Monday, October 4, 2010

Publishing Ebooks on Barnes & Noble

Barnes & Noble has recently made it possible for self-publishers to upload and sell ebooks for Nooks and the Nook app on the iPad and iPhone—through their Pubit! system. I was particularly interested in this development, because Barnes & Noble supports EPUB format—the open source, non-proprietary format for ebooks.

To sign up for Pubit!, you have to have a US Tax id (a social security number or Employer ID number), a credit-card from a US bank, and a US bank account to which your earnings will be sent. These are almost, but not quite, insurmountable obstacles for non-US residents.

There was one thing in the Terms & Conditions that caught my eye. First, while you set the List Price for your books (upon which your royalties are based), you agree to give Barnes & Noble “sole and complete discretion” over the price they charge your customers. I can’t quite explain why that rankles, though I know I hate giving anyone “sole and complete discretion” over anything of mine!

Next, they’ll pay you 65% of the List Price if that price is between $2.99 and $9.99, but only 40% if the List Price is less than $2.98 or more than $10. It seems that, like Amazon, which has a similar tiered system (70% for the midrange and 35% for very cheap or very expensive), they want to pressure you into keeping the price within a certain range: not so cheap that it’s not worth their while, not so expensive that they end up storing your files for an eternity with no sales in sight.

The excellent news is that you can upload EPUB files directly, which means you have complete control over the layout (and can take advantage of the tips in my EPUB book). However, if you don't have an EPUB file, you can also upload Microsoft Word docs (DOC and DOCX), HTML, RTF, and plain-text documents, all of which will be automatically converted to EPUB.

You can decide whether or not to apply DRM, though once you upload a book, you can't change your mind about DRM. What I'd like to know is whether non-DRM books uploaded through Pubit and bought through Barnes & Noble can really be read on any EPUB compatible ereader (like say iBooks on the iPad). I'll work on testing that and report back.

Book files can't be larger than 20Mb.

It’s nice that you don't need an ISBN, the international book number that booksellers use to keep track of a book within their channels. B&N will assign an “internal” 13-digit number (presumably not an ISBN) to your book.

Curiously, Barnes & Noble says you can only upload books in one of the following languages: English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Latin, and Dutch. This seems a rather arbitrary limitation. Why not Catalan, or any of the Scandinavian languages, which can all be properly represented with the character set that the Nook already supports?


  1. I would call those obstacles (to non-US residents) downright "insurmountable" rather than "almost, but not quite" insurmountable!

  2. I would have, except that the last time I did, someone wrote from the UK saying that they had published books to the iBookstore despite similar requirements. I know people who have returned from studies in the US and maintained all three pieces of documentation just for such purposes.

  3. I returned from study in the US 18 years ago, and while I still have my old Social Security Card, I gave up my US bank account and credit card many years ago.

    If only I had known!

  4. Bummer! They are curious requirements, no? Why wouldn't they want non-US-based publishers?

  5. Late responding to this, but I think I can answer the question. It appears B&N is using ACH to direct deposit sales revenues to the authors and publishers who sign with Pub-It!. They can't do that to overseas banks by federal law.

    Amazon has the same rules for the same reason.

    My guess is they don't like having to send checks, as they do currently with the titles harvested from Fictionwise.

    It's always important to bear in mind in situations like this that sometimes there are rules that have to be followed about which the vendor can do nothing. I know my former business partner maintained an account in a Canadian branch of a major US-based bank for this purpose.

  6. Thanks Elizabeth -- that explains it.

  7. I am wanting to create epub book where when you turn the page it, it plays a new audio clip that for example a professional reader reading the text in my book, is this possible with ibooks, that your aware of?

    I was able to play around with your video.epub and I got the audio to play but not automatically when the page opens.

  8. @David: Not that I know of. I have not been able to make an audio clip do autoplay.


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