Of eBooks, ePub, and eReaders

Formatting eBooks is different from formatting books for print. The basics aren’t difficult; print books are consistent in that each page prints out exactly the same.  Not all eReaders are the same, so an eBook must accommodate for that. Much as website design must accommodate different browsers; each one “reads” and interprets the code with slight variations.

Even with Kindle, a book will look different on the various types of Kindles. With ePub for eReaders, I’m discovering it’s worse.

I have three eReaders for ePub editions. One is a Firefox addon, one is FBreader, a free open source download, the other comes with Calibre, also free and also open source. But what they do to an eBook seems to be nowhere near the same.

How-to_Firefox_reader

Firefox eReader

Firefox renders the text in different sizes. I’ve gone back and checked my original file, which is consistent in text size, font, and paragraph style. Can’t figure it out.

FBReader

FBReader

FBReader is quirky, as in the forward arrows don’t work. For the book itself, it doesn’t recognize the paragraph style (which should be indented). That annoys me.

Calibre

Calibre

Calibre seems to do the best job of interpreting my code. The font is different than the other two (serif rather than san-serif), but font and text size are adjustable anyway, to accommodate the reader’s preferences.

I will concede that I am no expert in the eBook writing and formatting department. ePub is important at Smashwords, because it is a format used by Nook and Sony (if I’m recalling correctly). Hopefully, I’ll figure it out with practice.

Nifty LibreOffice Trick for Hyperlinking an eBook TOC

MS Word offers a split screen feature, where one can work on two parts of the same document simultaneously. LibreOffice doesn’t have that feature, but it can do something similar to make the job of creating an eBooks table of contents just as easy.

LO_nifty_trick1

By selecting “New Window” in an open document, a second copy of the document will open. I can create my bookmarks for the TOC on one

LO_nifty_trick2band create my hyperlinks with the other.

LO_nifty_trick3bChanges are made on both copies; I only have to save on the original. The beauty of this is that I can easily see which sections have been hyperlinked, and which ones haven’t.

Writing eBooks, A New Learning Curve

About a month after my Kindle experiment for 5 Acres & A Dream, I was contacted by CreateSpace. They congratulated me on the paperback’s success (now over 2200 copies sold, pretty fair for an indie book) and asked if I’d be interested in publishing a Kindle edition. I explained why I hadn’t pursued that option, and learned that the newer Kindles can enlarge images. They offered to convert a sample.

I admit I’m not terribly enthusiastic about that. Now that I have my own Kindle, I have to agree with others that when it comes to this kind of non-fiction, I’d much, much rather have a hard copy in hand. Trying to research a topic on an eReader, for example, is a pain. True, eReaders have a search function, but I find it much more awkward and time consuming than simply looking something up in an index and flipping pages. And while I can highlight or bookmark something on my Kindle, it’s so much easier to simply stick a slip of paper between pages as a bookmark.

Still, there is an appeal to eBooks, especially in regards to price. They are great for buying and reading fiction, for which I wouldn’t pay a full cover price anyway (hurrah for libraries). And while I can’t see myself writing fiction, I’m still curious about learning how to format a book for a Kindle, or any other eReader.

That got me thinking about a book idea I’ve had rolling around in the back of my mind for awhile. I’ve thought about a companion volume to 5 Acres & A Dream The Book, a book of homestead how-tos. Perhaps I could try a series of short eBooks on on various how-tos, to someday be combined into another paperback?

There’s a lot to think about. Should I go with Kindle Select (making it an Amazon exclusive) or Smashwords to offer all eBook formats (including B&N Nook and Apple iTunes)? Both KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) and Smashwords provide detailed guides to formatting that look easy to use. The only issue here is that the guides use MS Word as the example, while I use open source LibreOffice.

Then there’s images. I like to use photos (especially with how-tos) so I can’t help but how these would do in various formats. I may need to experiment.

Pricing? That’s a subject all eBook authors seem to wrestle with. A series of how-tos would be shorties, but perhaps too short to satisfy even a 99 cents offering? The general consensus is that non-fiction pricing is different than fiction and that non-fiction works can be priced a bit higher.

So the experiment begins, and along with it a new learning curve. That doesn’t mean I’ve abandoned Critter Tales, it just means I need to carve out a little more time. The upcoming winter months will be the best time to do that on our homestead.