in remembrance of Adams and his excellent series, The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. As the great book says:

“A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapors; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-bogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.

More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitch hiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitch hiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitch hiker might accidentally have “lost”. What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is is clearly a man to be reckoned with.”

— Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

In the words of Ford Prefect: “If you want to survive out here, you’ve got to know where your towel is.”

Also on May 25th we’re now celebrating the work of Terry Pratchett and raising awareness and money for Alzheimer’s Disease. In Pratchett’s book Nightwatch, the men who fought and died in the Revolution are remembered by people who “wear the lilac” every May 25th. Bringing that tradition into the real world, Pratchett fans are now wearing lilac sprigs to raise money and awareness for Alzheimer’s. You can even buy a spring here. Or you could just pick some. But that wouldn’t get much money to Alzheimer’s research.

On Twitter a few of us were talking about this and suggesting that we wouldn’t want one or other day to get the upper hand, as it were, leaving the other day less noticed. The net result of that conversation was that perhaps we should all wear towelling robes on May 25th. The robes would be lilac in colour and have DON’T PANIC embroidered on the back, with all sales proceeds going to www.alz.org or www.alzheimers-research.org.uk.

You heard it here first. Get on board. And if anyone wants to manufacture those robes and donate the profits to Alzheimer’s research then I’m sure karma would reward you generously.


Pushed Too Far on Dark Shorts

My duel winning story from House Of Horror has been added to the Dark Shorts page. Use the button on the left or this is a direct link to the story.

It’s a little under 1,500 words and Friday Flash stuff is supposed to be 1,000 words or less, but I thought I’d mention this in Friday Flash circles anyway, for those of you interested to have a read. I hope you enjoy it.