In the wake of Borders’ bankruptcy, I’ve read various theories about what led to the bookseller’s demise. Monday morning quarterbacking inevitably follows someone else’s failure; it’s easy to stand at the curb and analyze the tire tracks, but Borders’ crash had little to do with pilot error. In the span of a few years, books changed, publishing changed, printing changed and bookselling changed. Their time had simply come. Continue reading →
As a book designer, I’ve been disappointed with eBooks. The design of a book once involved careful selection of typefaces, margins, leading (line spacing) and other other fine details until the eBook powers-that-be declared that a book is simply a container for text. Don’t get me wrong; eBooks have some wonderful advantages, and they’re far from illegible, but the HTML-based ePub format used for most of them (Kindle uses a proprietary wrapper for a virtually identical set of HTML files and graphics) is the equivalent of where the world wide web was in the late 1990s.
Enter Adobe InDesign CS5.5 with good responses to several of my eBook objections. Continue reading →
When designing the cover for my own novel, Waves, I tried a number of approaches before settling on a design that worked for me. This article details my process.
Before I even finished writing, I played around with an idea, initially planning to release a 5×8 inch paperback.
I liked the juxtaposition of themes from the story; physical waves, waves of life, the waves in the girl’s hair, but it’s too busy. It’s also a bit drab; too balanced and static. I just never fell in love with it. Also, the contemporary approach to book cover design so often starts with a photo search. It often works, but it’s predictable. Maybe a good designer should go beyond finding photos that “go with the story?” At least some of the time? Continue reading →
I regularly hear people bashing self-published books as universally “crappy.” Many independent writers do publish books with amateurish covers and poorly edited text typeset with a word processor, but there are “crappy” books released by major publishers, and high quality books released by unknown, do-it-yourself writers. Generalizations don’t do much to help the overall standards of quality.
Yes, there are certainly plenty of crappy books out there—much like all the crappy home-made websites (and the majority of professionally-built ones). We also have crappy banks, crappy insurance companies, crappy politicians and crappy schools that make the self-publishing world look like a model of perfection, but there are two good sides to the state of self-publishing: we live in a world where the common person has unprecedented power to publish, and where there’s mediocrity, there’s the challenge to rise above it. Continue reading →
Sarah Houghton-Jan’s manifesto, The EBook Users’ Bill of Rights, has been circulating around the publishing blogosphere recently. I’m more or less in agreement with it, but wonder if it might not be failing to address some larger problems with how media are consumed in the 21st century.
The EBook Users’ Bill of Rights is reproduced below and followed by my comments. Feel free to contribute constructive comments and opinions.
The eBook User’s Bill of Rights
Every eBook user should have the following rights:
the right to use eBooks under guidelines that favor access over proprietary limitations
the right to access eBooks on any technological platform, including the hardware and software the user chooses
the right to annotate, quote passages, print, and share eBook content within the spirit of fair use and copyright
the right of the first-sale doctrine extended to digital content, allowing the eBook owner the right to retain, archive, share, and re-sell purchased eBooks
I believe in the free market of information and ideas.
I believe that authors, writers, and publishers can flourish when their works are readily available on the widest range of media. I believe that authors, writers, and publishers can thrive when readers are given the maximum amount of freedom to access, annotate, and share with other readers, helping this content find new audiences and markets. I believe that eBook purchasers should enjoy the rights of the first-sale doctrine because eBooks are part of the greater cultural cornerstone of literacy, education, and information access.
Digital Rights Management (DRM), like a tariff, acts as a mechanism to inhibit this free exchange of ideas, literature, and information. Likewise, the current licensing arrangements mean that readers never possess ultimate control over their own personal reading material. These are not acceptable conditions for eBooks.
I am a reader. As a customer, I am entitled to be treated with respect and not as a potential criminal. As a consumer, I am entitled to make my own decisions about the eBooks that I buy or borrow.
I am concerned about the future of access to literature and information in eBooks. I ask readers, authors, publishers, retailers, librarians, software developers, and device manufacturers to support these eBook users’ rights.
These rights are yours. Now it is your turn to take a stand. To help spread the word, copy this entire post, add your own comments, remix it, and distribute it to others. Blog it, Tweet it (#ebookrights), Facebook it, email it, and post it on a telephone pole.
To the extent possible under law, the person who associated CC0 with this work has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to this work.’
I think Sarah is dead-on in principle, but what’s missing from discussions about Digital Rights Management (DRM) and the rights of eBook consumers is a discussion of the role of publishers and how that impacts the definition of a “book” one might have rights pertaining to. Then there’s the larger matter of just who’s in charge of the hen house. Continue reading →
Today’s post is from Lisa Ryan, CEO and Lead Strategist at Tinley+Ryan, former Marketing Manager of On-Demand Publishing Services at Amazon.com and former Vice President of Marketing at BookSurge. I’m honored to have your contribution, Lisa.
Today, publishers large and small are concerned with digital rights management, monetizing assets like out-of-print titles, and the lightning-speed evolution of alternative format books/readers. Because of these and other economic factors, they work hand-in-hand with digital publishing houses and POD fulfillment providers for support. They in turn support self-published authors. It happens every day. It’s a symbiotic eco-system on the back end, no matter how the surface-level factions consider the issues.
Self-published works provide the data traditional publishers need to take calculated risks on new authors. One initiative we worked on at Amazon was a reporting system that allowed large publishers to monitor the sales velocity of our best-selling self-published titles. We’ve seen some pretty impressive deals come out of that – of note, a three book, six figure deal for a fiction series. Continue reading →
Note: This book scaler is a semi-finalist entry in the 2011 Adobe Design Achievement Awards Education Category.
Flipbooks and page turning effects have been around for years; a variety of flash plug-ins, conversion services and source files have made them accessible to everyone. Though print designers have been able to export flipbooks directly from Adobe inDesign since version CS4, the tutorials and sample files here will help you get the most from the effect.
Along with a set of video instructions on how to fine-tune the InDesign export process to produce more attractive results, I’ve developed a “book scaler” in flash that allows adjustment of a book’s size relative to the screen. An “autoscale” feature fits the flipbook to a viewer’s screen when it first opens. “Page jump” buttons have been added for the front and back covers, table of contents, next and previous pages or any page number you care to type in. An invisible “drag area” in the book’s gutter/spine allows it to be manually positioned on-screen. Optional settings allow ranges of pages to be hidden from the viewer. The full source code is available to customize, but is set up so people with no coding skills can easily modify it to suit their purposes.
By popular request, full-screen capability is now available.
In November, I spent three days at the Miami Book Fair in a booth talking to writers and would-be writers about publishing. For my efforts, I sold about twenty books; not really worth the effort in terms of time vs. money, but certainly a worthwhile experience from the standpoint of talking to writers and hearing what their interests and goals are. One thing impressed me over everything; put hundreds of thousands of paperbacks in one place and it all blends together into a gigantic literary flea market.
There was a single glimmer of shining hope that floated over the cacophony of the exploded confetti factory —McSweeney’s. Started by author Dave Eggers, McSweeney’s offers a variety of whimsical offerings. Beyond great writing, they offer great book design ranging from classic to innovative to absurd; unusual binding, interesting boxes, experimental typography, design work that implies the contents is worth reading. Hold that thought.
As a designer, it got me thinking a great deal about the relationship between the cover and the writing—and I don’t mean what’s on the cover. I mean the whole package from the binding to the artwork.
Consider the paperback book as a packaging form. It certainly offers a number of advantages. It’s cheap to print in volume, lighter to ship, consumes fewer resources (printing is a high-pollution industry) and ultimately gets the writing to the reader cheaper. For self-publishers, printing paperback books and bypassing hard cover editions means less up-front investment. Also, we see big publishers shipping countless paperback books to bookstores, and we want to be just like them, don’t we? Continue reading →
Book trailers are a recent fad in indy book promotions. While they don’t solve the problem of people having to find them to appreciate them, they require a lot less time to consume than the books they represent. This trailer for my novel, The Dance, is 45 seconds long with a five second freeze added at the end (because youTube fades out after the video ends). Book trailers are a feather missing from the caps of most self-published book campaigns, and most amateur video doesn’t achieve any higher standards than the majority of self-published books. In other words, there’s an opportunity to stand out from the crowd. I don’t expect a big spike in the sales graph, but it will be interesting to watch the YouTube view stats. I suspect the majority of viewers will be writers.