Monday, February 27, 2012

Metadata in iBooks, iBookstore, iTunes Producer, InDesign, and Amazon

I got an email today asking how to set the subject keywords for an ebook in InDesign. That part is relatively easy. You choose File > File Info, and add the desired keywords to the Keywords field, separating each keyword from the next with a comma or semicolon:

Metadata Keywords InDesign

But what happens when InDesign exports to EPUB? I'm happy to report that it does exactly what it should and converts those keywords into dc:subject elements in the OPF file:

Metadata in content.opf

Now, I'm no expert on metadata, so I have not made it a point to use standard BISAC book categories for describing the subject of my books in those fields. We'll come back to this.

When you upload your book to Apple's iBookstore, you have the option of entering BISAC data in iTunes Producer:

Metadata in iTunes Producer

And that data entered in iTunes Producer overrides whatever you entered in the content.opf file (or InDesign for that matter). When someone downloads your book, they will only see the Main BISAC category (although the original keywords remain in the content.opf file inside the book):

Metadata in iBooks

And as far as I can tell with this single example (though I've heard other anecdotal evidence also in support), the iBookstore does not use the keyword metadata to help aid searches for your book. Notice for example a search for GREP, which I specified as one of the keywords for this book:

Metadata in iBookstore

iBookstore fails to return my book when searching for "GREP", even though the book contains "GREP" as a subject keyword.

For the record, my book does appear when searching for "InDesign" and "EPUB", presumably since those words are also in the title.

Then I switched over to Amazon to check what happens there. I also had to enter the BISAC categories when uploading my book to Amazon. In addition, they let me enter up to 7 keywords.

KDP Metadata

Amazon doesn't list a category next to a book on the Kindle. When I search for InDesign and EPUB, my book appears (as it should, since those words are in the name). More importantly, when I search for "GREP" on Amazon, my book also appears: grep

Now, I am not at all sure whether Amazon is paying attention to my specified dc:subject elements or more probably to the keywords that I specified above. But either way, it gets points for finding the book.

Seems like you can't hurt anything by adding the metadata in InDesign and/or directly in the EPUB file, but it is far from conclusive whether or not it helps. I wonder if other ebook distributors pay attention to the dc:subject elements. Does anybody know?

Finally, Apple iBookstore clearly has a long way to go towards being a useful tool for discovering books you're interested in. That it completely ignores metadata categories and gives you no other method for specifying them is pretty lame, to say the least.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Returns in EPUB

We have these crazy complicated tools that can do amazing things for us but they have gotten so complicated that it's sometimes hard to take advantage of even their most basic power. Case in point: returns.

So, here's the rule: At the end of a paragraph, use a single return. Then adjust the style for the paragraph so that it has the correct amount of spacing after it.

The most important advantage is that you gain flexibility. If you decide you want more or less space after each paragraph, all you have to do is adjust the style, not delete or add additional returns. And while a return will always give you a set amount of space, you may want to add half, twice, or three times that much space.

This is particularly important when exporting to EPUB. If you add extra space by adding returns in InDesign or Word, those returns will disappear in your ebook. This is because HTML (which EPUB is based on) treats white space in its own special way.

Let's look at an example. You're laying out The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, and you've decided to start your paragraphs flush left, without indents. Therefore, you want space between each paragraph so that readers can see where one paragraph starts and the next one begins.

You add two returns after each paragraph to add this space in InDesign (or Word).

extra returns

You export your book as usual, and notice that the code reflects the extra return:


But when you open your book in your ereader, the space disappears:

Returns not reflected in EPUB

What happened? White space in HTML is collapsed. Three spaces are converted to one. Two paragraph returns are converted to one. And an empty paragraph, like the one shown in the code, is simply ignored. You could hack the code to make the ereader pay attention, but a much more sane solution is to adjust the spacing around the paragraph.

There are two strategies. The first, which I highly recommend, is to return to InDesign, remove all the extra returns, and then specify a value for Space After in the Paragraph Styles Option box:


The amount you put in the Space After determines the amount of space that will be added to every paragraph marked with this style. Don't like it? Change it once in this box, and all your paragraphs will be updated at once.

SpaceAfter applied

When you re-export to EPUB, the Space After is properly applied to the CSS of the affected paragraph(s):


And we no longer have the extra paragraph in the HTML code:


But best of all, now we have space where we wanted it in the ebook on the ereader:

Space after in ereader

And the second solution? I didn't forget. If you've already got your InDesign or Word document set up, you could theoretically ignore the extra p elements that will be generated and just adjust your CSS by hand, by adding a margin-bottom value to the paragraphs in question. It's not the best solution, but sometimes, you've only got so many hours in the day and the OCD well in check :)

Finally, I don't know why they spelled tranquility with so many l's!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Membership to Pigs, Gourds, and Wikis

Update: I just wanted to emphasize that becoming a member is completely voluntary, and I plan to keep posting information to this blog, and keeping it open to everyone, members and browsers alike. The member benefits described below are above and beyond the actual content offered here. (And the response has been totally gratifying and heartwarming. Thank you!)

Update #2: I priced the Level 4 subscription too low. It should be $1500, and not $1000. I was going for round numbers and should've thought it through more completely. And note that it will be much easier to schedule consulting sessions if you don't leave them all until the last month!

I spend a lot of time running very specific edge-case examples in EPUB and Kindle/mobi. Sometimes I think they're too close to the edge (even though they're really not) and I don't know if people find them that useful. But then I get a comment on a post that says, “Thank you so much for this, I was tearing my hair out until I found it.” Those comments make my day.

Another kind of note I get is, “You should charge more for your books.” (I like that kind too :)

I want to keep my books competitively priced and I have every intention of continuing to publish this blog and make its contents freely available. But that doesn't mean you can't help :)

So, I've decided to create a membership program for Pigs, Gourds, and Wikis. If you would like to support this blog and the testing I do around EPUB production (and occasional gourd crafting and animal raising), I invite you to become a member.

I have created a number of membership levels with different benefits:

Basic Membership - $20/year

When you become a member, you will get a 10% discount on all of my books sold through my website, and will have the option of automatically receiving blog posts via email when they are published. I will also acknowledge your support on my Membership page with your name and a link to your website, if you want. You will also know that you're helping support my EPUB testing and documentation efforts so that I can continue to write books on the subject.

Level 2 Membership - $75/year

You will receive all the benefits from Basic Membership plus a 1/2 hour consultation via Skype, iChat, or email (in English, Spanish, or Catalan). This might be an overview of how to get started in EPUB, a troubleshooting session for a book that's just not coming out right, or some help with an advanced feature in ebook production.

Level 3 Membership - $150/year

You will receive all the benefits from Basic Membership, plus a full hour consultation via Skype, iChat, or email (in English, Spanish, or Catalan). Again, this might be an overview of how to get started in EPUB, a troubleshooting session for a book that's just not coming out right, or some help with an advanced feature in ebook production.

Level 4 Membership - $1500/year

You will receive all the benefits from Basic Membership plus a full hour consultation each month over the course of the year. Any time not used in a given month can roll over to the following month, but not to other years.

Subscription Level
Email options
Name for Acknowledgement

Note that you do not need a Paypal account to use this subscription form, you can pay with practically any major credit card. Also, you can send me the URL to which I should link your Acknowledgement. I will send you a confirmation that asks for any changes as well.

Thank you

Thank you so much for your support. Other ways you can help are by talking about my books with your colleagues and by writing reviews on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Goodreads or any other site where my books are listed.

I am also available for EPUB troubleshooting, consultation, and training above and beyond the membership benefits. Please email me for details.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

iBooks can open EPUB 3 files

I almost used a much more provocative title: iBooks supports EPUB 3 but then we would have to have a complicated discussion about “What does ‘support’ mean?” and even, “What does ‘EPUB 3’ mean?”

Keep in mind, for example, that an EPUB 3 file is not required to include anything besides text and simple formatting, and might be nothing more than EPUB 2 content in an EPUB 3 shell. Such a file would be much less difficult to “support”.

And also remember that supporting some aspects of a file format does not necessarily imply support of the entire file format. The EPUB 3 format itself is pretty loose about requiring what conformant systems must support.

But, now with all those caveats out of the way, I'm happy to say that it's true that you can open the EPUB 3 sample files available from the IDPF with iBooks.

And those files aren't particularly complicated, or replete with EPUB 3 features, but I did notice some interesting things.

First, there are three EPUB 3 files to look at so far, Moby-Dick, Wasteland, and Creative Commons - A Shared Culture. Only Wasteland has a toc.ncx file. The Shared book has no table of contents at all. But Moby-Dick (created by Dave Cramer of Hachette) uses the new-fangled XHTML style TOC:


and iBooks displays it beautifully:

EPUB3 in iBooks

This is a big deal if you ask me, as I'm not relishing having to create two separate annoying TOC files, one for new systems and one for legacy ereaders.

The Shared book includes video and audio, and scripts to control them, but it seems like the only scripted enhancement that partially works is the play button (and it works much better in a non-scripted way).

Shared EPUB3 on iBooks with video

The Moby-Dick book includes media overlays, ostensibly for narrating the text, but they don't seem to work yet.

We're not there yet, but the fact that iBooks supports EPUB 3 in some fashion is at least a beginning. Now we can begin testing what is possible, what is supported, and what we can create.

Note that Readium, the IDPF encouraged extension for Google Chrome, also supports EPUB 3. It's definitely worth downloading and playing with.

Amazon Algebra

Amazon doesn't give sales figures for Kindle devices. I think they should.

When asked directly by Steven Levy in Wired magazine “How many Kindles have you sold?”, Jeff Bezos gave a "long, loud example of his famous laugh" before replying “I know you don't expect me to [give an answer]".

I do expect an answer. There are too many of us dependent on those numbers. Piqued, I went through Amazon's press releases for the past few years, and gathered up these tidbits of information. I'm not sure they reveal much, except facetiousness and a love of algebra. Why don't they tell us more? You'd think they have something to hide!

iOS = 316 million

For the record, Asymco recently reported that Apple said it had sold 55 million iPads to date, along with 261 million iPhones and iPod touches (all of which can run iBooks).

Note that S generally refers to sales of Kindle devices, B is number of Kindle books available. I've added subscripts when referring to smaller subsets of these groupings. O generally refers to other. Hover above any symbols you don't understand and tooltips with explanations should appear. Links go to original press release on Amazon with cited "data".

Can you discern anything useful in this data?

Sk > So

12/29/11: Holiday Bestsellers, only Electronics: Kindle Fire; Kindle Touch; and Kindle

S > 1,000,000 * 4

12/29/2011: Throughout December, customers purchased well over 1 million Kindle devices per week

S > 2,000,000 + 2,000,000

12/29/2011: customers purchased millions of Kindle Fires and millions of Kindle e-readers

Skf > So

11/28/2011: the popular Kindle Fire remained the bestselling product across all of Amazon since its introduction 8 weeks ago...

S2011 = 4 * S2010

11/28/2011: customers purchased 4X as many Kindle devices as they did last Black Friday

Ske = 2*Spl

10/25/2011: In the three weeks since launch, orders for electronic ink Kindles are double the previous launch. And based on what we're seeing with Kindle Fire pre-orders, we're increasing capacity and building millions more than we'd already planned.

SK3g > SOK

P3g = $139

7/26/2011: Kindle 3G with Special Offers has quickly become our bestselling Kindle at only $139...

Sgk2q > Sg1q

7/26/2011: Sales growth of Kindle devices accelerated in second quarter 2011 compared to first quarter 2011

B > 950,000

The U.S. Kindle Store now has more than 950,000 books

B > 900,000

4/26/2011: The U.S. Kindle Store now has more than 900,000 books

S > 2,000,000

1/27/2011:after selling millions of third-generation Kindles with the new Pearl e-ink display during the quarter, Kindle books have now overtaken paperback books as the most popular format on

Sb = 1.15*Spb

1/27/2011:Since the beginning of the year, for every 100 paperback books Amazon has sold, the Company has sold 115 Kindle books

Sb = 3*Sph

1/27/2011: Additionally, during this same time period the Company has sold three times as many Kindle books as hardcover books

Sk3 > SHP

1/27/2011: the third-generation Kindle eclipsed "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" as the bestselling product in Amazon's history.

B > 810,000

1/27/2011: The U.S. Kindle Store now has more than 810,000 books

S12 > Sol

10/21/2010: More new generation Kindle devices were ordered in the first twelve weeks of availability than in the same time frame following any other Kindle launch.

S > So

10/21/2010: In addition, in the twelve weeks following the introduction of the new generation of Kindles, customers ordered more Kindle devices on and than any other product.

Sk4 > Spl

8/25/2010: more new generation Kindles were ordered in the first four weeks of availability than in the same timeframe following any other Kindle launch

Sb = 1.43*Sh

7/22/2010: Over the past three months, for every 100 hardcover books has sold, the Company has sold 143 Kindle books

Sb = 1.8*Sh

7/22/2010: Over the past month, for every 100 hardcover books has sold, the Company has sold 180 Kindle books.

Sb2010/2 = 3*Sb2009/2

7/22/2010: Amazon sold more than 3x as many Kindle books in the first half of 2010 as in the first half of 2009.

GSb > 207%

7/22/2010: The Association of American Publishers' latest data reports that e-book sales grew 163 percent in the month of May and 207 percent year-to-date through May. Kindle book sales in May and year-to-date through May exceeded those growth rates.

Sjp = 1,140,000

Sjpk = 867,881

7/22/2010: On July 6, Hachette announced that James Patterson had sold 1.14 million e-books to date. Of those, 867,881 were Kindle books.

Sb > 2,500,000

7/22/2010: Five authors--Charlaine Harris, Stieg Larsson, Stephenie Meyer, James Patterson, and Nora Roberts--have each sold more than 500,000 Kindle books.

B > 500,000

4/22/2010: The U.S. Kindle Store now has more than 500,000 books

S > 2,000,000

1/28/2010: Millions of people now own Kindles

Sb =0.6 * Sp

1/28/2010: When we have both editions, we sell 6 Kindle books for every 10 physical books.

B > 410,000

1/28/2010: The U.S. Kindle Store now has more than 410,000 books

Sn > So

10/30/2009: November is already the best sales month ever for Kindle, even before Cyber Monday

S > So

U > Uo

10/22/2009: Kindle has become the #1 bestselling item by both unit sales and dollars

B > 360,000

10/22/2009: The U.S. Kindle Store now has more than 360,000 books

P = $299

7/23/2009: reduced the price of Kindle, the #1 bestseller in its consumer electronics store, to $299

B > 320,000

7/23/2009: The Kindle Store offers more than 320,000 books

B > 280,000

5/11/2009: the Kindle Store’s 280,000 books

B > 270,000

4/23/2009: The Kindle Store offers more than 270,000 books

B > 230,000

2/9/2009: More than 230,000 books are now available in the Kindle Store

P = $359

2/9/2009: Introducing Amazon Kindle 2: $359

D > 0

12/31/2008: We’re particularly grateful for the unusually strong demand for Kindle in the fourth quarter.”

S < So

12/26/2008: Top sellers in consumer electronics included Samsung's 52-inch 1080p 120Hz LCD HDTV with RED Touch of Color, the Apple iPod touch 8 GB (2nd Generation) and the Acer Aspire One 8.9-inch netbook (1.6 GHz Intel Atom N270 processor, 1 GB RAM, 160 GB hard drive, XP Home, 6 cell battery), sapphire blue.

B > 185,000

10/22/2008: Kindle selection continues to grow, with available book titles more than doubling since launch to over 185,000

Sb >0.1 * Sa

10/22/2008: Kindle titles already account for more than 10% of unit sales for books that are available in both digital and print formats

B > 115,000

4/23/2008: Kindle selection continues to grow - with more than 115,000 titles now available, up from 90,000 at launch

Sk > 1

B > 90,000

1/30/2008: The Company introduced Amazon Kindle, a revolutionary wireless portable reader that provides instant wireless downloads of more than 90,000 books, blogs, magazines and newspapers

Sk < So

12/26/2007: Top sellers in consumer electronics included the Garmin GPS, Canon PowerShot digital Elph cameras and Samsung LCD HDTVs

P = $399

11/19/2007: Kindle is available starting today for $399...More than 90,000 books are now available in the Kindle Store

Monday, February 20, 2012

EPUB in the Wild at Tools of Change for Publishing

I spent the early part of last week in New York City at the Tools of Change for Publishing Conference. It was really great. There were lots of interesting presentations, from the theoretical to the more hands-on, and I was thrilled to meet folks in person who I had heretofore only chatted with via Twitter and Skype. I find it very compelling how much you can begin to know someone on Twitter, and then how important it is to make more solid connections face to face.

I gave a talk on Tuesday called “EPUB in the Wild”, which aimed to explain the difference between what is laid out in specifications and manufacturer guidelines and what really works in real life (the ‘wild’). I advocated for a workflow that concentrates on ebook features that work well cross-platform, with some minor adjustments automatically generated with media queries and that can thus take advantage of the creation (and subsequent updates) of a single EPUB file that is designed to also be easily ported to Kindle/mobi and KF8. And when that's not possible, because a platform simply does not support an essential feature (say, video), that's when you make informed choices about leaving that platform behind.

I call this method "one file to rule them all".

Here are my slides. I'm hoping that #TOCCON eventually posts the video from my talk as well. If they do, I'll let you know.

You can download the “one file” in EPUB format, or as converted to Kindle/mobi and KF8 with Kindle Previewer 3.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Cross-platform multiple indents in ebooks

Sometimes I worry that I don't do enough real world work to know what the actual problems that ebook production people face. So when someone poses an interesting question on #eprdctn, I like to take a look.

Today, @ebookartisans was trying to get multiple indents to work on old Kindle, new Kindle, ADE, NOOK, and iBooks from a single EPUB file (obviously KindleGenned into a mobi for Kindles). She was using a combination of code from Joshua Tallent and myself. It turns out my code only works on first level indents on Kindle. Unfortunately, Rick Gordon (another #eprdctn regular) reports that the NOOK won't look at any code that comes after a media query, and so she was having trouble getting NOOK to do what she wanted.

Does this give you flashbacks of hacks for hiding CSS from IE? Well, it's the same show, so many years later. So, if you remember, you're getting old like me.

Thankfully, we have somewhat better tools this time around, in the form of media queries, which I started explaining a few weeks ago.

The problem with indents is that Kindle has some built-in funky behavior. So, if you were setting up the code just for old Kindle (e.g., not Fire) you might use the following:

<style type="text/css" media="amzn-mobi">
.level1 {text-align:left; text-indent: -30px; }
.level2 {text-align: left; text-indent: -60px; }
.level3 {text-align: left; text-indent: -90px; }

You'd also have to add extra spaces in front of each level2 and level3 (and successive levels) to give a left margin to the first line. This is Joshua Tallent's hack (actually he uses &#xa0;, but @ebookartisans says that doesn't work on NOOK):

<p class="level3"><span class="spaces">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</span>•&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;The mean aunt had her own traumatic childhood, deserving of treatment in a Roald Dahl novel.</p>

Kindle- multiple indents

Though I salute Joshua's ingenuity, I admit I hate the spaces, and would only use such a hack in extreme need. Instead, I'd advise against using multiple indents. But in case the need arises, we'll forge on!

Since NOOK completely ignores the "not amzn-mobi" media query and any CSS that follows it, the trick is to put the NOOK (and other ereader code) in a stylesheet without a media query, and before the aforementioned old Kindle stylesheet. I'll also slip in some code that hides the extra spaces everywhere except in old Kindle.

<style type="text/css">
.level1 {margin:0 0 0 2em; text-indent: -2em;}
.level2 {margin:0 0 0 4em; text-indent: -2em;}
.level3 {margin:0 0 0 6em; text-indent: -2em;}
.spaces {display:none}


<style type="text/css" media="amzn-mobi">
.level1 {text-align:left; text-indent: -30px; }
.level2 {text-align: left; text-indent: -60px; }
.level3 {text-align: left; text-indent: -90px; }
.spaces {display:inline}

Here's where you have to keep track of CSS inheritance rules. Remember that later CSS overrides earlier CSS as long as it has equal importance. So, the text-indent in old Kindle will override the earlier CSS. That's what we want for text-indent but not for margin-left. So, just add in margin-left: 0; for each style in the Kindle stylesheet:

<style type="text/css">
.level1 {margin:0 0 0 2em; text-indent: -2em;}
.level2 {margin:0 0 0 4em; text-indent: -2em;}
.level3 {margin:0 0 0 6em; text-indent: -2em;}
.spaces {display:none}</style>

<style type="text/css" media="amzn-mobi">
.level1 {margin-left:0;text-align:left; text-indent: -30px; }
.level2 {margin-left:0;text-align: left; text-indent: -60px; }
.level3 {margin-left:0;text-align: left; text-indent: -90px; }
.spaces {display:inline}

That code works in old Kindle, Kindle Fire, NOOK, ADE, and iBooks:

Kindle-Multiple indentsKindleFire-Multiple Indents

NOOK-multiple indentsiPad-Multiple indents

ADE-multiple indents

It doesn't take a sharp eye to see that the words in the first line don't quite line up with the second and subsequent ones, AND differ from ereader to ereader. There is no tab in EPUB (or HTML), and each ereader seems to measure spaces its own way. If you want the lines perfectly aligned, you'll have to use a regular old list. It looks beautiful as long as you don't need to control what the bullet character looks like, as old Kindle will only give you a bullet:


Did someone say "EPUB in the Wild"?

Here are both the EPUB file as well as the Mobi file that I generated from it with Kindle Previewer 3.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Bookle, an EPUB reader for Mac

TidBITS and Peter Lewis have teamed up to fill an aching void in ebookland: an EPUB reader for the Mac—not the iPad, but the Mac. It's called Bookle, and it's really nice. You drag your DRM-free EPUB files to the Dock icon to load them into Bookle, and then start reading. Navigation is particularly fine with a trackpad, where you can swipe from chapter to chapter, and then scroll up and down for the contents of each.

I think what I love so much about the swiping is that it is almost like leafing through a print book. It feels right.

What Catalans Want

I can see Bookle being particularly helpful for proofreading ebooks before they're published since it's based on the same WebKit that iBooks is. The only significant differences I found between Bookle's representation of my books and iBooks' was that Bookle doesn't shrink images to fit the viewport, like iBooks does. That said, I haven't done enough tests to illustrate that point conclusively, but I have noticed it with covers, for example.

From InDesign CS 5.5 to EPUB and Kindle

It doesn't do Fixed Layout (at least not properly), and it doesn't have Search, and you can't write notes or add Bookmarks, but given the fact that Apple may release their own desktop ereader app at any moment, I was impressed that they did all they could. You can vote for your preferred additions on Bookle UserVoice Forum.

Spanish Publisher Guild Misleads on Ebook Piracy

Nota: Se puede encontrar una traducción al castellano de este artículo en Canal PDA.

Update: The Spanish Publisher Guild corrected their report this morning.

It was not my intention to find errors in the Spanish Publishers' Guild recent report on reading practices in Spain during the #edigital chat this morning (held Tuesdays, 16h CET, 11am EST, 7am PT). But there on the front page was this assertion:

NP_Barometro_HabitosLectura2011.pdf“73% of the ebooks read were downloaded or downloaded for free from the Internet, only 36.9% of those polled said they had payed to download an ebook.”

So, I dug inside and found this, worded very similarly:

This one says, “One significant datapoint is the way in which digital readers obtain their electronic books (ebooks). 73.1% of the books were downloaded or downloaded for free from the internet; 37.3% got them from family members or friends, via usb, cd or mail; and another 36.9% downloaded them or downloaded them from the Internet by paying for them.”

The first thing I noticed was that 73.1% + 37.3% + 36.9% does not equal 100%. Something's not right.

So I asked the Guild where the numbers came from, and they said the question asked was:

Twitter / @FGEEenlinea: @lizcastro Se ha preguntad ...

“We asked “How do you obtain the books that you read in your electronic book [sic, perhaps they meant reader?]' From there we got the reported results

In other words, 73% of the ebooks read in Spain were not downloaded for free. That's a completely erroneous and faulty conclusion, stated twice in their report.

Instead, the truth is this: 73.1% of those polled said they had downloaded ebooks for free, 37.3% reported they had gotten ebooks from a family member or friend, and 36.9% had purchased ebooks for download. We don't know if other people polled obtained their books by other means.

As Ignacio Lirio pointed out, there's a big difference:

Twitter / @ignaciolirio: El 73% de la gente declara ...

“73% declare they've eaten chicken <--> Chicken is 73% of the diet of the people”

Frankly, I'm surprised the number is not higher. Who, among ebook readers, has not downloaded a book for free? Gutenberg has 38,000 of them. I've certainly downloaded several myself.

I find this manipulation of data really unconscionable and asked the Guild to correct their report:

Twitter / @lizcastro: .@FGEEenlinea Creo que ten ...

“I believe you have the duty to correct the erroneous conclusions reached on the cover of your report”

To date, I have had no response. I also asked for a comment for this article, but none arrived.

And why does the Spanish Publishers Guild want you to think that Spain is teeming with ebook pirates? I honestly don't know. Your thoughts welcome.


The FGEE fixed their report this morning, with nary a tweet. Nor did they rename the link or the document. I found out from someone who tweeted a French report about this post.


So, now that we can look at the numbers, what do they tell us about the way people in Spain get books, both print and electronic?

First, lets talk about the already familiar numbers: 73% of responders have downloaded books for free from Internet, 37% have gotten them from friends and relatives, and 37% have bought them. Since people obviously get books from various sources, they could check multiple answers, and thus the numbers don't add up to 100%.

And then we see something very interesting: 37% of ebook readers buy electronic books compared with 43% of those polled who said they had bought non-textbook print books. Those numbers are not that different. If we don't assume that 57% of the non print book buyers are thieves, why would we assume that of the non-ebook buyers?

And then look at this. 28.5% of those polled visited a library. (This is very low compared with the US, where the number is about 75%.). When you look at young people between 14 and 24, the number climbs to 60% who go to the library, for free! The poll does not explain how many people borrow books from their friends, but I suspect it's also a sizable amount.

Like Mark Twain said, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics.”

Friday, February 3, 2012

A Range of EPUB Tools, more thoughts on OpenOffice and Writer2ePub for EPUB

Yesterday I posted a quick how-to on how to create an EPUB file out of a Word (or Word type) document using OpenOffice and the Writer2ePub extension.

There were a number of comments about why I didn't explain other, more powerful tools, and also others that questioned even using OpenOffice.

And it made me think a lot about the range of tools available and how best to talk about them. Some EPUB tools are very costly—there are turnkey automated systems in the hundreds of thousands of dollars—and some, like OpenOffice are free. Similarly, the power, flexibility and number of features changes drastically from one end of the spectrum to the other, not always in a direct correlation to price.

I am a long-time InDesign user. I use it for my work and consider it an essential part of my tool chest. I had PageMaker so ingrained in my fingers that after a long hiatus (during which I was a happy FrameMaker user) when I returned to InDesign I automatically pressed Command-D to place an image, even though that was not the command in Frame and I hadn't used PageMaker for years. So, it's completely natural for me to think about InDesign and include it in my workflow.

But my profile (computer book author and publisher) may not match that of each of my readers. Many people who are creating ebooks today are not interested in print, which is InDesign's forte. And they're not interested in InDesign's price, which is around $700.

Do I recommend using OpenOffice to create ebooks that you're going to sell? I don't. It would be a little bit like trying to sell spiralbound copies of a print book straight off of your home printer. You might be able to eke out a decent looking thing in OpenOffice, but you'll need to do a lot more than I explained in my post yesterday. Which probably begs the question: Can you create a professionally designed ebook without touching the code? Again, I don't think so.

But maybe you don't need a professionally designed ebook. Maybe you want to “rip” a quick EPUB out of a Word file to bring with you on your phone. Maybe you want to share your growing manuscript with a friend. There are plenty of situations where OpenOffice + Writer2ePub might be just what you need.

And it's important to know what tools are out there, especially if they're free. One of the brilliant things about ebooks and independent and self-publishing is that it's open to all. I would hate people to think that they had to buy a $700 program before they could create an ebook.

There are more tools that I want to talk about. Pages, Sigil, Calibre, BBEdit, Smashwords' Meatgrinder, KindleGen maybe even iBooks Author—are there others you depend on? Each one has strengths and weaknesses, and each might be the best suited for very specific situations. I will spend some time in the coming weeks going over each of these.

For now, know that you *can* create EPUB files from Word using a completely open-source and free combination of software. It won't create the kinds of files you can get from InDesign (or other tools), but it's better than nothing. Just.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Quickest, easiest, cheapest way to create an ebook?

Update 2: More thoughts on OpenOffice and Writer2ePub for EPUB

Update: I've added the OpenOffice document, including images, the EPUB file generated with the Writer2ePub extension, and the Kindle file generated from that EPUB file with Kindle Previewer 3 at the end of this article.

I've been writing about creating ebooks for a while and it occurred to me that I've tried to cover a lot of the edge-case scenarios: nice formatting, drop caps, special fonts, audio, video, fixed layout, poetry, and more. But what if you had a drop-dead simple book and you wanted to create an ebook in the quickest, easiest, cheapest way?

Here's what I'd recommend. First, download OpenOffice. It's free and available on multiple platforms.

Next, download the Writer2ePub extension. It is also free. It was written by Luca "Luke" Calcinai, and like a good European, he offers documentation in several languages. Install the extension by choosing Tools > Extension Manager from inside OpenOffice and then clicking the Add button and finding Writer2ePub.

Once it's installed, you'll see that there are three new icons on your OpenOffice desktop:

Writer2ePub buttons

Next step, write your novel. I'll wait.

OK, you can open any Word document in OpenOffice. You could even copy someone else's if you have to. That's what I've done. Mark Twain's “The Jumping Frog”.

Now paste it into a new document in OpenOffice.

You could just hit the export to EPUB icon already, but as much as I want to give you simplest way, I can't go that low. (If you can, just skip on down to the bottom.)

Select all of the text and choose Text Body from the style menu.

Text body

Next, select the title of your book and choose Heading 1 from the Style menu.

Heading 1

Now, select each chapter title in turn and choose Heading 2 from the Style menu.

Heading 2

Now, add your images by choosing Insert > Picture > From file, and then locate the image you want to place. You can resize it by dragging the corners. Hold down Shift to maintain the original proportion.

Add any final formatting you wish. Feel free to make some of your text bold or italic, or what have you. Remember this is the easy-peasy system so I'm not going to go into special effects.

The actual EPUB part

Now, save your document. All you non-savers go right ahead and do it anyway, Writer2ePub won't let you proceed until you do. (Choose File > Save.)

Now click the leftmost Writer2ePub icon (the one that's all green). The metadata window will appear.

My recommendation is that you fill out all of the metadata, but Writer2ePub will work with just the title. (Note that when I tried to add a cover, it gave me an error upon validating my EPUB later on.)


Click OK to generate the EPUB file.

First you'll get a little alert that confirms your EPUB was created and tells you just how long it took.


And if you look in the folder that contains your OpenOffice file, you'll now see your new shiny EPUB:


Mine passed ePubCheck with nary a peep. Here it is in iBooks:

Jumping Frog

Now, there's a LOT more that you can do. You could add a cover, you could format the book much more nicely with drop caps and background colors and sidebars and centered images, you could add video and audio and all those things that I teach you in my books. But if you just want to convert your Word document into EPUB, you could do a lot worse.

Here are the sample files that I used in this article just in case you want to take a closer look:

The OpenOffice file (Twain.odt), in this case Mark Twain's The Jumping Frog.
The EPUB file generated with Writer2ePub extension (Twain.epub)
The Kindle file generated from the EPUB file with Kindle Previewer 3 (
And a zip file that has all of the above plus the image files (

Using InDesign to adapt plain text for EPUB

coveradapt_optThere was a chapter that I ultimately decided to leave out of “EPUB Straight to the Point” that I've been wanting to publish for a long time. It explains how to use GREP in InDesign to massage a plain text file so that it's easier to format. It shows how to get rid of extra line breaks, extra spaces, and how to convert special plain text formatting (underscores and carats) into their modern day counterparts, bold and small caps.

You can download it here in EPUB format or in Mobi format, and soon, from the iBookstore. I hope you find it useful. The example files can be found on my website and are the same ones I used for “EPUB Straight to the Point”.

I have a whole collection of EPUB and Kindle related books now. Here's a quick rundown:

EPUB Straight to the PointEPUB Straight to the Point, which explains how to create ebooks in EPUB format using Word, InDesign or from scratch. It gives a thorough description of the ins and outs of the EPUB file format as well as many HTML and CSS tips for formatting your ebooks so that they look their best in whatever ereader your audience has. It also contains instructions for converting to Kindle format. $20, direct from my website. Includes EPUB and PDF editions.

From InDesign CS 5.5 to EPUB and KindleFrom InDesign CS 5.5 to EPUB and Kindle, explains the new EPUB related features in InDesign CS 5.5. I start by explaining just what EPUB related affects you can and cannot achieve with InDesign and then explain how to get the most out of InDesign when creating EPUB and Kindle files. $10, direct from my website, includes EPUB, Kindle/mobi, and PDF editions. Also available in Spanish.

Fixed Layout MiniguideFixed Layout Miniguide, explains Apple's "subformat" for creating fixed layout ebooks. Fixed layout ebooks are great for children's books, photography books, travel guides, cookbooks, and any other book in which you wish to maintain the same layout as the print edition. I would caution publishers not to use fixed layout as a way of avoiding redesigning for e-publication. I am not at all fond of fixed layout books with tiny, illegible text. $4, direct from my website, includes EPUB and PDF editions and example files.

Audio and Video in EPUBAudio and Video in EPUB shows how to incorporate both audio and video files in "enhanced" ebooks. The techniques described in this miniguide work for both iBooks and NOOK, though only Apple will let you upload audio and video-enhanced ebooks to its store. $5, direct from my website. Includes EPUB and PDF editions, and example files.

Read Aloud EPUB for iBooksRead Aloud EPUB explains how to add an overlay so that the ereader (either iBooks or Kobo Vox) can read the story out loud while simultaneously highlighting the corresponding words. Again, this is an advanced subformat (read: not part of EPUB standard) developed by Apple, but that already works in Kobo Vox. $5, direct from my website, includes EPUB and PDF versions, and example files.

Barcelona Beyond Gaudí coverBarcelona Beyond Gaudí is an example of a fixed layout photo book that contains Javascript interactivity and geolocation. It works only on iBooks (better on iPad than iPhone). $3, direct from my website, contains EPUB version for iBooks only.

Using Zapf Dingbats in EPUB in iBooksUsing Zapf Dingbats in EPUB is a free EPUB minibook that contains tables of symbols that can be inserted into EPUB on iBooks. Free.

There are also several money-saving bundles available.

More of my books