Create Your Own E-Books (Part 5) - Format Wars, Format Conversion & Apple Steps Forward

6/11/2012 5:47:22 PM

Format Wars

Having created your EPUB e-book, is that it? Well, not quite. When it comes to putting your e-book out onto the internet, you'll be confronted with the tricky subject of e-book formats.

In a perfect world, there'd be just a single e-book format, supported and used by everyone. But, as with music, videos, office documents and just about every other form of electronic media, the situation is far more complicated.

Description: Ebook Format Wars

Source: AAP (Association of American Publishers)

Some of this complexity arises from the desire to protect the publishing rights and e-book contents in line with various digital licensing agreements. Further complexity arises from organisations such as Amazon, Apple and Google trying to establish their own distinct - and ideally for them, dominant - marketplace.

DRM protection issues and the ongoing brand supremacy wars mean Amazon's Kindle format is completely different from Apple's iBook format, which is different again from EPUB. As an analogy, just imagine if your car's engine could only operate with a single brand of petrol, available from specific petrol stations. Or if each electrical socket in the home worked on a different voltage. It would make for a frustrating and limiting world.

Over time this undesirable situation will undoubtedly become less complex, but for now these multiple e-book formats are quite a headache for the DIY publisher. In practice, you'll have to decide on one of two strategies.

Option one is to only publish e-books in a single format. This decision will obviously limit the places your e-book will be available from. However, if it still appears in at least one of today's mega book stores, the impact of this decision isn't likely to be hugely detrimental.

The second option is to convert your output into a variety of different formats. As we've already seen, Amazon provides tools to convert e-books into its own proprietary format. Others offer similar tools. However, there's a much more flexible solution.

Format Conversion

Description: Calibre in action

Calibre in action

The Calibre ( application is an open-source e-book library manager. Yet it also happens to be one of the most popular e-book format conversion tools. Being a free product certainly helps in the popularity stakes, but its list of supported formats is particularly strong.

Calibre version 0.8 can import a file in one of 23 different e-book formats, including EPUB, MOBI, LIT, RTF and PDF. Once imported, an e-book can subsequently be saved in one of 16 output formats.

It all sounds like an ideal solution to the multi-format problem. However, as you can probably guess from the sub 1.0 version number, this tool is a work in progress, so results will vary. While some results are more than acceptable, many times a certain amount of final tweaking will be required, which obviously requires quite a bit of knowledge, skill and time.

Of course, the formats themselves keep changing too, presenting a moving target to Calibre's developer. The recently announced Kindle Format 8 (KF8) is a good case in point. KF8 not only supports HTML5 and CSS3 features for rich multimedia content but has backward compatibility with older Kindle formats, plus a close affinity with the recently announced EPUB3 standard. Handling all these new capabilities is a sizeable task, and that's just one of the formats Calibre needs to support.

Even so, at present Calibre is one of the strongest, free conversion products around, growing in quality and functionality with every new release. It's certainly worth experimenting with a tool like Calibre before finalising your list of e-book publication formats, to determine if you'll need another set of tools to cover all your targeted e-book stores and e-readers.

Apple Steps Forward

Description: a new Author app and iBooks 2

a new Author app and iBooks 2

Early in 2012 Apple introduced its new iBook Author application. It's a product that goes beyond the textual e-book and into the realm of multimedia narrative apps. This new app-book format might well come to dominate certain genres, such as children's books and non-fictional references.

Authors can create these dynamic, interactive books from within the application's highly graphical environment. This iBook Author user interface is able to accurately depict how the final pages would appear to a reader. The easy-to-get-started workflow includes a set of templates, plus a rich collection of editing tools for handling the multimedia content.

Setting up your iBook Author account means deciding between the 'Free' or 'Paid' types. The paid option will give an author 70% of the revenue, with Apple taking the remaining 30%. Of course, creating, editing and incorporating all this multimedia content will add considerably to your e-book construction timescales. It's worth bearing in mind, then, Apple also sets a maximum sales figure for one of these app e-books, which is currently $14.99.

Good as this software looks, Apple has once again imposed some pretty severe restrictions. First you'll have to sign up to an end user licence agreement (ELUA) that states all e-books created with iBook Author can only be distributed through the iBook store. While it's not really much different to producing Kindle-specific e-books, if it's at odds with your own distribution and marketing strategy, you'll need to look elsewhere.

Most importantly, the app that's produced will only work on an iPad. While there is a PDF output option, it's unsuitable for printing and will be unsupported by any other PDF-compliant e-reader. In reality, I would expect this particular restriction to be addressed by a number of future non-Apple software tools, although Apple is a past master at moving the goalposts for such tools with a regular flow of product updates.

Publishing a book in app format won't suit everyone. The story still has to be gripping, entertaining and readable. If it isn't, the reader might feel a little shortchanged once the initial impact of a multimedia experience has past. Yet it will certainly be interesting to see how quickly Apple's competitors bring similar products to market.


UK figures recently released from Neilsen Bookscan show more ISBN numbers were registered for e-books in 2011 than for hardback books. And this e-book ESBN figure was over half the total number of paperback ISBN registrations. An arresting statistic, especially when you consider that a great many e-books never receive an ISBN number at all.

It all amounts to an awful lot of e-books. And don't forget we've yet to witness the untapped potential for app-books. With so many options, services, tools and online book stores, the self-publishing author has never been in a better position.

  •  World Wired Web (Part 2) - Windows 8 Flavours Unveiled
  •  World Wired Web (Part 1) - Cameras For One And All
  •  Predict The Weather (Part 3) - Understanding weather fronts
  •  Predict The Weather (Part 2) - Feathery storm clouds
  •  Predict The Weather (Part 1)
  •  Get To Know Your Camera (Part 3) - Histograms
  •  Get To Know Your Camera (Part 2) - Focusing
  •  Get To Know Your Camera (Part 1) - Camera icons explained
  •  Review: lcy Box Stand For iPad
  •  Home Security On A Budget (Part 3)
  •  Home Security On A Budget (Part 2)
  •  Home Security On A Budget (Part 1)
  •  Review: Nikon D4 – The master of the dark arts (Part 3)
  •  Review: Nikon D4 – The master of the dark arts (Part 2)
  •  Review: Nikon D4 – The master of the dark arts (Part 1)
  •  Datacolor SpyderLensCal (Part 2)
  •  Datacolor SpyderLensCal (Part 1)
  •  Programming .NET Framework 3.5 : An Introduction to .NET Compact Framework Graphics
  •  Programming .NET Framework 3.5 : Placing Text
  •  Macro Marvel by Peiling Lee
    Top 10
    ADO.NET Programming : Microsoft SQL Server CE (part 5) - Querying Schema Information
    ADO.NET Programming : Microsoft SQL Server CE (part 4) - Updating a SQL Server CE Database, The SqlCeDataAdapter Class
    ADO.NET Programming : Microsoft SQL Server CE (part 3) - Retrieving and Displaying Data
    ADO.NET Programming : Microsoft SQL Server CE (part 2) - SQL Server CE Query Analyzer, Creating a SQL Server CE Database, Populating a SQL Server CE Database
    ADO.NET Programming : Microsoft SQL Server CE (part 1) - SQL Server CE Files, SQL Server CE Syntax
    Silverlight Recipes : Controls - Displaying Information in a Pop-up
    Silverlight Recipes : Controls - Customizing the Default ListBoxItem UI
    Windows 7 : Zero Touch Installations - Monitoring Deployment Progress
    Windows 7 : Zero Touch Installations - Deploying Windows 7 (part 3) - Performing the Zero Touch Installation
    Windows 7 : Zero Touch Installations - Deploying Windows 7 (part 2) - Edit the Deployment Task Sequence
    Most View
    À La Mode Accessories
    The ASP.NET AJAX Infrastructure : The Script Manager Control
    SharePoint 2007 : See What Files or List Items Are Checked Out to You
    Windows Server 2003 : Planning a Security Framework
    Asus Vivobook S200E - Stunning Looks And Great Features
    Macs no longer safe from virus attacks
    Ipad : Wireless Sync Using the MobileMe Service (part 1) - Sign up for the MobileMe Service, Set Up MobileMe on Your Mac
    iPhone 3D Programming : Drawing an FPS Counter (part 1) - Generating a Glyphs Texture with Python
    How To Automate Your Web With ifttt (Part 1)
    Windows 7 : Using Windows Defender (part 1) - Configuring Windows Defender
    Developing the SAP Data Center : Rack Planning for Data Center Resources
    Windows 7 : Using Shared Resources - UNC Paths & Accessing Remote Resources
    Windows Server 2008 and Windows Vista : Administering GPOs (part 2) - Starter GPOs
    Perform Other Pre-Installation Tasks
    Buyer's Guide: 3D Monitors (Part 1) - LG D2342P, AOC e2352PHz
    Give Your Tablet A New Lease Of Life (Part 1)
    BizTalk 2006 : Dealing with Extremely Large Messages (part 1) - Large Message Decoding Component
    HTC Sensation XL: Not a simple update
    Data Storage Considerations (Part 1)
    Chord QuteHD – Digital-to-analogue Converter