So, you’ve finished your manuscript and you’re ready to become a successful author. Now all you have to do is work out where to go from here. Publishing an eBook certainly seems like a simpler way to get your book out there than going down the paper route. After all, turning your manuscript into a PDF and then selling it from your own website can’t be that hard, can it?
Well, that’s certainly the way that eBooks first got off the ground. But then the big guys jumped on the bandwagon and technology advanced just that little bit further. And now, if you want to be taken seriously as an independent author, you’re going to have to get your book onto one of those big guys’ sites.
Where to sell your eBook
Mainstream sellers of eBooks like the Amazon Kindle Store, Barnes & Noble Nook Books, Apple iBooks, and Sony Reader Store are the ones to target. They all have a portal for publishers (that’s you by the way – with eBooks, you become your own publisher) and you can either publish directly with each store or you can go through a distributor.
Distributors, or aggregators as they are sometimes known, are responsible for the conversion of your manuscript into one or more formats and for distributing your eBook to mainstream sellers. Now this brings us to the question of what format you should choose.
AZW, EPUB, PDF, MOBI, PRC…eBook formats may look like a series of Enigma codes, but could choosing the wrong one for your eBook affect how widespread the distribution of your eBook becomes?
There has been much discussion over which is the format of choice and which ones will rapidly become obsolete. And while there is a multitude of different eBook formats out there, there are four main ones that are being used by all the major retailers:
- Portable Document Format (PDF)
- Kindle Format (AZW)
- Mobipocket Format (MOBI, PRC)
- Epub Format (EPUB)
One of the most widely used formats for document exchange (and one that most people will have heard of), the PDF can be read by most computing devices. However, with the advance of technology, devices have become smaller and smaller and, while PDFs are still compatible, they ran into difficulties when devices such as Blackberrys and Palm Pilots required documents to be reflowed to fit their tiny screens.
It is a test for even the most patient of people to scroll horizontally as well as vertically to read a single page, let alone a whole book!
While in recent years, PDF technology has advanced, most non-Adobe readers cannot reflow documents. That’s not to say that PDFs are doomed to frustrate. There are some programs that allow reflow by generating temporary tags. Adobe has released a portable version of Adobe Digital Editions (ADE), which does just this. Many eBook readers now support ADE but the downside is that they do depend on zooming and panning the document. And zooming out to make the page fit is likely to make the text too small to read easily. So, not much of a temptation for your future readers.
Amazon’s Kindle Format is based on the Mobipocket format (which was purchased by Amazon in 2005). While the Kindle appears to be the current eReader of choice – it’s faster, lighter and eBooks can be downloaded in 60 seconds – you are of course restricted to selling your eBooks in this format from the Kindle Store. But as Amazon is probably the biggest seller of books and eBooks on the internet, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
The Mobipocket format uses XHTML and is based on the Open eBook Standard (the predecessor to Epub). EBooks in this format can be read on the Kindle and on several other devices that support MOBI and PRC. They can also be read on devices running Mobipocket Reader, which is a free application from Mobipocket.
The Epub (electronic publication) format is an open standard format, which means that it is free. Successor to the Open eBook Standard, it is the eBook format recommended and maintained by the International Digital Publishing Forum, which has a long list of respected members, including both book publishers and technology companies.
All in all, it is considered to be the industry standard file format for eBooks by the majority of the publishing industry, and is currently used by most eBook stores (with the exception of Amazon), including Google, whose entire library is formatted using Epub.
Epub: free formatting for ebooks
Although the four main formats covered here all have their advantages and disadvantages – PDFs perhaps have more disadvantages than the others – you can’t go far wrong in choosing one of these.
Amazon is perhaps the most popular store for buying books and eBooks alike and the Kindle eBook reader has many advantages in terms of technological advancement and user-friendly popularity. In this respect, you can always be assured of a large audience for your eBook. As Mobipocket can fairly easily be converted into the kindle format, the same applies here too.
However, with Epub: it’s free (always an incentive for someone publishing for the first time), it is considered the industry standard which lends it a lot of credibility, and most eBook stores use this format, giving you a wider choice of where to sell your eBook. While some may argue that the Kindle format is superior in its technology, Epub is most definitely catching up. Epub provides reflowable text and a page layout that can adjust itself to a device’s screen-size. You can style text and fonts and you can also embed multimedia files like colour images, interactive elements and full video! So it’s not so terribly behind.
So, go on…choose your format (or formats – throw caution to the wind!) and get your eBook out there. With the advent of eBook technology, there’s never been more of an opportunity for aspiring authors.
Next time we’ll be looking at how to go about formatting your manuscript for e-publication…
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