Preparing the third eBook


Cover of third Revisiting Scripture eBook
Cover of third Revisiting Scripture eBook

This ought to get easier! It seems to take about 6-7 weeks per section even though the bulk of the entire series was done months ago. There is something intimidating about turning it loose even though eBooks on Kindle can be updated at any time and previous purchasers can download a new version for free. Seeing the number of typos in the first two, I spent more time, with the help of my wife, going over the text with a fine-toothed comb. High praise came when she reported that the last iteration was ‘less bumpy.’

The mechanics of getting to the eBook file format should have gotten easier, but somehow the creation of the table of contents didn’t seem to be working right… I was seeing hyperlinks instead of section headings. I never did find out what was the problem, but when I took it to the html,it seemed just fine! Editing the html in Wordpad went fine… cut out all the font face names and change points to ems. Getting an ISBN is now simple, and the final upload went well. I made up all the covers in advance, so they were ready to go… I have been happy with the way they are readable even on my Kindle Paperwhite… large type and high contrast.

So if any of you want to read more, hop over to my Revisiting Scripture blog or, better yet click here to buy a copy![subscribe2]

e-Picture formatting

I was talking, with a friend who does web-site layouts, about the huge variety of platforms now requiring attention for an application. No longer can you just size any pictures to read well on a 600 x 800 monitor…no you have to consider HD aspect-ratio display formats, high resolution displays, and now iPads and other tablets, smart phones, and various e-readers…high and low resolution…big and small…portrait or landscape orientation.

I recently ‘bought’ a (temporarily) free book on Kindle, Lexi Fairheart and the Forbidden Door, to see how a picture-oriented children’s book worked on a eReader…a Kindle Paperwhite in this case. I had understood that they didn’t work well on that platform. Reading it on the Kindle app on my laptop, the pictures were in color and looked very good,  but on the eReader, while they were sized OK, the conversion to black& white made them so dark it was impossible to see any detail…I would suppose a change in the brightness of the pictures with an eye to the conversion might have helped. [Also, the same problem I had with fonts on my own eBook plagued this eBook…the choice of font styles was totally overridden although the size could be altered.]

When I now start to configure pictures for eReaders I face the challenge of what resolution to use, what aspect ratio, and how light or dark to make them. Kindle suggests 500 x 700 pixels for interior pictures and something like 1800 x 2500 pixels for covers, but they caution that you should preview all files on the various target devices to make sure you can accept the result. That is well and good but what it dramatically shows for picture/drawing/graph-oriented books, the  highly fragmented viewing market really demands that I prepare different files for each target device. Whatever the capabilities of the operating systems on the devices, they do not intelligently optimize all the various files that they display.

How wonderful it would be if there were a defined standard which, in a single file, would play well across all platforms–probably that is presently impossible…it would require the capabilities of a photo editor program in each device as well as a computer with the graphical layout savvy of a professional designer.

Second E-book published

2nd E-bookAfter editing through the original material on God, Sin, and Salvation, the second of six E-books is up on Amazon Kindle. The process was easier than the first time, with a grasp of the need to erase all font names and font sizes in points…change to ems. The final fix was to clear up the footnote reference numbers to be the same font and size in the text, which showed how much duplicate ‘junk’ WORD keeps in the file when it converts to html. The final product is behaving well on the Paperwhite preview and I hope to have a look at it on the actual reader soon. 

I upgraded the Kindle Previewer with no noticeable change in performance…I assume Kindlegen has not changed much. I have run across some advice on how to utilize the free-download to better effect by notifying several sites that list free downloads. I have held off for fear the 5-day-maximum free period (per 90 days) would expire before anyone found it. So far my first book downloads have totaled 5! ): 

Kindle Paperwhite–first view

Waiting for me in Indiana was a plain black box holding my first Kindle reader—the Paperwhite. I decided to leapfrog over the basic $69 Kindle reader because the new one has internal lighting. It also turns out it is navigated by a touch screen…only one button that turns it on and off. Having viewed the Revisiting Scripture E-book files on the previewer on my computer, I had a good idea of how the text might look, but the previewer was so erratic or fussy I wasn’t sure what the real thing would do. In the end it seems OK, but I think I had an older E-book file than the one online…several things were improved in the intense week of html fixing, and the final online version had the TOC (table of contents) with indents to differentiate outline levels while the one I viewed on the reader was with all the entries at the left edge. I have also discovered that adding some book marks in the WORD file will show up as GOTO items which could make it possible to hop around without having to jump back to the TOC all the time. Oh, by the way, there still seem to be a few typos…I hope to fix them in a few weeks after I finish the second volume.

The reader hardware itself seems fine, although a bit heavier than a paperback of similar size…of course it is far lighter if set next to the stack of some 1000 paperbacks it could hold! The lighting feature seems just fine…brightness can be varied almost continuously and the slight variation at the bottom seems negligible. 

It seems that the efforts to use this reader as an iPad-like web tool are destined for failure…the web content I have seen that has heavy picture/graphical content is not configured for the low resolution and size of the reader, so any diagrams come out tiny and illegible. I now understand how the publishing of E-books with pictures requires careful sizing and selection of images…not impossible ..not even difficult…but not a direct conversion from a print version.

I now know why electrical plug strips and other devices include USB-like connections for charging. The Kindle charges only through the tiny USB connector, via the supplied cable, but I discovered my laptop does not supply USB power when off, hibernating, or asleep, so it has to be left on for hours to charge the reader. I discover that it is possible to load content into the reader via the USB port…handy since the WiFi connection is not of clear use for such activity except bringing material down from the Amazon cloud storage. I have to research whether you can upload to the cloud any material that is not officially obtained through Amazon.

In any case, the good news is that my first E-book now works just fine on the Paperwhite reader!

Is the E-reader dying already?

Having just completed my first E-book, I was confused to encounter a post which implies I’m already too late. Before I insert some of that post, here are some thoughts about the article:

1. I have only seen the iPad from a distance and I’m not among those jumping on this latest technology. Devices that rely on touch keypads are not likely to replace physical keyboards for people like me who do lots of typing, and even if I add a wireless keyboard (I assume that is possible) I’d have to find a way to prop it up to read conveniently. But then I seem to be far behind the cutting edge of any technology…as proved by the antiquated cell phone we have.

2. A 27% drop in new device sales does not say to me they are being discarded… perhaps just that the rapid rise is slowing…there are many E-ink devices out there which find full use because they work best in bright light and don’t have color. “dropping like a stone” seems exaggerated.

3. When you read the fine print of the blog you discover that the appearance of apps to read the E-books on newer devices makes the E-book author’s market just a viable as ever. Before I ever owned an E-reader…which I actually pick up in about 2 weeks…I had downloaded a free Kindle reader for my PC.

So with those disclaimers, here are extracts from a post today by Josh Loposer: Continue reading Is the E-reader dying already?

Producing EPUB format

I am pondering the possibility of producing an EPUB version of my first E-book. It I were to do so it would remove it from the Kindle Select category and drop the royalty to 35% from 70%, but it is inconvenient for folks who don’t have a kindle reader.

I started looking at Smashwords. It converts your book to multiple formats and sends them to all the major E-book outlets. Sounds great, but you discover that their “meatgrinder” converter doesn’t allow for footnotes…vital to my present book. And the table of contents cannot be direct-built in WORD…manually add bookmarks!!! ugh!

Kobo has a converter, but again, they are not clear about what is allowed…no tables, I believe.

For now I think I’ll stay with Kindle.

First sales!!!!!

About 3 AM I decided to post on my Facebook page an announcement of my first E-book. In the past 1 1/2 weeks the ‘reports‘ page has listed ‘no sales’. There must be a lot of folks who are on-line in the middle of the night or very early in the morning because now 5 hours later have 3 comments and one share as well as 2…TWO… E-book sales. It is just as well I took the time to get the file really cleaned up before anyone downloaded it.

It feels weird to be selling to ‘Facebook friends’…kind of like charging your grandmother for shoveling her walk…but I am learning what works and what doesn’t work in this marketing world. The funny thing is that, while I allegedly will get $2 out of the $2.99 spent for each buy, it REALLY isn’t about the money. Once I am more confident it will make a difference, I will use some of my 5 free-to-buy-today/3 months days on Kindle, but I didn’t want to have it like my one book signing where no one came to see me and the few casual passers-by chatted for a few minutes.

I will continue to maintain this blog even though the evidence suggests that almost no one is reading it…to use the famous movie line, “Build it and they will come.”

Problem 100% solved

The process of yesterday’s post works! Produce your book in WORD in the usual way. Have WORD save the FINAL result as a filtered html file. Never go back into WORD with that html Using the (downloaded for free) Kindle Previewer (which includes Kindlegen), open the html in the Previewer which will convert to the needed (MOBI/KF8) format. Set the Paperwhite view and look through the book. Then open the html file…the one that came from WORD…in Wordpad…the utility that comes with all versions of Windows. Clean out ALL the /* Font Definitions */ near the top…WORD puts in all the installed fonts on your computer even though they are not used…in any case you want to get rid of all font definitions so Kindle can be free to use the selection set on the particular reader. Next search and replace any reference to points to ems…using the formula 12pts=1em…10.0pt becomes .8em,and so on. After each set of edits to the html, have Previewer process it again and check the results. Once the font size and font face settings work in Previewer, walk through its view of the book, looking for things that are not quite as you want them, and make other changes to the html…still open in Wordpad. It is amazing how much irrelevant junk is in the file, left over from the doc file. I used it to eliminate extra blank lines and group short lists so they are not spaced out so far…convert separate paragraphs  <p> into one with breaks instead <br>. When all is as you wish in the Previewer, upload the edited html to kindle for final publishing.

There it is…a procedure to get the desired result for Kindle. I have a hunch that adding pictures is another hurdle, but that is for another book and another day.

Problem 90% solved

I have had a breakthrough in getting the WORD doc file into a proper Kindle format! It requires a manual adjustment to the WORD-produced html file. Here is a procedure for fixing the WORD output:

1. I can write in WORD…carefully avoiding extra fonts and setting all styles to Times New Roman.
2. When I’m really, really done, I have WORD save as filtered html
3. I open the html file in Wordpad…NEVER go back to WORD from here or it will put all the deleted stuff back! 
4. I cut out all the font definitions except Times New Roman…this deletes a huge part of the file since I have hundreds of fonts installed on my computer.
5. I go through the style definitions and delete all my unused ones…again I have a lot of styles that are not in use in the document in question.
6. The remaining…hopefully only a few…styles I edit so wherever there is a reference to a point size I replace it with an em size…the conversion is 12pt=1em. I may investigate the % operator in the future.
7. I save the file from Wordpad (just use ctrl S so it saves by the same name as it came in…with an html extension).(Someone told me before to do this but the inability to save a new file from Wordpad with an html extension stopped me)
8. Have Kindle previewer/kindlegen convert the html file and view the book. NOW the paperwhite preview allows changes to font sizes.

(It still doesn’t change fonts like it should, but I assume there are some other changes to the html that will fix that…the amazing thing is that a number of the warnings in the compile process are now gone and the result works while keeping the footnote links.)

Paperwhite font struggle continues

I managed to waste a good half-day yesterday fighting the point-size references in WORD-created “filtered html”. Here are a few things that apparently do not work:

1. Processing the WORD doc file via KDP’s online upload-to-publish process (instead of the WORD-produced html file) produces a result that works on the previewer in the Paperwhite setting, but deletes all the footnotes and footnote references. There is the text… stripped of all footnotes. It behaves perfectly…changes size and font face in the previewer as is supposed to happen. Unfortunately saving the result…even as a draft…erases the active, approved version, so even with quickly re-uploading the original version, the title is down for 12 hours while they re-check it.

2. Converting the doc file with a program I found on line,Word Reader, produces an html  file stripped of the footnotes, just the same as uploading the doc file to Kindle. Continue reading Paperwhite font struggle continues