Ten things to know about making ebooks

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Are you a book editor, author or publisher? If you're going to be making ebooks, you're on a learning curve. To get you started, here are ten things you will need to know more about.

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Ten things to know about making ebooks

  1. 1. Ten things to know about making ebooks An introduction for book-producers
  2. 2. Caveat Fastest way to learn how to make ebooks: 1. Read some ebooks. 2. Start making an ebook. 3. Google and experiment a lot. (A few days.) 4. Sell the ebook. 5. Repeat. No course or slide deck can replace that. Meanwhile, here are ten things you need to know more about.
  3. 3. 1. Static vs reflowable Your ebooks will be static or reflowable. ● Most static ebooks are PDFs: the pages stay exactly the way you designed them. Nice! But on a small screen they’re a pain to read. Think coffee-table art books. ● Reflowable ebooks have no ‘pages’ as such. Most are .epub or .mobi files. Their text and images resize for different screens. Think novels, biographies and business books.
  4. 4. 2. Ebook ≠ Website ≠ App Are you making ebooks, websites or apps? ● Ebooks are just text and images, and have no moving parts. They must be opened in an ebook app, like Amazon Kindle or iBooks. ● Websites are text and images, too, but you must be online to read them. ● Apps are little machines made of software. Ereading apps can open ebooks. Some title- specific apps contain only one ebook.
  5. 5. 3. Content ≠ design In print, content and design are intertwined. But in ebooks (and websites), content and design are separate till they hit your screen. In ebooks: ● You control content. So make it awesome. ● You provide design preferences, but the ereading app makes the design decisions. This is deliberate. (Read up, or watch a video.) It’s also why many ebooks look rubbish on Kindle :-(
  6. 6. 4. Styling for purpose If you’re not using MS Word and InDesign styles for design already, you’re wasting energy! Then, when you use styles, make sure you name styles for purpose, not appearance. And use lowercase and no spaces. E.g.: ● use ‘chapter-head’ not ‘Big heading left’ ● use ‘emphasis’ not ‘italic’ (By the way, your style names will become tags
  7. 7. 5. Learn to check ebooks Many publishers don’t check ebooks for errors, or don’t know what to look for. Gah. ● Things that made sense when laying out print break down in ebooks: hyphens inserted for hyphenation, headings tagged incorrectly, wide tables turned 90° ● Text and background image colours that only work on a white background. ● High-res images that make file sizes huge. That’s just to start. The rest is trial and error.
  8. 8. 6. Ebook toolkit You need some tools to make and manage ebooks. Useful ones: ● Sigil (for editing epubs) ● Calibre (for converting between formats) ● Kindle Previewer (for testing) ● Acrobat Pro/Foxit Phantom (refining PDFs) Also, an iPad and an Android tablet or phone, with as many ereading apps as you can find.
  9. 9. 7. Don’t hype multimedia The peanut gallery wants ebooks to include music, video, games, quizzes and more. That’s possible. But don’t rush. ● Multimedia breaks in many ereaders. ● Books work well as text and images. Always have. Leave software to software makers. ● Adding multimedia raises costs and file sizes and rights obligations. Rather: just link to YouTube videos as needed.
  10. 10. 8. DRM Digital Rights Management is meant to stop people sharing ebooks. For instance, by locking ebooks to a specific user’s account. ● No one knows for sure if it protects sales. ● It often costs money to implement. ● It confuses consumers and leads to higher customer-service costs. ● Those who want to break it will break it. My take: spend your time on marketing instead.
  11. 11. 9. Manage your metadata ● Metadata is info about a book: title, author, price, blurb, ISBNs, rights, etc. ● Many publishers manage it badly. You must keep all metadata in one well-organised place. ● Clean, thorough, organised metadata is critical to ebook creation, management and distribution. ● Start simple: a Google Docs spreadsheet or a spreadsheet shared on Dropbox.
  12. 12. 10. A little HTML and CSS The Web and all reflowable ebooks are built in HTML and CSS. ● HTML is the code that stores text in tags <html>like this</html>. ● CSS is the code that defines the design of that text. Colours, sizes, placement, etc. If you can just pick your way through HTML and CSS, your abilities jump exponentially.
  13. 13. For more Resources: http://electricbookworks.com/kb Twitter: electricbook Arthur Attwell: http://arthurattwell.com/about These slides were created by Arthur Attwell, open-licensed as Creative Commons Attribution–ShareAlike. So you can freely share and remix them, if you credit Arthur Attwell, link to http://arthurattwell.com, and apply an open license to your version. See http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/

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