ebooks and the self-publishing bubble

2.9.12 | | 45 comments

nook-3gA couple of recent articles got me thinking again about the current revolution in ebooks and related subjects.

First, the New York Times in The Bookstore’s Last Stand took a look at Barnes and Noble’s attempts to stay competitive in the current environment, focusing on B&N’s creation of the Nook and on its current CEO, William J. Lynch Jr., who joined the company three years ago after working at IAC/InterActiveCorp, the parent company of the Home Shopping Network. Lynch ran both hsn.com and gifts.com there. Surprisingly, Lynch, who considers himself a technology guy and even claims that Barnes and Noble is a “technology company” told the Times that “the idea that devices like the Nook, Kindle and Apple iPad will make bookstores obsolete is nonsense.”

For those who follow book technology this yet another statement in an old argument. Today, traditionalists hope that some balance point will be reached and that print books and ebooks will both be available for the foreseeable future, perhaps even with some consumers purchasing ebooks in stores.

That last part makes many ebook promoters laugh. The most radical of prognosticators in favor of ebooks foresee the collapse of the current industry as consumers shift en masse to the “obviously superior” ebooks. They see this happening in a very short window, often in less than 5 years.

This view may be influenced by the product cycle in technology, which is used to seeing this kind of transition. It is exactly this kind of change that Harvard Business professor Clayton Christensen (who is LDS, I can’t help but mention) looked at when he wrote his groundbreaking book, The Innovator’s Dilemma. Christensen’s research showed that when a revolutionary new technology came along, new companies became dominant in the market, often driving the leaders in the old technology out of business. This happened even if the old technology company invented (innovated) the new technology! The problem is, as Christensen sees it, that there is no way for the old technology company to shift to the new technology while maintaining the income it needs to stay afloat from the old technology. Worse, the relationships the old technology company has with suppliers, employees and customers, all impede the old technology company from making the transition to the new.

Does this apply to book publishing? It certainly seems like it should. I doubt anyone would disagree with the idea that ebooks are a revolutionary technology. But there are elements of the market for books that argue against applying Christensen’s theory, at least for book publishers. Retailers are another matter.

First, books are not all the same — i.e., one title can’t be substituted for another. While that seems obvious, it isn’t true in other technologies. An SD card from one manufacturer can be used just as easily as one from another manufacturer. But in book publishing, the content isn’t the same in each title. You can’t substitute a Frederick Forsyth novel for a John Le Carré novel, let alone substitute it for a Daniel Steele novel. Where buying one SD card means you won’t purchase one from another manufacturer, buying the Forsyth novel doesn’t mean you won’t buy the Le Carré novel, and, in fact, it may even mean you will (or are more likely to) buy a second Forsyth novel. In terms of Christensen’s theory, this means that you can both purchase books as ebooks and as physical books — making it harder and slower for the new technology to supplant the old in this case.

Second, books usually benefit from the copyright law, which gives authors, and through them publishers, an advantage. At least for most authors, publishers license almost all rights to a book, including all print rights and all ebook rights. This means that the only “manufacturer” of each title is almost always the same for both the old technology and the new technology; thus the old technology “manufacturer” doesn’t face competition from new technology manufacturers.

Now, I am not suggesting that this alone means that print books will survive. It doesn’t. What I’m saying is that ebook technology won’t by itself put publishers out of business (print book retailers are another question). Instead, print books will remain one way to read a book as long as there is enough demand for books in print formats. And with the prevalence of print-on-demand technology, demand for print formats doesn’t have to be very high to make keeping books in a print format attractive — in many cases publishers will only need to sell a few hundred copies of a print edition if they are also selling the ebook edition of the same book.

My prediction is that the larger publishers will struggle with the likely inevitable shift of the majority of book sales to ebook formats. But in the end these large publishers will probably survive and will likely continue to be the largest publishers of books in all formats.

The biggest challenge that publishers face in this transition is what this shift from print to ebooks does to the distributors, wholesalers and retailers. If anyone faces the difficulties that Christensen outlined, it is book retailers like Barnes and Noble. As much as I like shopping in the environment that B&N provides, its hard to see how the company survives as more and more consumers shift from purchasing print books to purchasing ebooks. Other retailers, wholesalers and distributors, who generally do not have a presence in ebooks, appear to be doomed, IMO. Barnes and Noble’s investment in ebook technology is its best hope, and, under Christensen’s model, its survival depends on whether it can downsize or eliminate its investments in physical books and the resources needed to sell them fast enough to keep their costs from overwhelming its investment in selling ebooks.

How fast B&N will need to move depends on how fast the shift of sales from print to ebooks happens. A slower transition may make it easier to survive. And there is some reason to believe that the transition may take a while—ebook technology isn’t perfect, and not all readers like it at the moment. Nor are ebooks as inexpensive as many predicted (editorial costs, which usually can’t be eliminated, must still be covered in ebook prices). Its not hard to see this transition lasting decades. And even then, I believe print versions of many books will still be available to the few that want them. But they most likely will have to purchase them from an Internet retailer instead of from a local bricks and mortar store.

And what of authors?

So, where do authors end up in all this? Writing in the Guardian, Ewan Morrison claims that we are in a self-publishing bubble, which will eventually burst. He believes that so many authors are producing so many books that prices will eventually tank, destroying the market in the process. While there is clearly a problem, it is not a bubble, and Morrison’s explanation relies on a hackneyed attempt to force the facts into the model promulgated by economist Hyman Minsky.

There are, in fact, many reasons why the market for books doesn’t fit Minsky’s model at all. In general, prices haven’t risen substantially faster than inflation. There also isn’t any real expansion of the market for books — yes we have seen a stunning expansion in the number of authors and the number of titles available, but book sales overall haven’t risen substantially. The increase in ebooks isn’t due to widespread speculation, like you see in a bubble. Instead it is due to the adoption of the new technology, which, in part, comes at the expense of print books — consumers are switching formats, not buying every book they can get their hands on as you would expect in a bubble.

So what is going on then, if it isn’t a bubble? What we are seeing is adoption of a new technology, with the accompanying winners and losers. The new technology makes it easier to self-publish — the barriers to entry (as economists call it) have been lowered, not just by ebooks, but also through print-on-demand and the Amazon-led adoption of retailing the long-tail. Unlike in a bubble, these are real and more or less permanent changes to the market. When it is easier to enter the market, more people do, and short of building new barriers to entry (a dubious idea), everyone makes less money — with new authors in the market, consumers spread their money over a much wider number of titles, which means each individual title sells fewer copies and makes less money.

Now, while it isn’t quite clear from Morrison’s article, he may be talking not about the demand for books, but about the demand for having your book published. In this market, prices might be represented not by dollars paid, but by the effort put into writing and trying to get a book published. The falling barriers to entry certainly has made that price rise. Is that a bubble?

Reading Morrison’s article in this light, he may have a bit of a point, but its hard to see exactly what form a “crash” when the “bubble bursts” will take. Will authors simply stop putting effort into new books, therefore making it more difficult to attract new authors? If so, then where is the damage that happens in a crash?

I wouldn’t call this a bubble, but I do see the equivalent of a “market correction” as authors become more disillusioned with self publishing—which for most authors is more difficult and time consuming than expected and much less rewarding than they hoped. But this assumes that many authors will stop writing simply because there isn’t a pot of gold at the end of their rainbow. I suspect that most will write anyway. The rise in self-publishing happened because the barriers to entry fell, and the barriers will, I think, remain down. And if you are compelled to write, why wouldn’t you go ahead and publish what you have written? Perhaps you will sell a few copies. And, best of all, you receive a kind of reward in having your book out there for sale.

Unfortunately for authors, Morrison is wrong about this being a bubble. Unless large numbers of authors decide its not worth it and stop writing new books, the expansion in self-publishing is more or less permanent. Authors with a need to write will continue to write—and once they have written a book, they will want to see it in print.

45 comments: “ebooks and the self-publishing bubble

  1. Wm

    I completely agree with you Kent on the Ewan Morrison article. It’s not a bubble and describing it in such terms is not useful or helpful.

    Now if one were to simply make this statement:

    The possibilities for new/unpublished authors to make money by self publishing are overhyped.

    Then that would be correct. I think it’s pretty clear that authors like JA Konrath and Amanda Hocking had some strong first-to-market mojo working in their favor. I think what’s more likely is that the market will fiction will become more like the market for music — big publisher = major record label; indie/co-op publishing = small record label; self-publishing = DIY. There will be money to make for artists in each of those avenues and each will come with its own hassles and issues. And a lot will depend on work, luck and the fickleness of the audience. The one key issue, though, facing authors is that, unlike bands, there’s no touring and merchandise to supplement sales.

  2. Wm

    I also think that the key question here is: if Barnes & Noble doesn’t survive (or only survives in diminished form) and Apple continues to struggle with selling via its’ iBooks platform (which it will unless it opens its platform up more) who is going to counterbalance Amazon’s dominance as an ebooks distributor? And without a balance, will Amazon change some of its business practices that are currently favorable towards self/small publishers?

    And is it really to late, as Mike Cane, claims its is, for the publishers to do what they should do and create a Hulu for books. It probably is and a key reason why is The Innovator’s Dilemma Kent refers to in the post.

  3. KLC

    As a new owner of a kindle fire I’ve been disappointed with the quality of the ebooks I’ve bought. Most of them have no table of contents and none have pagination, thus no easy way of locating yourself in the text and navigating through it. What good is the little bar at the bottom that tells me I’m at location 632 of 14529? Plus, most of them also have a surprising amount of errors: words connected without spaces, paragraphs not indented, etc. It’s almost as if the publishers consider an ebook not a real product and thus not worthy of doing it well.

  4. Wm

    That’s a real problem, KLC. Ebook formatting is deceptively simple seeming, but it’s very difficult to get right, especially across formats, and it’s an area where both big time publishers and self-publishers are goofing up.

    I usually have one or two ebooks checked out from my local public library at any one time. I read them on my iPhone. Often I choose big nonfiction books for this because I don’t want have to lug them to and from work on the bus (the bus is where I do most of my reading). Invariably, these nonfiction books have epigrams at the start of chapters and/or long sections of quote material. These are all indented to such a degree that on my iPhone the columns only end up being 3-4 words wide. Or, in a recent book, there are a ton of references that are numbers, blue and underlined, but you can’t actually click on them to go to the note (or pop it up).

    In terms of pagination: I think the solution needs to be less pages, as that’s a variable unit of measurement even in print books, and more sections. So you’d have a chapter number, a section number and a paragraph number. The definition of a section would vary depending on the book, but in fiction, they would generally line up with scenes, and in nonfiction books with subheds of a chapter. Tables of contents could then be expandable to include sections, and the reading progress bar could toggle based on consumer preference — sections, paragraphs, or screens (pages).

  5. Luisa Perkins

    Thanks for analyzing this, Kent. I read that Morrison article the other day, and it totally freaked me out/depressed me. Now I feel better. :)

  6. KLC

    Wm, something needs to be devised to help give better visual cues while reading an ebook. With a book seeing the left side and right side pages, knowing how far along in the book I am, seeing the blank space at the end of a chapter and the new page at the beginning of one, all of that gives me a physical orientation while reading that I miss in the electronic version.

    About half of my HP group now has the lesson manual on some form of electronic reader. One problem I never thought of before is how, as a teacher, I could say, “turn to page 243, the bottom paragraph…” Any kind of physical direction like that is lost electronically and I haven’t found an easy way to cue those readers to where I want them to be in the text.

  7. Wm

    Luisa:

    The Morrison article is calculated to freak people out, but it is way off. I was actually going to write about it on my author blog, but was happy to see Kent beat me to the punch here. There is a lot that has yet to be settled in publishing, but to describe it in bubble terms is silly.

    KLC:

    When I teach EQ, I mention the section title in the manual and then the paragraph number and sometimes even say the first three or four words.

    In terms of visual cues, I don’t know what will work. Trying to mimic the form of a print book won’t, imo.

  8. Th.

    .

    That’s what I miss most about paper books when I’m reading an ebook. I miss knowing where I am, being able to easily see how long the next chapter is, being able to flip back a few pages to remind myself of a character’s name — all that stuff doesn’t really work on an ebook. Or it takes ten times as long. Longer, probably.

  9. Wm

    It could be done. But it would require better UI overlays and good metadata and formatting.

    Unfortunately, the big publishers don’t seem very interested in this because a) it requires resources and innovation and b) they’re more interested in propping up the print side of the business.

  10. Eugene

    The publishing industry should be looking long and hard at Kodak. Kodak invented the digital camera, but then sat on the technology for a decade while raking in huge profit margins from its film division. A great strategy until the film division cratered.

    If you’ve got a Kindle and the book has an NCX file that mirrors the TOC (all Zarahemla Kindle books do), the progress bar at the bottom visually represents the length of each chapter. Kindle for PC only shows total progress as a percentage.

  11. Kent Larsen Post author

    Wm (9), while I agree that the big publishers are out-of-touch on the tech issues, I’m not sure that this can be laid at their doorstep completely. Most of the innovation in ebook formats has come from those creating the readers–Amazon, Sony, B&N, etc. Epub in particular was put together in typical Internet fashion — by an interest group that created a standard. No real UI experts and mostly book fans who didn’t think too deeply about everything needed.

    BUT, that is perhaps what we should expect at this point. Design is an iterative process — and some future major step in the design process will come up with answers. These are all problems that many users complain about — I know I’ve seen complaints about these issues multiple dozens of times in the last year or so — and that’s without really looking for what users complain about.

    Personally, I worry much more about the overall development of how books get sold, and what those changes will mean for readers, authors and the industry.

  12. Wm

    We should be further along than we are, Kent. It’s a serious turnoff. It’s damaging perception of the product. It also puts even more downward pressure on pricing. When consumers buy ebooks that cost $7-15 or more and the formatting is messed up or even just inelegant, there’s going to be a perception of what the value of that ebook should be.

  13. Kent Larsen Post author

    I don’t mean to say that its not a problem, just that I do expect that it will eventually be fixed. Yes, it probably should have been fixed by now.

    It may even be that the same things that protect publishers from being killed off by new technology (which I mentioned in the discussion of how the Innovator’s Dilemma applies to book publishing) protect publishers from having to confront the formatting problems — after all, consumers can’t get quite the same thing by going to someone else who formats the books better!

    But, I still think the lion’s share of the problem lies in those who write the standards and create the software — who are generally not book people, or even UI experts.

    I have no guess for when these issues will be fixed.

  14. Moriah Jovan

    An ebook is a website. It should not be expected to function as a print book. That’s what PDFs are for (which all the major devices can read).. Would you expect a print book to unroll on two sticks at either end?

    Kindle 8 is basically HTML5. EPUB3 is for the Nook and other EPUB reading devices. And it’s not that much different from HTML5. Adobe is abandoning flash in favor of HTML5 because it’s OS-agnostic and can run on all devices in all browsers.

    These standards aren’t as arbitrary as you make them out to be.

    As for pagination, pages are irrelevant in an ebook. Page numbers came along with Gutenberg and they can stay there where they’re effective. Ebooks can be constructed with all sorts of reference points which manifest as reciprocal links. I do agree that a way to reference certain material is necessary, and I hope Amazon’s clumsy attempt at pagination is not successful. What would be ideal is a chapter-and-verse system.

    As for the publishers and their bad formatting, they have no interest in making ebooks attractive. It goes against their print business model and they don’t have the resources to devote to good formatting anyway.

  15. Jonathan Langford

    Are there any publishers out there (either in the Mormon market or the larger market) who have done a good job of formatting their ebooks? I’m fine with self-tooting, by the way, if any of you feel happy with how you’ve been able to do it.

  16. Wm

    Both Moriah and Eugene are ebook formatting pros who do all the little things that need to be done to make it work. Which means if you buy ebook version of Peculiar Pages and Zarahemla Books titles, you’re getting a well-formatted book.

  17. Lee Allred

    Could you explain for me the formatting deficiencies from the traditional publishers you’re talking about?

    I’ve pulled up at random kindle versions of two paper books I own:

    David Drake’s THE LEGION OF FIRE
    http://www.amazon.com/The-Legions-of-Fire-ebook/dp/B003JTHYNK/

    and David Weber’s HOW FIRM A FOUNDATION
    http://www.amazon.com/How-Firm-Foundation-Safehold-ebook/dp/B004V9O59I/

    Looking at the Look Insides, I see linked TOCs, maps, chapter head icons. I’m not seeing much difference between those books and Monsters and Mormons formatting.

    http://www.amazon.com/Monsters-Mormons-ebook/dp/B0061SWL2A/

    Not trying to disparage Moriah or Eugene. I’m just not following the conversation. Maybe some examples?

  18. Wm

    Most of the ebooks I read are checked out from the library so I don’t have them on hand to reference, but common mistakes are:

    1. High incidence of typos (this seems to be especially common in books that are digitized via OCR). High means 5-10 rather than 2 or 3.

    2. Not taking out hyphenated words (since the text reflows depending on screen size and font size, no words should be hyphenated except for grammar reasons).

    3. Footnotes that don’t work (Debt is the book I’m reading right now where that is the issue).

    4. The problem I mention above about epigrams/chapter heading quotes/internal quotes being indented too much. This is an issue with Debt, which I am currently reading, and was also an issue with A Visit from the Goon Squad as well as other titles that elude me.

    5. Front matter that gets all bunched together instead of inserting line breaks between it.

    6. Lack of metadata.

    A better way to measure this is not by grabbing at random samples, though, it’s by seeing what consumers are saying. Here’s one example.

  19. Wm

    From Baldur’s post, something that speaks to both what Lee is asking and what KLC is complaining about and what Eugene references in relation to the NCX file:

    “Without support for non-linear chapters the main text of even a moderately ambitious ebook will be cluttered and appended with oodles of material that completely destroys the coherence of the work. By including ancillary material in the main body (or after it, which is just as ruinous) the reading system gives the reader an extremely false indication of the book’s true length.”

  20. Mojo

    Lee, I didn’t take it that way. The complaint about bad formatting I was referencing was a general lack of care, not that they’re all crap. As Wm says, many errors are because of OCR that wasn’t proofread. Proofing a work and formatting it are two entirely different processes, so for instance, I wouldn’t call a badly proofed book a badly formatted book.

    That said, my real purpose was to basically ask, “Why do you expect an ebook to look like a print book?” They’re not the same. They’re never going to be the same. They have different functions, strengths, and limitations. If people want to read a print book on the screen, that’s what PDFs are for.

    I just don’t think it’s fair to say that the people making the standards don’t understand ebooks and UI. They understand it all too well. The problem is selling ebooks that have this huge functionality to a public that wants ebooks to LOOK EXACTLY LIKE THE PRINT BOOK but still reflow, still have user-controlled font choices and resizing, still have audio and video and interactivity, and incorporate everything else a print book has.

    Not possible, and it shouldn’t even be thought of in those terms.

    Their point is to make standards and best practices to make better ebooks, not to make ebooks work more like print books.

  21. Lee Allred

    Thanks for replying, Wm.

    I can see how OCR-artifact typos would be offputting to a reader. I think expecting ebooks to be free of the normal amount of typos a professionally edited print book usually contains a bit unrealistic. Like the poor, typos we have with us always.

    Even professionally edited and expertly formatted books by professional ebook formatters have typos in them occassionally from time to time:

    Margaret Young’s introduction to DISPENSATIONS, for example, lists me as “Lee Nelson.” :)

  22. Wm

    I don’t think anyone is expecting ebooks to be free of the normal amount of typos. Although, at the same time, the ebook version is a chance to catch typos and make speedier corrections to typos.

    —-

    I agree, MoJo, that reader expectations can be problematic (setting aside the issue of careless creation of ebooks by publishers). On the other hand, if the big publishers cared more about the issue and understood it better then I think we would be farther along than we are.

    Or at least optimistic me thinks so.

    Realist me looks at web standards (html, css) and browsers and despairs (although things are getting a bit better — both in terms of the web and ebooks).

  23. Mojo

    if the big publishers cared more about the issue and understood it better

    My point is they don’t want to. They see it as killing their jobs. Every day I see a print designer on Twitter bemoaning bad typography and design, cursing ebooks, and never making the connection that they could transfer the design skills to ebooks. It’s the friction between print designers and web designers that is at the root of this.

    That and the fact that publishers are so afraid for the fate of real hardback book trade.

  24. KLC

    Moriah, I’m not asking that ebooks look like print books and I don’t see anyone in this thread making that assertion except you.

    I brought up pagination not because I’m a luddite who expects it in an ebook but because I’m a new ebook user who is very disappointed with the lousy product being sold. How does one navigate a continuous flow of text? Print books have a simple and intuitive way to do that, they have page numbers. Where is the corresponding simple and intuitive way to navigate an ebook?

    People are selling a product that is half-baked and poorly thought out. That is the problem, not supposed simpletons who expect ebooks to look exactly like a print book.

  25. Mojo

    KLC, you asked for page numbers. That, in my world, is asking an ebook to act like a print book.

    People are selling a product that is half-baked and poorly thought out.

    If we are talking about poorly formatted books, then yes, some people are. Yes, there are poorly formatted books out there, no question.

    But if we are talking about an ebook whose functionality hasn’t been fully explored, then, no, most aren’t.

  26. Eugene

    Since reading Lee Allred’s comment, I have corrected, compiled, and uploaded the file. The revised version will be live on Amazon in about 24 hours. That’s what I love about ebooks.

  27. Sarah Dunster

    Haven’t read any of the comments yet, and I’m coming in late in the discussion, but that point you made about authors becoming disillusioned as they realize what it really means to *self publish*, that this also means *self marketing*, is, for me, the best point made here. If you self publish you retain rights that you give away to a publisher, and you have a bigger cut of sales. But you have to self market. And that is more than a part-time job. It’s exhausting. And a lot of people with creative type brains and personalities are not marketing-type people.

    A self-published author came to speak at our writers’ leauge a couple of years ago. She described her journey to actually gaining an income from the books she self-published… it wasn’t an easy one, or an automatic one. If you’re marketing your own work, every penny you make on your books goes back into the marketing for a long, long time. She’s been publishing for a decade now, and her books have been selling relatively well for a decade, too, and in the presentation she made the point that she had just barely started to feel like she was making anything from her books.

    IF you are self-publishing, you have to think of your venture in the same terms as a small-businessman has to think of his business. That it will take long hours and a great deal of effort and sometimes, money from your own pocket to get the flywheel going… and in the end, what percentage of small businesses fail and succeed? The numbers aren’t bad if you’re determined to make it work. But it is just that… a whole heckuva lot of work :D

  28. KLC

    Moriah, if what I said means that in your world then your world and the real world need to get to know each other better.

  29. Moriah Jovan

    KLC, other than the page numbers, I think I’m really not understanding you. If you could post some examples, then I can better understand what you mean.

  30. Kent Larsen Post author

    I think KLC’s question can be represented by two pretty simple questions:

    1. If you want to tell a friend where to find a particular passage in an ebook (without telling them to search for x set of words), how do you do that?

    2. If you want to give a friend an idea of how long an ebook is (i.e., how long it will take them to read it — remembering that they read at a different speed than you do), how do you do that?

    Your answers will, I think, answer KLC’s question.

  31. Moriah Jovan

    1. In Kindle, position will suffice. It’s the same no matter what device you’re reading it on.

    2. Word count. Unfortunately, Amazon doesn’t list that and honestly, I still haven’t sorted out how the file size represents book size.

    But #2 is a vendor problem, not a format problem, if we take page numbers out of the discussion. For instance, All Romance eBooks lists word count, as do most of the major, long-time digital-first presses (and Samhain prices by word count, too).

    But see, page numbers don’t really accurately reflect a print book’s length, either. I can tell you my book is 736 pages, but it doesn’t say anything about how squished the typography is to fit it into the printer’s limits. It’s 280,000 words, which is three times larger than the standard 90,000-word novel.

    Some of the mass market paperbacks I’ve seen recently from one publisher has used a HUGE font, wide margins, and large line height, but it’s 350 pages long. It’s actually probably 60,000 to 70,000 words, which, in my opinion, is cheating.

    Word count is a far more definitive measure, but readers don’t think like that and Amazon doesn’t make it easy.

  32. Moriah Jovan

    Oh, I forgot to mention: In an ePub file, most reader apps do register a page number based on numbers of lines, I think. I haven’t really looked into that much.

    But, say, you’re comparing a Kindle file to an ePub file. Same book. You would use percentages.

  33. Kent Larsen Post author

    Mojo, I think you hit the nail on the head with the difficulty when you wrote: “readers don’t think like that.”

    For better or for worse, they think in terms of page numbers now. I think that will change, but I also think that software designers could do more to ease the transition and support this new way of thinking about books.

    I don’t remember seeing in the readers I’ve used any listing of what position I’m currently at or what word number I’m at or even what percentage of the book I’m currently at.

    If any of these is how you measure your place in the book or how long the book is, then these things need to be more obvious.

  34. Wm

    The original file isn’t always in a format that works (or even in an electronic format) — or would require too much formatting of the ebook. Or so I suspect.

  35. Theric Jepson

    .

    In 2012? Surely it’s still easier to change [eformat] to [eformat] than [print] to [eformat]. This sounds a lot like stupid people making things harder for themselves…..

  36. Moriah Jovan

    Blame PageMaker and InDesign. Normal process before “export to EPUB” capability:

    Word manuscript

    Track changed manuscript

    Galleys

    Marked-up galleys

    Typesetting (in PageMaker, then InDesign)

    Output to printer copy, probably PDF.

    There is no way to export the clean file of the book (post-galley) to anything but RTF, but nobody has a reason to do that.

    Then EPUB came along and Adobe built in an “export to EPUB” command. That wasn’t all that long ago.

    The only “usable” files to do anything else from are the uncorrected galleys.

    You have no idea how much of my business is extracting text from PDFs and that the book designers have no idea how to get an RTF file. And that’s if it was built in InDesign or PageMaker. Quark is nearly impossible. I have to run those through an OCR engine.

    Getting a Word file from it to use for Smashwords? Good luck with that.

  37. Wm

    Seems like the workflow should be to produce the epub version first and then do the print layout. *wink*

  38. Anya Yana

    I just can’t wait until someone decides to come up with one universal format.
    Okay. Maybe that will never happen, but I will keep dreaming about it.

  39. Kent Larsen Post author

    Actually, Wm, I think that makes sense — since epub is based on html, it should import cleanly, as apparently, Mojo suggests.

    Anya, I suspect that effectively, in the far, far, future, we will end up with basically one format — kind of like html is the essential standard for web pages, even though many different browsers are used. Or perhaps like MS Excel is the dominant spreadsheet format, even though less robust formats still exist.

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