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This is a guest post from Guido Henkel, author of the Jason Dark supernatural mysteries, including Curse of Kali, out now.
Over the last fourteen months, during which I have released my ten eBooks, I have created a very streamlined process to generate and cover as many eBook formats as possible. Take Curse of Kali, for example, the book I just released. Like all of my Jason Dark supernatural mysteries, it is available in Kindle, Nook, generic mobi, generic ePub, LIT, PDF, and Palm format, along with a HTMl-based reading sample and print versions.
I have noticed that many self-published authors limit themselves to only mobi and ePub formats, which is natural, since with these they can cover the majority of distribution outlets and devices. Some authors use Smashwords.com, which offers eBook versions in a wide variety of formats also, but I have long abandoned Smashwords because of the effort required to create a usable template document and, what I consider, a serious lack in quality of the resulting eBook output of their technology.
Why do you even bother?
One could argue at this point that anything beyond a mobi and an ePub file is superficial, and that may be right. There aren’t very many users out there who still use Palm devices and if they do, who read on them. The same is true with Microsoft’s LIT eBook format, which is barely in use. PDF fares a bit better, as many readers who have made their computers or laptops their preferred reading device like to use that format for its high resolution capabilities and its ease of use, particularly on Mac computers, where reading a document is as simple as pressing the space bar.
The fact that Amazon, Barnes&Noble and even Kobo have free software available that allows users to read their respective content on a wide variety of devices has further strengthened the mobi and ePub formats. And yet, I am a believer that in this case more is better. To me it is important to give my readers the choice to read in whatever format works best for them. I would never want a single reader abort a purchase because he or she realizes that the book is not available for their format of choice. Even if I make only a single sale in the Palm format, I feel it was worth the effort, if only to show that I care.
Specialized kindle and Nook versions, why?
Naturally, my focus is on the Kindle and Nook versions, which I build separately from others in order to make use of some of the devices’ capabilities. For example, I am using a graphical UTF-8 special character — the outline of a star — in my Jason Dark books to separate scenes. Sadly some devices — and Windows, of course — that do not handle Unicode properly, will show a garbled display in this case. Since the Kindle is fully capable of reproducing this graphical star symbol, I make use of it in that particular build while replacing it with a regular * in generic builds. There are other instances where it makes sense for me to make builds specifically targeted to certain devices.
The process demystified
My process involves Calibre to build my final eBooks, which are based on hand-tweaked HTML source files, and as such generating a LIT file is as simple as selecting the format from a drop-down menu in the software. So, how could I not support it?
The Palm PDB file format is a little trickier and requires me to create a completely new source file. However, starting with my source HTML file and using a number of regular expression search and replaces, I have a Palm eBook version ready in under ten minutes, usually. So, again, why would I not support the Palm format if the effort required is truly minimal?
The PDF file is usually culled directly from my print editions. I lay out all my print books in Quark XPress and to create my PDF file, all I usually do is include the cover at the front, change the font size and line spacing to allow for better reading on a computer display. Quark’s text-flowing capabilities takes care of the rest for me. Then I select “Export” from Quark’s File menu and once again, within the shortest period of time, I have a full-blown PDF version of my book, ready for readers to purchase.
The HTML reading sample that I provide for every book on my website, is a stripped down version of the source HTML file used to build my mobi and ePub versions. Again, the time necessary to do this is about one minute or less.
Reach more people
I have to point out, however, that as easy and quick as this may sound, the reason why I can create such a wide variety of eBook formats in such a short period of time has to do with how I create my eBook and print book source files in the first place.
Still, I hope that seeing how easy it can be, will inspire you to think about your own books and see if it might make sense for you to expand your efforts and get your book in front of your audience in a wider variety of formats.
I would like to thank Joanna for allowing me to stop by here today and make this guest post. Her blog has given me so much information, insight and thought-provoking perspective that I felt it was time to give something back. I hope you enjoyed this little blog post.
Feel free to check out my latest release, Curse of Kali, and if you do, please do not hesitate to leave a review, or to contact me directly with thoughts or comments you might have. I love to hear from my readers at all times! For a constant feed straight from my brain, feel free to also follow me on Twitter (@GuidoHenkel).
Guido Henkel is the author of ten Jason Dark supernatural mysteries, including the hot new release, Curse of Kali, as well as Demon’s Night, Heavens on Fire, Dr. Prometheus, The Blood Witch, Terrorlord and the award-winning Ghosts Templar.
You can find out more about the books at http://www.jasondarkseries.com or follow his blog at http://www.guidohenkel.com
Cathy Yardley says
Thanks for this informative post! I’m becoming more fascinated with the process of ebooks (and HTML coding, but that’s on a general level.) A question: with PDF, are you selling directly, on something like ejunkie? Or are you offering it through a different distributor? And are you concerned about the ease of piracy for PDF versions?
Joanna Penn says
I am actually selling my PDF books and also my e-courses through http://www.e-junkie.com/which is a cheap and reputable digital reseller with an affiliate program. I have been pirated before but I have Google Alerts set up which tell me if anything is out there, and I have just emailed the website hosting service for the person who had put my stuff up there and it was taken down. My piracy thoughts are here: http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2009/09/08/piracy-vs-obscurity/
I hope that helps! Thanks, Joanna
Guido Henkel says
Currently I am selling PDF file only through my own website. I found that most distribution portals – other than established retailers – result in virtually no sales and are barely worth the effort and hassle. Why would someone buy a book at an obscure online site when they can get the same book from Amazon? It is just not happening.
Piracy is always a big issue and initially I was very reluctant to offer PDF files. But you know, what? You can’t fight piracy. You can only try to diminish it by offering a solid product at reasonable price. ePubs or mobi files are every bit as easy to pirate than PDF files, so it really does not matter. Once you designed to go into digital distribution, you either go all the way or don’t do it at all. If you decide not to do it, you can bet, someone else will do it for you by taking your print version, scanning it and putting it on a pirate site.
With the extensive free reading samples on my website, on Amazon and other retailers, I am trying to give readers the chance to get a good idea what they are going to buy. If they still decide to steal my book after that, even if it’s only $.99 or $2.99, there would never have been a way for me to convert them into paying customers anyway.
Joanna Penn says
I agree with the general attitude on piracy here. I also think that iTunes shows that most people are happy to pay. Book lovers are decent people and want to support authors for a fair price – if we offer a fair price (99c – 4.99) then why would they pirate anyway? It’s much easier to buy with Amazon 1-Click!
I would never pirate – but certainly thought about it when a particular book was not available on Kindle Australia or in print and was still priced $14.99! many others would have gone ahead and downloaded at that time – so it’s up to us to ensure we have the easiest ways for people to buy.
Sarah Ketley says
Choice is certainly good.
As for the piracy topic, i agree most people are happy to pay that small amount for a good book. If they don’t want to take a risk they can use the “download a chapter” function that some authors do on Amazon.
I have bought at least 5 cheaper e-books after downloading the sample.
I generally think that Piracy is a compliment – they want your stuff because it is good. However this does not excuse the fact that it is in fact stealing money from other people’s pockets and is downright rude and bad form. *shakes fist at pirates*
Agree about the itunes comment.
Many thanks again for a great post!
Guido Henkel says
I wish I could see it as a compliment, really, but the sad matter of the fact is that pirates typically grab and distribute anything they can get their hands on. They do not care for quality or how much they like the stuff they steal. They simply care for volume.
Most ebooks that are available on websites are published in PDF format. PDF format is very popular because Adobe Reader and other software that provides the ability to open PDF documents is now typically included on every computer sold and PDF’s can easily be read on both Windows PCs and Macs. PDF eBooks therefore make it easy to open and read the material without needing to download any software or have any special hardware, such as an eBook reader. More: http://www.vibosoft.com/ebook/convert-pdf-to-epub-mac-windows.html
Guido Henkel says
PDF is not an eBook format. It is entirely unsuitable for eBooks. It is a document format. eBooks have very different requirements, most of which PDF simply cannot fulfill.
That aside, the comment that most eBooks are published in PDF format is simply not true. That was true 5 years ago, but since the introduction of real eBook readers, PDF is fortunately no longer misused for eBooks the way it was before.
Oh, Thanks for your reply, I always thinks PDF is a ebook format, now I know, thanks. But I think MOBI is an eBook format right? This article talks about MOBI, and ePub. http://www.vibosoft.com/ebook/convert-mobi-to-epub-mac-win.html
look forward to your opinion.
Guido Henkel says
Yes, MOBI and EPUB are considered eBook formats. 🙂