Monday, June 2, 2014

Debating ebooks v. pbooks, again


I've been writing books since 1977 and publishing books since 2008. I initially refused to publish ebooks because I thought they were so damned ugly, and I resented the lack of control I had over what a reader saw.

Eventually I came around.

I could no longer resist change, could no longer resist the preference of readers and could no longer ignore the potential income.

Despite my distaste for ebook aesthetics (actually, the lack thereof), I eventually embraced the e-format. I liked the speed, ease and low cost of of production and I loved the ability to include color at no cost, the hyperlinks and the ease of updating.

For the past few years I published e-only but I am publishing my newest book, Do As I Say, Not As I Did, nearly simultaneously as e and p. The ebook went on sale on Amazon on 6/1 and the paperback should be available in about a week. 

Here are some observations about the production process (for ebooks with flowable text, not pages with fixed layout):
  • It's much easier to format an ebook. I don't have to deal with page numbers, blind folios, recto or verso chapter starts, headers, footers, a numerical table of contents and more. There's much less that can go wrong.
  • A pbook allows me to decide exactly where a graphic image will go, how big it will be, and whether text will wrap around it.
  • A pbook requires letter spacing and word spacing to make it look right. This can take a long time.
  • The printing cost -- and potential profit -- of a pbook depends on its page count. The profit on an ebook may vary with its file size but this is seldom an issue unless a book has lots of images.
  • A good-looking p-page looks much better than a good-looking e-page.
  • The cover of an ebook can be any shape I choose.
  • It takes longer for a pbook to go on sale.
  • If an ebook has lots of graphic images I have to reduce their file sizes to keep the book's overall file size as small as possible to avoid Amazon surcharges. I have to balance image quantity, image quality and image size.
  • A chart or diagram that can have just black, white and shades of gray has to be designed with more care than one that can show colors. (Yes, I know that some ebook readers are monochromatic.)
  • There is no need to balance the text on opposing pages of an ebook.
  • There is no need to control widows and orphans in an ebook.
  • It's much easier to do 'fancy' stuff like drop caps in a pbook.
  • With pbooks I can spend days experimenting with different typefaces, and I enjoy doing that. With ebooks my choice of type is irrelevant.
Both e and p will probably be with us for a long time. It's important to publish what readers want, and to make each book as good as possible.

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