A practical introduction to ebook publishing
What are ebooks
E-books have several advantages over print materials (although we all love printed books as well!):
What about the hardware?
Your files probably have some visible and invisible data that will cause trouble when you present it for conversion. The detailed preparations depend on where you start – Output formats such as PDF are generally more difficult to work with. You need to add metadata as this is what makes your work visible in the digital world. The software also assembles the ‘container’ which we call an ebook.
There are lots of bureaus offering to help but this is something the writer need to master and the new format will make easy especially when the word processor software is updated.
The big names are Amazon, Google, Ingrams, but the investment in infrastructure means that there are thousands of sources of ebooks. Amazon will welcome anybody, as will some other ebook vaults, so there are no major obstacles to making yourself a publisher.
For the writer, there is no need to print and distribute copies which makes it cheaper to 'put your ebook on the bookshelf' of as many outlets as you can find. The market will decide what happens next. There are some complex international tax rules for digital material so you need to tread carefully.
Marketing is now different because the supply-chain options have changed. You need to understand the role of metadata for the search engines that will let people find your books.
How this will impact on the publishing business
Ebooks lower the barrier to entry – but it is not quite open access. Ebooks dramatically reduce the cost to prepare the design, but not the editorial work.
There is a negligible costs to supply and no stock-holding which undercuts the business model of the big publishers who have been the only ones who can afford to spread printed copies of their books about.
I hope we can avoid the issues that have beset the music and film industries. The keys to a working relationship with our e-readerships are:
Epub version 3 was launched recently. It is the result of an unprecedented industry collaboration to contain the land-grab by Amazon. It will very soon have the same status as the PDF. (Amazon are now accepting book submissions in EPUB format). The various formats have much more in common than any differences – I hope the industry is going to avoid a format war.
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