Wednesday, October 31, 2012

New Contract needed for new iBookstores

I got an email from Aaron Shepard, POD expert, this morning, letting me know that it's not enough to add your books to the new 18 iBookstores (Latin America and New Zealand) that Apple made available last week. You also have to download and accept the new contract addendums! Argh. So glad he told me.

Quick overview:

First, add the new territories to your books. Start by going into iTunes Connect and clicking Manage Your Books.

Manage your books

Next, click the cover of the book to which you wish to add territories.

On stores-1

Notice that the book on the right just says "32 stores", but there are currently 50 total possible. That means I need to add the remaining 18 new territories.

You can also see, under the Read Aloud EPUB book on the left, that I had already added the new territories to this book, but the book has still not been accepted into the new territories.

Next, you'll see the summary page for the chosen book. click the Rights and Pricing button in the upper-right corner.

Rights and Pricing button

iTunes Connect will show you the current list of territories where your book has been added, along with the Sales Start Date, DRM, Price, and other data. Click the Add New Territories button in upper-left corner.

iTunes Connect Rights and Pricing list

Choose a DRM option, Sales Start Date, Base Currency (sales in most Latin American countries in their own currencies is not available, with notable exception of Mexico), Publication Type, List Price (of print edition), and Suggested iBookstore Price (which must be less than List Price). Then check the boxes next to the territories you wish to add. Or click Select All. Then click Continue.

Add New Territories dbox

iTunes Connect now shows you a list of the new territories and the price for each one. You are not limited to this price. Go through the list and adjust as necessary. (The book shown here is free, so the price is 0 in each case.)

Confirm New Territories

Click Confirm when you're ready. Now you'll be back at the Rights and Pricing list, with the new territories added. But notice that they're still Not On Store. (Aaron tells me that if you click on the Not On Store label, you can see what the problem is.)

New Rights and Pricing

Click Done three times (always at bottom right of window) to get back to the iTunes Connect main window.

Now click Contracts, Tax, and Banking on the left side of the main iTunes Connect window.

Contracts, Tax, and Banking

Click Request next to the new Contract amendment. I recommend downloading and reading the document. If you agree, click the appropriate box and then click Submit.

Two more Done buttons and you're, well, done.

Now when you go to Manage Your Books, you'll see that your books are available on all 50 stores.

On 50 stores

And if you visit one of the new territories in iTunes (by clicking the flag button in the lower-right hand corner and then choosing the desired country), you'll see your books listed. It might take some time for the new iBookstores to properly index your book's search terms. At first, I was unable to find my books, even by searching on my name. Searching on ISBN does seem to work, and I'm hoping that that will get updated quickly.

Mexico iBookstore

Note that my book that sells for $5 in the US sells for 65 Mexican pesos which, according to Google, is indeed the going rate.

One more thing I learned last week: reviews are posted only in the iBookstore that belongs to the country of the person who wrote the review. So, there is a lovely review of the Monarch Butterfly book by Laura Brady which I can only see if I connect to the Canada iBookstore:

Monarch Butterfly review, by Laura Brady

and folks who connect from countries besides the US cannot see the five five-star ratings that the book has in the US iBookstore.

In US iBookstore

I think it would be nice if Apple made those out-of-country reviews available (perhaps after reviews from one's own country?) If it's the same book, this is information that would be useful to all.

At any rate, keep in mind that if you want to see reviews of your books in other iBookstores, you'll have to go to each store individually. And if you've reviewed my book on a non-US iBookstore, please let me know. I'd love to see it. (And thanks!)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Apple opens iBookstores across Latin America (and New Zealand)

Updated: 9:32am

Thanks to a tip from Miquel Hudin, I noticed that Apple has already made it possible for publishers to add books to iBookstore in Latin America: specifically, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, and Venezuela. And it has also opened the iBookstore in New Zealand.

Add Territories Latin America

Simply go to iTunes Connect, Manage your books, and then choose Add Territories in the upper-left part of the window.

I assume that there will be a new version of iTunes Publisher today as well.

Note that I added a few of my books this morning, but they still say "Not on iBookstore" in the new countries. I suspect that will change during the day.

There are books in Spanish for sale already on some of the new iBookstores. To see a different country's iBookstore, in iTunes, choose iTunes Store, and then go to the very bottom of the window and click the flag in the bottom-right corner.

Click flag to change iBookstore country

Then choose the desired country from the list. Note that not all of the listed countries have the iBookstore (some only have the App store).

Here's a screenshot I took after switching to the Argentina iBookstore. Actual books for sale, in Spanish. Note the currency, however, all in USD.

iBookstore Argentina

As of 9:23, my books are still not available in the new countries, even though one is in Spanish. I'll let you know.

It is interesting to note that "Libros" now appears as a category on Apple's LinkMaker page for the new Latin American Market (and Books for New Zealand):

iTunes Link Maker Argentina

This is very exciting and is definitely an auspicious start to this day of new announcements by Apple. Can't wait for the rest.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Presenting “The Monarch Butterfly: An Interactive Picture Book”

Over the weekend, I finally finished my first serious attempt at an interactive picture ebook. I've been working on it off and on for several years, first as I tried to take photographs that were worthy of being published, and second as I taught myself enough Javascript to create the effects that I thought were necessary to show the photographs and information in a fun and beautiful way.

Here's a short sampling of the book:

You can download a sample, or buy the whole book on the iBookstore. It works great on both iPad 2 and 3, as well as newer iPhones. I haven't tested it in other readers besides iBooks (yet).

I am writing a new miniguide that explains how to create interactive ebooks with Javascript and CSS and will announce that as soon as it's available.

If you would like a review copy, please contact me.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Everything I know I learned from my farm

We promise we won't get out again, honest!
The sheep got out again this morning, and I was in a rush so I banished them back to the barn and the small paddock that they had already picked pretty clean last week when they got out three separate times and had me running around the neighborhood pleading them to come home to a little grain. So late this afternoon, I decided it was time to change the fence to its final pre-snowfall location. I have temporary mesh wire fencing that's designed to be mobile. All you have to do is pull the polls out and then carry the fence to a new position and put the polls back in again. Except that the wiring between the polls is better at getting tangled up than angora yarn and the polls themselves are just the other side of a pleasant weight. Still, I was tired of chasing the sheep, so off I went.

Fall and political colors
It's a blustery, bright, downright gorgeous fall day. Although it's been a lackluster fall color display, today was one of the better days: crisp blue sky with orange and yellow leaves blowing around the bright green grass. I started pulling out the fence and thinking about where I would move it, when I realized that the sheep had barely gotten going on the grass inside this particular area. Could I figure out what was going wrong with the fence? I had already tried this game three times last week. And then my very first rule of troubleshooting came to me: try the easy stuff first. I put the half-removed fencing down on the ground and went to check the connections. And sure enough, the wire leading from the charger to the fence had somehow gotten disconnected, and no electricity was getting to the fence. It's like finding a minor typo in your Javascript. You can't believe you didn't see it. So, I put the fence back where it was, plugged in the fence, and let the sheep back out. They were thrilled, and have yet to find a new way out.

Who's been eating my sunflower seeds?Of course, once you're out on such a nice day, it's hard to go back in no matter how many books, projects, and presentations you've got half done. Plus, I had walked back and forth under the apple tree while I was fixing the fence and had noticed that the apples had gotten really big and really red. I don't know how I got so lucky with this tree. It's gorgeous all seasons, and every two years, it gives us more apples than we can possibly handle. This year, we made 16 gallons of sweet cider, 8 of hard cider, bags and bags of dried apples, and sheets and sheets of fruit leather.

apples and gourdsI got a bucket and picked up the apples and noticed that a fair number had been chewed on. I'm pretty sure it's the same wascally rabbit that ran into the garden the last time I tried to shoo it away. But we got a hard freeze the other night, and the lush, endless gourd and pumpkin leaves that gave it cover have evaporated leaving behind a carpet of eggs and snakes.

egg gourds

Snake in the wheelbarrowGourds that is. I planted them, together with some sunflowers, the morning that we left for Barcelona in the middle of June with a haphazard hope that they would survive our six weeks away. And when we got home, I was pleasantly surprised to see that they had begun their assault on the whole garden. I kept turning them away from the peppers and peas and tomatoes, gently turning their tendrils back on themselves, and they kept reaching out until they had overrun the fence, the trellises, the onions, and a good bit of the yard to boot. I turned a blind and indulgent eye.

I'm not sure why, but gourds speak to me. I love their knobby texture, they're crazy shapes, they're outrageous size. Sometimes I dye them and carve them and otherwise play with them. But mostly I just admire them. I think part of their charm is that they're one of those rare things that well, are still rare. You can't buy them at the store, some people have never heard of them, there's no good word for them in Catalan. They're special.

Who's been eating my apples?Lessons: Check the easy stuff first. Sometimes, just wing it. Appreciate bounty. Share, even with rabbits. Notice beauty. Get outside once in a while.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Google Alerts ≠ Google

For many years, the only news that ever made it into English-language papers about Catalonia had to do with food, travel, or on a lucky day, Catalan superstar architect Antoni Gaudí. I even started a blog, and got permission from a number of online news sites so that I could take matters into my own hands and translate the articles that I thought deserved wider attention in the non-Catalans speaking world. I remember being particularly outraged that Spain's Minister of Transportation had decided to build a high-speed rail line directly under (and I mean directly under), Barcelona's famed Sagrada Família, and it was barely covered in international papers (though today I did find this one article in the New York Times, Murphy's Law).

Part of the problem is that foreign correspondents have, until very recently, concentrated themselves in Madrid, thinking (erroneously in my opinion) that that was a reasonable vantage point for covering Barcelona. But, it's pretty obvious if you've read any of their articles that the city you live in makes a difference on the information and the opinions you collect and then relate. Imagine covering the US election from Moscow, or Havana. You just don't get the same story.

But in the last three weeks, since Catalonia's massive demonstration of a million and a half people, and President Mas' subsequent call for a referendum on a new sovereign state for Catalonia, I haven't been able to keep up. There have been hundreds, even thousands of articles in English-language newspapers.

And while trying to keep up with it all, I've learned a few things about Google and Google Alerts that you might find useful even if you're not so interested in my adopted country.

You don't need me to tell you what Google is. Google Alerts is less well known: it's a Google-based service that offers to "email updates of the latest relevant Google results (web, news, etc.) based on your queries" and at the intervals "daily, weekly, when it happens" that you specify.

The problem, however, is that Google Alerts does not produce the same results as Google, and in particular its results aren't nearly as good or complete. Since September 11, my Google Alert for "Catalonia, Catalunya and/or Catalans" has resulted in all of 15 results. 15. Part of the issue is that Google Alerts (like Google) groups articles into categories, and just shows the first of many. For example, here is the Google Alert that I received on September 12, the day after one and a half million people marched in Barcelona for independence:

There are three news entries, and each one has a "See all stories on this topic" link. And there's a bizarre rant from some website. But I thought Google Alerts was supposed to show me all the stories? It clearly does not.

If I go to Google and search for Catalonia (by itself), even today on October 1, I can travel back to the entry on September 11, and see that there were actually 240 articles, and Google itself shows me the summaries of seven or eight:

How are Google and Google Alerts grouping articles into categories? It seems a bit random. Syndicalization might be one criteria; when the exact same article appears in various news sources. I recognize that there's a lot of that. AP articles are obviously picked up by multiple newspapers, but a lot of other papers share articles as well. I found the same exact article in The Telegraph (in the UK) and in the Sydney Herald (in Australia).

But that's not the only criteria that Google Alerts uses, at least in my recent experience. It also seems to lump together articles that are completely different.

So, my question is if you're asking Google Alerts to give you all of the pages about a given topic, what good does it do for it to send you an email with a link to just one of them, saying you should search for the others? Isn't that what Google is for?

The second issue is that Google Alerts doesn't get them all by a long stretch. For example, I am writing this at 12:09pm on October 4th. At 10pm on October 2, a full 36 hours ago, Google showed me that the New York Times had just published a hugely influential, detailed op-ed about Catalonia, called Spanish Prisoners. I have yet to receive any word about it from Google Alerts. Today, there is a new article about Catalonia in Bloomberg Business Week. There has been nary a peep from Google Alerts, even though it promised to send me links to a news story "when it happens".

In short, Google Alerts doesn't do what it promises. It sends what it considers a few representative articles and a link to additional ones, and often misses the most important stories. If you want to find all the important articles on a topic, you're much better off going to Google yourself.

And if you're interested in Catalonia, I've got the best news roundup around, thanks to Google, but not Google Alerts :)

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Retina images in iBooks on iPad

I've been promising this post for several weeks and I think I finally have a definitive recommendation. But let me start at the beginning. The goal is to include beautiful high-res images in ebooks that take advantage of the Retina display, making sure to follow Apple's rules and not completely bloat the book, especially on lower-res displays.

So, I went to James Duncan Davidson who has done some pioneering work serving Retina images on websites. First, he found an issue with WebKit and Retina images. Then he showed it was possible, and what a difference it makes. Then, he speculated about need for progressive JPEG. And recently he figured out how to serve Retina images to Retina displays without bogging down slower screens. All very helpful.

At least for websites. Of course ebooks have different issues. First and foremost, since they are self-contained, it doesn't make sense to serve different images in different situations, unless you're creating completely different EPUB files, which is a hassle of its own.

Second, on the iPad 3, which has a resolution of 2048 x 1536, we have the added problem that iBooks doesn't allow images larger than 2 megapixels, and 2048 x 1536 is 3,145,728, precisely 1,145,728 pixels too many.

So how do we get Retina quality images in an ebook in iBooks?

First, following the guidelines in my last post on maximizing the iPad screen real estate, as well as providing lots of zoomability, I'm going to use a viewport that measures 2400 x 1860. And I'm going to create images at that size as well.

To get around the 2 megapixel limit, I worked out a technique based on an idea on Dan Amos' Book Creator website: “chop your 3.1 million pixel image into smaller images with each no larger than 2 million pixels. Then just line them up on the page.” First, I created an image that measured 2400 x 1860 (using the selection tool with a fixed ratio of 2400 x 1860 to select the desired area of my photo, then Save to Web at exactly 2400 x 1860).

I calculated that at 2400 pixels wide, a 2 megapixel image could have a maximum height of 833 pixels (2M÷2400). But that's an annoying number, so I opted for slices measuring 2400 x 800 pixels high. I set horizontal guides at 800px and 1600px and after activating the Slice tool (jumbled in with Crop), I clicked the Slides from Guides option in the toolbar. Then, I switched to the Slice Select Tool and double clicked each slice to name it. Finally, I chose Save for Web, Photoshop exported the three slices for me, with my chosen names (top, middle, and bottom).

In the HTML, I positioned each image right after the next with no spaces:

<div><a id="image" href="#pag001"><img id="item1" class="item" src="molt/top.jpg" alt="image" style="width: 2400px; height: 800px; z-index:-1" /><img id="item2" class="item" src="molt/middle.jpg" alt="image" style="width: 2400px; height: 800px;z-index:-1 " /><img id="item3" class="item" src="molt/bottom.jpg" alt="image" style="width: 2400px; height: 260px;z-index:-1 " /></a></div>

And in the CSS, I set the images to display as if they were block elements (one on top of the next):

img {display: block}

And the images display fine, and everything looks beautiful


And if I place a 900 x 698 pixel image on the right side page, flipped so that the same bits are next to each other, you can really see the difference:

big vs 900 x 698

Especially if you zoom in:

big vs 900x 698 closeup

But here's the thing. If I place a 1600 x 1240 px image on the right hand page (again, flipped so I can compare the caterpillar heads with each other), I can't tell the difference. Maybe you can. And perhaps that makes sense, I'm not sure. A 1600 x 1240 image (which is less than 2 megapixels) is only 206ppi and not officiall Retina quality, compared with the 264ppi permitted by the iPad 3, but it's pretty darn good.

2400x1860 vs 1600x1240

Even if you zoom in:

1600 closeup

So, given that

1) Slicing high-res images is a pain (and sometimes reveals white dividing lines on iPhone and old iPad)
2) My high-res caterpillar takes up 2Mb, compared to the 1Mb for the 1600 x 1240px image.
3) The difference in quality is minimal.
4) The difference is even less noticeable on iPhones and older iPads.

I don't think going for extra high-resolution images that take full advantage of the new iPad's Retina screen is worth the trouble.

But I'd love to hear if you've found differently.

Finally, this is a fixed layout example, but I would say this goes double for flowing books, in which it would be even harder to position three images together reliably.

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