Tuesday, February 7, 2012

My First Ebook part 2

Before I go any farther into my own journey into ePublishing you may ask, “What exactly is an e-book?” It’s basically a collection of content and navigation files collected into a fancy zip file that allows for reflowing text that can be rendered on a number of different devices with different sized screens. An .opf file holds the content: images, html pages, metadata files, a table of contents and a file that describes the reading order. An .ncx file contains a table of contents. A container file, the META-INF is used to hold encryption and Digital Rights Management files that protect your book from being shared without purchasing it or printed out like PDFs can be. A simple mimetype file is added, it’s zipped up and saved with an .epub extension.
You write an epub file in strict XHTML web code, each chapter or page being it’s own xhtml page. You can use any simple text editor if you are handy with coding and there are a number of applications, some free, that will combine or compile those with your other content into an e-book package. You need to then validate the file for accuracy with ePubcheck, a free online service. If it comes back error free you can then upload it to your aggregator or right to a seller if you are using only one or two. Sounds fairly simple but there are mistakes waiting everywhere and if your file is not perfect the seller will reject it for any number of coding errors and unfortunately not tell you how to remedy the situation. Some apps lean toward WYSIWYG but the science is still evolving and it will be awhile before we have a program that will do it all for us. Book Creator, an app for iPad is the closet thing so far to a total WYSIWYG fixed layout e-book creator but it’s not well-suited for commercial production in ePublishing.
Now back to my book-loving wife and her preference for real books. Certainly there are still those who prefer the experience of physical books, God bless them and her. Everyday though, the number of converts to digital reading grows. Amazon sold more ebooks than real books for the last half dozen quarters and the trend only shows signs of expanding geometrically from there. The market is a billion dollars at present and by 2013 the estimate is over 2 billion dollars. That is a market you would be silly to ignore. Millions of folks are purchasing tablets and other mobile devices. The embrace of ePub by readers is no longer a novelty waiting to see if it will take hold. The e-book market is bigger than you think and the time to get into it is now.
Lisa De Spain, a professed e-book evangelist says, “ As a publisher… I’ve seen change and plenty of it. That’s why I am so excited about e-books! This single thing has the potential to change the publishing industry forever. The only way you can lose is to ignore it.”
Of course as always, with change there are naysayers. With the invention of movable type to print books in large quantities in 1470, Guillaume Fichet said, “If everything that can be thought can immediately be written and preserved for posterity, the memory capacity of the cultural system will be overstressed and oblivion will be the result.” Conrad Gesner in 1545 bemoans the disappearance of hand-lettered manuscripts as they had “unique authority” and the “aura of truth” that printed books lacked. Gutenberg’s printing was the cause of the “death of quality” literature and design. In 1951 critic Harvey Swados saw paperback books and worried that “this revolution in the reading habits of the American public means that we are being inundated by a flood of trash which will debase farther the popular taste.” Flash forward to 2009 -Paul Constant warns of the “slow moronic death of books as we know them” concluding that people are not going to read anymore or the idea of reading will be reduced to a “boutique experience, not unlike collecting vinyl.” As we know history shows no proof of any of those claims coming true. The answer to whether new breakthroughs will create good or evil is as always: yes. It’s never an either/or scenario. I think you can enjoy the best of both worlds and the only thing that has changed is that you have more choices.
It’s a new world for books and a new world for book creators. Having put together my own e-book I am now looking to help other cartoonists achieve their dreams of becoming self-published authors with an epublishing company. My friend and I have started Volossal Publishing. I’m hoping this has the potential to become a new career along with my plans to produce many more of my own e-books. I have content galore after all these years in the cartooning biz and for the price of my time and an $19 ISBN number, the next book is only clicks away from hitting the e-shelves.
Authors of all types are out there right now making money off short stories, articles and full-length books with E-ase. It only makes sense that cartoonists can do the same with popularly priced, widely available e-books. Indie publishing has become a viable option. Interested? Check out Smart Self-Publishing: Becoming An Indie Author by Zoe Winters. It’s a great book (e-book naturally) for getting your indie publisher juices flowing.
This new frontier is ripe with opportunities for cartoonists and authors alike who want control over their work and the freedom to bring it to a market that is hungry for it! Waiting to see how it works out for others just puts you behind the curve and ultimately farther down the search lists. So stop the presses! Tell the Lorax to relax! The trees will be getting a breather. Epub is here and ready to make you a fan of digital books.

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