Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A comment on new eISBN recommendation

A new recommendation for assigning ISBNs to ebooks has been out a couple of weeks. I remarked earlier on why this didn't make sense to assign two different numbers to the EPUB ebook and MOBI ebook of the "same" ebook when the only operation was to take the EPUB one and use an automatic software converter (e.g. Calibre) to convert the EPUB ebook into the MOBI ebook. This is mainly done now simply because Amazon does not "read" EPUB, and the publisher has to produce a MOBI version for its Kindle customers. (In a way, this would be like asking a publisher to assign different ISBNs to a hardcover book depending on which bookseller chain store they sell that book in.) The EPUB ebook on the NOOK and the corresponding MOBI ebook on the Kindle "look" the same and have exactly the same HTML/CSS content. It doesn't make sense that they would have a different ISBN simply because one is reading that ebook on a Kindle vs. a NOOK.

The point is: If it's a basically automatic conversion that takes your EPUB ebook and produces that ebook in a different e-format, the ISBN stays the same. However, if one uses features of a particular format to really distinguish the ebook in that format (i.e., there is no simple, automatic way to convert it to another format), a different ISBN should be assigned.

(PDF is a curious exception. It is a fixed, not a reflow, format and is used for printing. There are converters of course that take an EPUB ebook and automatically creates a PDF file. Perhaps they would be useful to send one's EPUB ebook to a POD machine.)

Now there is a new format on the block: KF8 from Amazon. If one publishes an ebook that uses KF8-specific features that truly distinguishes it from the EPUB version, then it's a different ISBN. That makes sense.

CDF (Computable Document Format) may be an upcoming one for math ebooks.

Now some ebooks are being published as apps: iOS vs. Android. Here, the recommendation should be the same: If one starts with the same base version of the ebook (e.g. HTML5) and uses a tool that automatically produces the two different apps (iOS, Android) with the same ebook (HTML5) base, the ISBN would be the same. However, if the publisher uses iOS and/or Android dependent features to distinguish the two version, then it's two ISBNs.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Books in repose

I was sitting outside the Barnes & Noble cafe perimeter with my NOOK Simple Touch. I was using its Read in Store feature, which allows one to read any ebook available for purchase for up to one hour. You have to be physically present in the store with your NOOK connected to that store's WiFi, of course, to do this. At any time before the end of that hour, you can purchase the ebook or just leave it. But you could return the next day and continue reading the same ebook. In front of me were stacks of shelves of books — for convenience I refer to the traditional print editions of books as "books" and their electronic versions "ebooks" — and thinking of the future of publishing.

The first thing that struck was the irony of having to go to a location with books to browse ebooks. There were people in the cafe who were reading books they just took off the shelves that they were just "browsing" in the same way I was browsing ebooks on my Touch. (There were probably more people there with their notebook computers just using the store's free WiFi to browse the internet.) But I was there, as I had gone there before, just to browse (i.e. read) ebooks and I would not even touch a single book.

The second thing that crossed my mind were how alien the books sitting on the shelves in front of me appeared. It was like they should be in a museum, like ancient artifacts. People looked anachronistically odd walking up the shelves and pulling one out and looking inside. It was so much more convenient to read that book on my Touch. I could navigate through it so much better. In fact it was a better reading experience in every way.

I can understand, perhaps, some wanting art and picture books. The Touch could not replicate those very well, But the Tablet might. And math books are not there yet. But MathML is part of EPUB3 (or EPUB 3). EPUB is the core of the ebook creation and everything follows from EPUB. EPUB3 is really a subset of HTML5 (HTML5/CSS3/JS to be technical), so you might say EPUB3/HTML5 is the future of publishing.

Will people still want books? As time goes on, this desire will diminish. The reading devices are that good now. I suppose if someone wanted a book version of an ebook they would (via some program or service) convert the EPUB to PDF and send it to a Print-On-Demand (POD) machine to spit it out.

I don't know what will happen to the store with books. I don't think it has many years left. A big part of the bookstore itself isn't even books anymore. It's toys and other non-book gift items. And there is a section just selling NOOKs, of course. Maybe there will still be a store without books in the future where people go just to browse ebooks.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

How to publish your own magazine app

... with Google Currents producer.

Caleb Hailey on Google+ shows the way:

See also:

from ClarkLab.

Here is my poetry blog published as a "current":


Note: If you have a Blogger blog and want to publish it as a Google current, it must first be "verified" that you are the owner. See:

    Verifying a Blogger blog in Webmaster Tools

For Flipboard, as for Currents, you could add a blog to your Google Reader (which is available to both Flipboard and Currents) and subscribe to there. With Currents, you can do more on the publishing side (via producer) than the RSS feed. Plus it runs on Android too.

2012/01/15: Tips to produce your blog to Google Currents (video)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Don't make sour ISBNade

When you think about this, it* doesn't make much sense. It says that the EPUB and MOBI versions should have a different ISBN. But EPUB and MOBI are mostly interconvertable (it's basically a reformatting -- the same HTML and CSS is there) and do the same things (EPUB is a superset, really). Suppose you have an Android tablet and you get an EPUB ebook. In the software of the tablet one could have an embedded converter — like calibre calibre-ebook.com — that automatically converts the EPUB to a MOBI and you could be reading the ebook in a MOBI reader on that device vs. an EPUB reader on the same device that would look the same. Would you expect to see the MOBI ISBN on the copyright page or the EPUB ISBN? Only a fairly simple software transformation has been made.

Also I just got an ebook from Smashword smashwords.com and I got them in a bundle of formats: MOBI, EPUB, PDF, RTF, PDB, LRF, ... . What this recommendation says is that each one gets a different ISBN. (This was not the case, of course. It was the same ISBN on both the EPUB and MOBI versions, just as you would expect.) If someone sells their ebook in a bundle of formats like on Smashwords then there should be a different ISBN on each format? I don't think so.

I think the confusion is that the electronic world is not the print world. Just because there are different ISBNs on hardback and paperback (and those two from ebook), that analogy doesn't go over into the e-world since different e-formats can be automatically transformed from one to another, possibly in the reading device itself.

So the recommendation of different ISBNs for EPUB and MOBI is a bad one.

* Re the Book Industry Study Group (BISG) proposal for ISBNs and ebooks, via the post When Book Publishing Gives You ISBNs, Make ISBNade by Thad McIlroy.

What I think will happen in practice for an e-publisher who is EPUB-based is that they would be able to sell their ebook (.epub) in the Nook Store, iBookstore, Google Bookstore, etc. with the ISBN (eISBN) they assigned to that ebook, but when it came to putting it in the Kindle store would let Amazon put an ASIN on it (as Amazon continues to be outside the EPUB standard).

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

From ADE to ereader

Here is the best researched guide I've found to the question of how to copy to your ereader an ebook you may have purchased from an ebookstore — represented as an ACSM ("Adobe Content Server Manager") file — that ultimately appears in Adobe Digital Editions on your computer:

This guide is written for PDF ebooks (and target devices Kindle and iPad), but the same steps can be followed for EPUB ebooks (and target devices NOOK, et al.).

Monday, November 28, 2011

How to copy ePub ebook to iPod touch or iPhone

To copy (DRM-free) ePub ebook on computer (B) to iPod touch or iPhone (A):

• Open iTunes (B).
• Download iBooks app (itunes.apple.com/us/app/ibooks/id364709193) (B).
• Connect (A) to (B) with USB cord.
• Click on the iBooks app in iTunes (B). (You may be asked to "authorize" this app on your computer.)
• Copy your ebook (B) to iTunes Books folder (B). (Or add ebook to iTunes Library. It should then appear in a new iBooks Books folder if that folder didn't exist before.)
• Sync (A) and (B):
ebook should now be in iBooks app bookshelf (A).

Once this is done the first time, all that's needed is to copy the ebook to the computer's iTunes Books folder and sync device and computer.

Friday, November 25, 2011

ISBN puzzle

Let's say you have published an ebook (EPUB) and have assigned it an ISBN (eISBN). Then you make it available for e-readers and other devices.

Now suppose there is a POD ("Print On Demand") machine you (or someone who isn't you even) can send it (an ebook) to to make a printable edition (a pbook). Now the ebook is a "float-layout" (or "reflow") format (EPUB in this case), but what the POD machine needs is a "fixed-layout" format (such as PDF). It may be too much to ask at this point to that the fixed-layout PDF can be made totally automatically from the float-layout EPUB: one expects that some editing within a tool (like Adobe InDesign) would be needed to get the book to look right according to the (chosen) page dimensions the POD machine is going to print its output on.

Now would one print a differently assigned ISBN number (one assigned for a hardback or paperback edition) in the pbook (produced by the POD machine) than the eISBN number in the ebook? When you think about it, since you are "just printing out" an existing EPUB ebook with an existing ISBN, it seems strange that a new ISBN would appear in the pbook. Look at it this way: You send your ePub to the POD machine and ask it to print out a 6"x8" version and a 7"x7" version. Would you expect a different ISBN to be printed? Of course not.

2011/12/05: Regardless of the comments in Do I really need a separate ISBN for each e-book format?, I bought a book from Smashwords (one I reviewed): smashwords.com/books/view/94897. I downloaded both the NOOK (epub) and Kindle (mobi) versions. Same ISBN in both NOOK and Kindle versions. That should take care of that confusion.

Another example: Suppose you have an Android tablet running the Kindle app and the Nook app and you download the the EPUB and MOBI versions of the same ebook. Would you expect to see a different ISBN in each reading it on your tablet?

Having a different eISBN on an EPUB and a MOBI is not like hardback and a paperback, it's like having a different ISBN just because there's a different brand of glue used.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Go with the reflow: The reflow POV

Writers (including poets) are entering the age (finally, it has arrived) of people reading from electronic devices instead of from printed matter. It was talked about for decades, but now both e-ink readers and LCD tablets are becoming affordable and actually more practical than the print alternative.

But unlike books and magazines (to pick two physical formats that have been a part of our civilization for a while now), mobile electronic devices vary in the dimensions of what is being displayed. Now readers (consumers) buy a book and expects to be able to read "that book" on their 3" screen iPod Touch, iPhone, or Android phone; their 6" e-ink reader; their 7" NOOK Tablet or Kindle Fire; their 9" iPad or Android tablet. Hence reflow, the reformatting of content for each of these devices in a way that is pleasing to the reader. That is what EPUB is all about, being based on HTML and CSS standards.

With that as a given, it gives writers a point-of-view (a "reflow POV") that is fundamentally different from the print age POV. Now writers are thinking that their products will be seen on any of the devices mentioned above, and they have to write (code, actually) with that in mind. The old way was to write using a tool targeted for producing a format for printed matter (such as Word or PDF), and then hope that some conversion program will make satisfactory formats (such as EPUB) for e-devices. But this approach can lead to unsatisfactory results. Poets, for example, may want their longer lines in their poem to reflow by indenting when the reader changes font or orientation on the device.

In this new reflow POV, writers are now writing in the more abstract and relative mode that EPUB provides, and new tools for making great-looking EPUB content, with that as the primary focus, are certainly on the way. They are not bound anymore to the physical dimensions and type of the printed pages of a particular book.

It's a reflow world.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

eISBNs and ebook formats

In Does Your Ebook Need Its Own ISBN? (BookBuzzr), the suggestion is made that a publisher should assign a different ISBN (eISBN) to each different electronic format that an ebook is published in.

Since EPUB format (can be read on a NOOK) and MOBI format (can be read on a Kindle) are interconvertible with Calibre for example (see Calibre manual manual.calibre-ebook.com), does it make sense that you have to have one eISBN for the EPUB version and another eISBN for the MOBI version of the "same" ebook? It makes sense — I guess — that there is a different ISBN for a hardback and a paperback version of a book, and each of these from an ebook version, but if the conversion between two ebook formats is just a software conversion process, does it make sense that an ebook in the two formats needs a different ISBN for each format?

I would think that since it's only a software conversion between the two formats (EPUB and MOBI in this case), that you would not need to use two ISBNs. After all, a consumer with the EPUB version can easily make a MOBI version to read on a Kindle — assuming there is no DRM lock on the EPUB version, of course.

(Of course when MOBI goes away and Kindle is EPUB, then this will no longer be an issue.) :)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The e-publisher's basic toolkit

HTML/CSS/JS editor

Format conversion

EPUB editor

EPUB validator

ebook viewers (for Mac/PC)

NOOKstudy: barnesandnoble.com/nookstudy
Kindle for Mac: amazon.com/gp/kindle/mac (also for PC)

Cover image creation

Printing ebooks

Note: I have used all of these (the online versions, if available) on MacBook Pro (OS X 10.6.8)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Amazon vs. Apple vs. EPUB3?

I PROGRAMMER points to some concerns about Amazon's new Kindle format (KF8) and the EPUB3 standard:

Even where sales of EPUB ebooks lag behind Kindle sales, many publishers have now built their workflow around EPUB as their primary source files. These convert well into the current Kindle format, allowing publishers to maintain a single format. To keep this workflow, it will be important that Amazon supports error-free EPUB3 conversion in its Kindle Gen 2 toolset. But as complexity increases, so do the opportunities for things to break. We won’t know until Amazon releases more details whether EPUB3 can continue to serve as this reference format. Indications are that EPUB3 is a richer format so publishers might want to restrict themselves to a feature subset that’s common to both platforms. No mention yet, for instance, of JavaScript support, MathML, or EPUB3's extensive accessibility features.
— Martin Taylor, eReport — Digital Publishing Downunder


Amazon isn't the only major player to define its own format. Apple had already adopted an custom extension of the EPUB standard for illustrated books and magazines that worked only with its iBooks e-reader app.

Just the way things go I guess: "Could we be in for the e-reader wars?"

Wonder where Barnes&Noble (NOOK) will play? (The e-reader to be most EPUB3 friendly?)

Monday, October 31, 2011

Publishing tricks or treats

from xkcd: A webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language

Friday, October 28, 2011

Vook white paper: ErRrrORS in eBooks

A whitepaper on ErRrrORS in eBooks is worth checking out at

It's about how unappealing ebooks can result (and we've all seen them) when one starts with a book first created on a print-oriented platform (e.g. InDesign).

I'll be interested to see what the Vook platform is.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Will Amazon's plan shake up the book publishing industry?

The NYTimes Opinion Pages' "Room for Debate" asks four "Debaters" Will Amazon Kill Off Publishers?

Will Amazon's plan shake up the book publishing industry as more writers have the option of a one-stop shop: agent, publisher and bookseller? Are publishers still needed?

For what percent of writers does this apply, I wonder.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Kindle Format 8

This could be good news. Amazon moves away from its old MOBI-based format to an HTML5+CSS3-featured format, KF8:

The announcement seems to indicate that ePub will be an acceptable input format from publishers, but this remains to be seen.

I was thinking, since a KF8 file will probably be a "container file" (like zip), they could have named it KFC. Maybe they were too chicken. :)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

No digital? No books for you!

That there are now major booksellers who will "not carry any book if it were denied the right to sell the digital version" is a sign that the book world is transforming from a print to an electronic orientation. They know this is their future if they are to continue to exist.

see In a Battle of the E-Readers, Booksellers Spurn Superheroes, NYTimes.com, October 18, 2011

Monday, October 17, 2011

Tractatus publico-philosophicus

One day we will say ...

1. There once was a day when the writer looked for a publisher.
1.1 That day is gone.
1.2 The writer and the publisher are one and the same.
1.3 The writer may need the help of a publishing assistant in formatting and editing a book or magazine, and/or a book distributor to promote it, but now the writer retains all rights to his or her work.
2. There once was a day when print took precedence over electronic.
2.1 That day is gone.
2.3 ePub + HTML5 frameworks before PDF.

Philip Thrift
cloudversed publishing