Publishing Kindle E-books

As an update to my ebook saga, I did manage to produce my two ebooks — the reprint of The Science of Getting Rich, and my short story, The Path. Using PagePlus X6 I was able to import the Word Docs and then re-edit them for conversion into the Kindle format (.mobi) and ePub format used by others like Kobo, Barnes & Noble Nook and Apple iBooks. I finally found software which actually mimicked the ebook text flowing through the entire book. This made it much easier.

After becoming frustrated with editing the 60+ page The Science of Getting Rich, I decided to take a different approach and convert my eight page short story first — so I could finish and see the final product — to make sure everything worked alright. At first I imported the Word version, and things went well. I made a few edits and then converted it to Kindle, choosing my cover graphic and entering some details such as author, publisher etc. along the way. I previewed the finished product using my PC Kindle program — it looked fine. Next I emailed the file to my iPad and viewed it using my Kindle App. Again it looked great! I was excited. But there was one nagging issue…the file size was almost 4 MB. I new something was up — most ebooks, full novels even, aren’t even 1 MB in size.

I decided to worry about the file size later. I moved onto re-editing the book. I made it 5-10 pages in, and decided to convert it to see how it looked. Most of the re-edit was working ok, but some things were still out of whack…especially when new chapters started. I quickly learned that I had to insert page breaks after each chapter, to ensure that the next chapter would start on a new page. Somewhere along in the process I decided to start over. This time I converted the Word version to plain text before importing into PagePlus. This removed all of the formatting…I had to completely re-format once in PagePlus anyway…so I wondered if this was a better approach.

Once again I began editing and formatting the book, every so often, converting it to check the progress. Things were going well, except for some table of content issues, and the title page which I had the title of the book in large font. After conversion, it basically ignored my large font and printed almost regular size (12 point). What now, I thought to myself. I went back to edit the title page…this time I used the “Heading” tag from within PagePlus…most of the other text was “Body”. I noticed that this somewhat fixed the font size issue, and gave me more control over the document. Another bonus? The file size of the whole book was in the 400 KB range — that was more like it.

I discovered several things through the process of editing and converting my book to Kindle and other formats. First, it is best to start with plain text, and fully edit and format within the program you are using to create your ebook. This is kind of a pain, especially since you most likely have your book already looking great in your word processor. But the truth is, using the text version you can “correctly” format within the software so that it will turn out right once converted…and the file size will be much smaller (Word inserts tons of its own tags which increases the file size immensely).

Armed with this new knowledge I repeated the process again for The Path, and the file size came in at about 100 KB.

Now I had both ebooks and they looked great on my PC and on my iPad. I was ready to upload them to Amazon. I signed up as an author, and then proceeded to add the books to my author “bookshelf”. During this process, you must enter information about your book, provide a description, choose a selling price, upload your cover image, and choose whether you want to lock it down using DRM (copy protection) or not. I clicked save and then publish…and my book was uploaded. I was surprised to see that it was re-converting it to Kindle format. I wondered to myself if that might screw up some of the formatting (again!)

Now the book was in a que for review by Amazon staff before it would show up on the site, for sale. I somehow missed the option to preview the book. I would have to wait until it was live on Amazon.com to see if there were any issues with the formatting.

My short story was live within 12 hours, while the book took about 18 hours. I now had books for sale on Amazon.com! How exciting. There were a few formatting issues with the book, by the way. I had to do some fixes and resubmit it. Another issue with the whole experience was, that you have to charge a minimum of $0.99 for your book. I was hoping to have my short story as a free book. I just wanted to post it for exposure. But alas, it is $0.99 to purchase…so I doubt I will be selling many copies considering it is only 8 pages long. Turns out the only way to offer something for free is to sign up for Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). By signing up you agree to publish exclusively to Kindle for 90 days. Within those 90 days you can offer a promotional price price of $0.00 for up to 5 days.

I decided to wait and see. So I will keep monitoring sales (if there are any!) and make the decision on KDP in a few weeks. In the meantime, this has been a very challenging experience, but one I learned many things from along the way. I now know how to properly format and convert my documents to ebooks, and how to post them to Amazon for sale.

The next time will be much easier…and there will be a next time!

Barnes & Noble NOOKcolor E-reader Review

By Nevin Buconjic
For Fresh Magazine
March 15, 2011

I am a big fan of ebooks — I have been for a long time. Although I’ve never been a fan of reading books on my computer screen, now that e-readers have evolved and the iPad has single handedly created a tablet market, the options today are greater than ever.

According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, consumers spent $1 billion on ebooks in 2010, and that is expected to triple by 2015. The number of e-readers increased from 3.7 million in 2009 to over 10 million in 2010.

I have been wanting an e-reader for a while now, but the grey-scale versions just didn’t have enough appeal for me. When the KOBO e-reader (from Chapters) came out last summer for under $150 I was really tempted, but then Barnes & Noble announced that a color version of their NOOK e-reader would be out by year end!

The NOOKcolor was released on November 19, 2010 and received good initial reviews. Not only was it a full-coIor e-reader running on Google’s Android operating system, but it promised users the ability to play music and video, surf the Internet and lots of other extras — this was basically a tablet optimized for reading. I had to have one.

I received a NOOKcolor for Christmas and after using it for a few months I wanted to share my experiences. In just the short time since Christmas, the market has been flooded with over 100 new tablets and in March 2011, Apple released the iPad 2. I think it will become harder and harder for dedicated e-readers (like KOBO, Kindle and Nook) to compete in the future, but for now, they continue to sell very well.

From all appearances, the Nookcolor looks like a 7-inch tablet computer — it has a sleek and stylish design. But when you power it on, you immediately see that it was designed and optimized first and foremost as an e-reader. Barnes & Noble has done a good job of designing the menus and screen layout to focus on quickly picking up where you left of in your latest book, magazine or newspaper. You can easily find everything in your library, including other files such as PDFs, music, videos or Microsoft Office files. You can customize your home page, personalize your bookshelves, and even share passages, recommend books or update your reading status directly to Facebook or
Twitter.

Through the integrated NOOKbooks online store, you can choose from over 2 million books, 125 magazines, and several dozen newspapers. After setting up my account (requires a credit card), the buying process was fast and efficient. Upon clicking the “Buy Now” button, your book or other item downloads in seconds.

I decided to purchase George W. Bush’s new biography entitled Decision Points. The price was $9.99 US. Not bad, considering I had recently seen the hardcover in a bookstore for well over $20.00. I have purchased several other books and magazines since. Magazine subscriptions are substantially cheaper than normal as well.

Of course, I have read ebooks before both on my PC and iPhone, but this was a different experience all together. It actually felt like reading a real book. I had purchased a leather case for the Nook which not only protects it from scratches, but, adds to the “real book” effect. I will admit, the unit does feel quite heavy compared to an average sized book. So heavy in fact, that I chose to read by placing the unit on my leg or knee and just holding the top of the case for support. I have also tried reading without the case which lowers the weight quite a bit and makes things a bit more comfortable.

The reading experience itself takes a bit of practice. You are able to make adjustments to the page brightness, font and text size, which comes in handy and helps the eyes as well. The unit has an LCD screen similar to that of a laptop, so I don’t think it’s quite as easy on the eyes as a regular book. So far I haven’t had any problems, but if you are a voracious reader and spend hours at a time, you might need to take breaks.

Pages are turned by swiping your finger or simply pressing on the side of the screen. Page turning is quick — much quicker than the grey scale e-ink units such as the Amazon Kindle, where the pagemust refresh each time. The advantage of e-ink, however, is that they require much less power, so the battery charge lasts a lot longer.

Which brings up the issue of battery life. I have found that with steady reading and use the NOOKcolor lasts me several days before it needs a charge (6-7 hours of battery life). It really depends on how you are using it. The NOOKcolor has built-in Wi-Fi, a browser to surf the Internet, as well as some extra features such as a picture gallery for your favorite photos, a music and video player, games such as chess and Sudoko, as well as a Pandora streamingmusic app (which only works in the US). WithWi-Fi on and regular browsing, the battery is used up much more quickly. Placing the device in standby mode — the NOOKcolor lasts up to a couple of weeks (with occasional reading), and with the device shut off completely it can last considerably longer.

The NOOKcolor can read Microsoft Office files so it can come in handy if you want to review anyWord, Excel or PowerPoint files — perhaps on the commute to work. I really like the device’s ability to read PDF files as I already had several PDF books from over the years — which I was quickly able to transfer by connecting the NOOKcolor to my PC via the included USB cable.

The NOOKcolor can also read Adobe Digital Editions formatted books, which I quickly learned was the format of choice for digital books you can borrow from your local library. The format prevents books from being copied, but also has a built in lending feature — which is obviously the main attraction for libraries.

Using services like the Ontario Library Service, via your local library, you can download free ebooks and audiobooks for up to two weeks at a time. All you need is your library card number to sign up! Although I found the selection was somewhat limited, it was nice to have the ability to “borrow” up to three books at a time, right from home. The service, which uses technology by Overdrive, is also available for your iPhone, iPad and Android device. I was able to download books directly to my iPhone, because it has an Overdrive app, but with the NOOKcolor I had to download first to my PC and then transfer over — a simple step once you figure it out.

I really like the online Ontario Library Service, because it presents an affordable way to load up your device — especially in the beginning, when you are most anxious to try it out! And with Barnes & Noble’s own LendMe function, you can lend your own books to your friends and vice versa (there are some restrictions).

So what is the verdict? Well, I definitely found the device to be compact, convenient, and fun to use. The fact that I can have a considerable sized library in the palm of my hand, the ability to borrow digital books from the library for free, surf the Internet, check email and buy books right on the device is great. Some of the functionality I found to be quite quirky though — I had trouble playing some music files, the video player was a great added bonus, but is quite limited in the formats it will play, the Pandora streaming music service does not work in Canada, and the built in games got boring fast.

Although I still enjoy using the NOOKcolor for reading ebooks (although I use much less than even a month ago), I find myself wishing for more andmore of the Android functionality it has promised. I see so much potential for this device, once there are more apps available from Barnes & Noble. I hope that it will someday have access to the Android market (tens of thousands of apps) as well — which is probably unlikely.

I don’t think I would recommend the NOOKcolor to someone who is looking for a tablet experience. The NOOKcolor is first and foremost an e-reader, but both the iPad and its Android tablet competitors do a good job of e-reading and a better job at everything else.

If you are a dedicated reader, and would be satisfied with the more “book-like” experience of grey-scale readers, then the Amazon Kindle might be a better buy at just $139 CAN. Both Amazon and Barnes & Noble have excellent online ebook selections (millions of books), and prices are similar. It is definitely cheaper to buy ebooks instead of paper books, and might save you some space as well.

If you are seeking a great tablet experience then I think there are better options out there, with much greater features and capabilities. So that leaves the NOOKcolor somewhere in the middle. It is an excellent device, and provides a solid reading experience, with the added functionality of a tablet for a pretty good price. With the selection of options on the market I don’t think you can go wrong with any choice. Both e-book readers and tablets have finally hit the mainstream, after years of false starts and I think this will only lead to more and more choices in the future.

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