Ebook/Ereader Technical

Why Ebook Authors Need to Embrace New Technologies

16 April 2014

From The Book Designer:

I work with new writers online and at events. They ask a myriad of smart questions including this one: how would you publish differently if you did it all over again? As the saying goes, hindsight is 20-20. I’d do dozens of things differently than the blind assault to digital publishing I debuted with.

. . . .

You’ve probably heard most of the common answers that follow I wish I had:

  • been more involved with social media
  • blogged sooner
  • invested in a great cover
  • done more market research
  • worked with a professional editor or two
  • learned more about SEO (search engine optimization)

Here’s another answer you may not have heard as much, but this would have helped me immensely and is still true for many writers today:

  • embraced the technologies available for use in ebooks

There’s a common dilemma in this digital author business: most writers are of advanced age, and the technology they need to succeed is easier learned by the younger crowd.

This is a generalization of course, but I see a lot of frustration behind threads of gray hair when discussing issues related to blogging, social media, converting documents and more.

. . . .

Publishing has evolved at a snail’s pace compared to what’s happening today. Most industry insiders were astonished how fast ebooks became mainstream while also changing the paradigm of authorship and how retailers sell books.

. . . .

Your ebook should or can have:

  • Active links for navigation in the Table of Contents and/or an NCX file. It’s wise to also have links to locations within the book like a References page.
  • Links to your primary social media pages, website and blog so readers can connect with you. If you have a Facebook “Like’ page for the book, a link needs to be in there.
  • Pages for About the Author and your Other Books with direct links to them.
  • Links for leaving reviews (e.g. the Amazon review page for your Kindle version).
  • A sample chapter of another book, especially if part of a series, with a link to buy at the end of the sample.

Link to the rest at The Book Designer

Students Reading E-Books Are Losing Out, Study Suggests

11 April 2014

From The New York Times Motherlode blog:

Could e-books actually get in the way of reading?

That was the question explored in research presented last week by Heather Ruetschlin Schugar, an associate professor at West Chester University, and her spouse, Jordan T. Schugar, an instructor at the same institution. Speaking at the annual conference of the American Educational Research Association in Philadelphia, the Schugars reported the results of a study in which they asked middle school students to read either traditional printed books or e-books on iPads. The students’ reading comprehension, the researchers found, was higher when they read conventional books.

In a second study looking at students’ use of e-books created with Apple’s iBooks Author software, the Schugars discovered that the young readers often skipped over the text altogether, engaging instead with the books’ interactive visual features.

. . . .

While young readers find these digital products very appealing, their multitude of features may diffuse children’s attention, interfering with their comprehension of the text, Ms. Smith and the Schugars found. It seems that the very “richness” of the multimedia environment that e-books provide — heralded as their advantage over printed books — may overwhelm children’s limited working memory, leading them to lose the thread of the narrative or to process the meaning of the story less deeply.

This is especially true of what the authors call some e-books’ “gimmicks and distractions.” In the book “Sir Charlie Stinky Socks and the Really Big Adventure,” for example, children can touch “wiggly woos” to make the creatures emit noise and move around the screen. In another e-book, “Rocket Learns to Read,” a bird flutters and sounds play in the background.

Such flourishes can interrupt the fluency of children’s reading and cause their comprehension to fragment, the authors found. They can also lead children to spend less time reading over all: One study cited by Ms. Smith and the Schugars reported that children spent 43 percent of their e-book engagement time playing games embedded in the e-books rather than reading the text.

Link to the rest at The New York Times

Sony’s 13-inch ‘Digital Paper’ is just like paper

28 March 2014

From Engadget:

Despite years of development, E Ink’s displays haven’t yet replaced traditional paper everywhere. Sony’s trying to change that with this 13.3-inch Digital Paperdevice intended for legal, educational and business environments and after we got a brief demo last year it’s finally ready to go on sale in May. The only downside? Its pricetag, currently set at a cool $1,100. To answer the question of who could possibly afford or want such an expensive piece of paper that displays PDFs and accepts handwriting input, Sony is introducing Digital Paper at the American Bar Association Tech Show (which is apparently a thing) in Chicago.

Link to the rest, including a video demonstration, at Engadget and thanks to Joshua for the tip.

 

An e-reader that makes calls: InkPhone promises two weeks on a charge

11 March 2014

From engadget:

When we reviewed the dual-screen YotaPhone, some of you thought it’d have been better if the device simply skipped the LCD and relied on a single E Ink display instead. Well, that’s exactly the approach taken by Onyx (via its Polish distributor, Arta Tech) which is showing off a prototype of the MIDIA InkPhone here at CeBIT. Packing a 4.3-inch front-lit E Ink display (no LCD here), the device is designed as a back-to-basics device for people who need really long battery life or simply those who are looking for an e-reader that can also make calls. Part of the appeal, of course, is that E Ink displays sip power, and the company promises that the InkPhone will last for more than two weeks on a single charge.

. . . .

[P]roduction is expected to begin toward the end of this month and should arrive on store shelves in Germany and Poland at some point in April. It’ll be priced at around €140 ($195) and will also be available via Amazon if you’re based elsewhere in the world.

Link to the rest at engadget and thanks to Joshua for the tip.

PG still prefers E Ink for long reading sessions, but thinks an E Ink phone is a bad idea.

Adobe’s change of DRM could end old e-readers’ compatibility with e-book stores

4 February 2014

From TeleRead:

Adobe is changing up its DRM format, and as of July, will stop supporting the old format altogether. Any new EPUB e-books sold with Adobe DRM on them will be incompatible with older readers unless they have been upgraded.

This really is a pretty big deal. Pretty much every e-reader sold besides Kindle and Nook used Adobe ADEPT e-book DRM. (And I seem to recall even Nook could support ADEPT DRM even though B&N used a slightly different DRM format for its own titles.) Sony, Kobo, pretty much any other e-book store that’s not Amazon or B&N relies on Adobe’s system because they couldn’t afford to buy some other e-book company (Mobipocket in Amazon’s case; eReader/Fictionwise in B&N’s) to roll their own.

The problem is, ADEPT has been cracked for literally years.

. . . .

Not that I expect this will prevent it from being cracked again. Given that the vary nature of DRM means that the consumer, or at least his device or app, must be provided with the means of breaking it, it’s only a matter of time before this new version will have a crack available just like the old one.

But meanwhile, any e-reader that uses the old version will have to have a firmware update to work with any e-books bought under the new version.

Link to the rest at TeleRead

Considerations for publishing without DRM

4 February 2014

From TechRepublic:

To quickly recap my last column: I’m considering what to recommend for a client that’s interested in electronically publishing and selling its technical textbooks with some method such as digital rights management (DRM) to protect copyright and prevent illegal distribution.

. . . .

The content and its potential audience should also be considered. If the content was illegally copied and distributed, would my client lose a significant amount of sales?

Respectable businesses would still be purchasing the textbooks, and I assume enrolled students would have the textbooks’ cost incorporated. If someone tried to resell that material or incorporate it into other online documents, they would be visible and subject to prosecution for breaching copyright, as most nations are signatories to copyright conventions. However, this can be a time-consuming, expensive, and litigious process.

. . . .

At the moment, I’m leaning towards suggesting publishing in HTML format and making the textbooks accessible online through the LMS, which would require enrolment and subscription payment. Most people these days are used to accessing reference texts online or through a paid subscription, and I believe the currency of the content is more important than having a static version on your device.

I’d think it unlikely that anyone would consider the task of copying all the web pages, compiling them, and illegally distributing them, and if the textbooks are continually updated, then it won’t be the current version. An end-user licence agreement detailing the use of the online textbooks would of course also need to be accepted before access is granted.

Link to the rest at TechRepublic

As New Services Track Habits, the E-Books Are Reading You

26 December 2013

From The New York Times:

Before the Internet, books were written — and published — blindly, hopefully. Sometimes they sold, usually they did not, but no one had a clue what readers did when they opened them up. Did they skip or skim? Slow down or speed up when the end was in sight? Linger over the sex scenes?

A wave of start-ups is using technology to answer these questions — and help writers give readers more of what they want. The companies get reading data from subscribers who, for a flat monthly fee, buy access to an array of titles, which they can read on a variety of devices. The idea is to do for books what Netflix did for movies and Spotify for music.

“Self-published writers are going to eat this up,” said Mark Coker, the chief executive of Smashwords, a large independent publisher. “Many seem to value their books more than their kids. They want anything that might help them reach more readers.”

. . . .

Scribd is just beginning to analyze the data from its subscribers. Some general insights: The longer a mystery novel is, the more likely readers are to jump to the end to see who done it. People are more likely to finish biographies than business titles, but a chapter of a yoga book is all they need. They speed through romances faster than religious titles, and erotica fastest of all.

At Oyster, a top book is “What Women Want,” promoted as a work that “brings you inside a woman’s head so you can learn how to blow her mind.” Everyone who starts it finishes it. On the other hand, Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.’s “The Cycles of American History” blows no minds: fewer than 1 percent of the readers who start it get to the end.

Oyster data shows that readers are 25 percent more likely to finish books that are broken up into shorter chapters. That is an inevitable consequence of people reading in short sessions during the day on an iPhone.

A few writers might be repelled by too much knowledge. But others would be fascinated, as long as they retained control.

“Would we provide this data to an author? Absolutely,” said Chantal Restivo-Alessi, chief digital officer for HarperCollins Publishers. “But it is up to him how to write the book. The creative process is a mysterious process.”

Link to the rest at The New York Times and thanks to Jan for the tip.

DRM has always been a horrible idea

18 December 2013

From ComputerWorld:

A recent report found that when you remove digital rights management from albums, revenue actually increases. TorrentFreak reports that music revenue increased 10% on general content and 30% on what it called long-tail content — proving that buyers don’t like it when you place restrictions on content.

Back in the ’90s, probably about the time Napster surfaced, it suddenly occurred to executives in the entertainment industry that they might have to confront this Internet thing. But they feared this new distribution channel too much to embrace it, and instead they sought to control it with digital rights management (DRM).

. . . .

It was warped thinking, and it produced bizarre results. Does DRM punish pirates? Not really. The people it hurts most are the entertainment giants’ paying customers. It says in effect, “If you play by our rules and buy our content, you will be limited to a single copy, and you had better hope it never gets damaged or lost, because we’ve made it impossible for you to save a backup copy. But if you steal our content, you can use it on an unlimited number of devices and share it with all of your family members and friends.”

. . . .

House of Cards [is] a popular series that was produced by Netflix and is available only via the Internet. The show’s star and executive producer, Kevin Spacey, pointed out in a speech before the Guardian Edinburgh International Television Festival earlier this year that when you give people what they want, they will pay for it.

“And through this new form of distribution, we have proved that we learned the lesson the music industry didn’t learn,” Spacey said. “Give people what they want, when they want it, in the form they want it in, at a reasonable price and they’ll more likely pay for it, rather than steal it. Well, some will still steal it, but I think we can take a bite out of piracy.”

Link to the rest at ComputerWorld

Smashwords eDelivery Out of Beta, No Longer Supports the Kindle

16 November 2013

From The Digital Reader:

For the past 6 weeks the indie ebook distributor Smashwords has been beta testing an automatic delivery solution, eDelivery, that enabled customers to send ebooks to their Kindle or their Dropbox account.

Smashwords ended the beta test today, but the eDelivery service is only about half as useful as I had hoped. They have unfortunately had to drop support for emailing ebooks to your Kindle. Here’s how Smashwords phrased it in the email they sent out today:

Unfortunately, due to Amazon policy, we will not be able to release Send to Kindle at this time.

. . . .

But never mind what we can’t do; instead let’s look at what we can do. Smashwords customers can now have their ebook purchases synced to a Dropbox.

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader

How Ebooks Have Changed Book Production and Workflow

1 November 2013
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From Digital Book World:

Much has changed when it comes to producing books these days and ebooks and new production technologies have been the catalysts.

Here is an overhead view on some of the biggest, most-sweeping changes from Matt LeBlanc, director of digital workflow at F+W Media.

. . . .

Digital Book World: How has the rise of ebooks changed production workflow for publishers?

Matt LeBlanc: It has forced publishers to completely rethink their legacy print-centric workflows and fundamentally change the content development process, from the ground up. It’s essential that today’s workflows are output-agnostic. Content must be tagged and structured in such a way, so we can quickly access and adapt it, in order to publish to all available channels, both print and digital.

. . . .

DBW: How is designing covers and interiors for ebooks different than for print books?

ML: For covers it’s really about thinking through all the various digital “bookshelves” to make sure the cover concept and design translates well across all forms, not just its print form. Sometimes this could mean alternate covers for different channels. For interiors it’s also about understanding the core differences between flowable vs. static and how ebook specifications and e-reading devices effect the content and consumer experience. Supporting industry standards and implementing strong quality assurance processes within your digital workflow is key.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

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