1. I’ve just sent Dispatches from the Peninsula off to be turned into an e-book. Although we’re still waiting on one blurb, the author either is or was just in the Falkland Islands, so a certain amount of jet lag is to be expected. The good news on the blurb front is that Cullen Thomas, author of the amazing memoir Brother One Cell, had positive things to say about Dispatches. I put these in the original Word document. Two out of three ain’t bad, at least where the e-books are concerned. The conversion should be done in about five days. After that, it’ll be ready to send out for review purposes.
2. I’ve been thinking a lot about which print conventions really are not needed in e-books. As I may have said before, indices definitely have to go. I really don’t understand the arguments in favor of keeping the index in an e-book. PDF is one thing, because it’s a static document. However, in the epub and mobi versions, which display the text in a more dynamic way, indices make no sense.
The Internet has changed the way we do research. If you’re going to read an e-book as part of a research undertaking, odds are you’ll already have looked online first, found a reference to the specific text you want, and then gotten a copy of the e-book. In the past, before everything happened online, you’d go to the library, check the card catalog, identify potentially relevant books, go get them, and then (probably) use the index to guide you to the information you were looking for. That’s not how it works today. If you’re getting an e-book instead of a paper edition (again, PDF is the exception here), it’s very likely that you’ll have already narrowed your search beyond the point where an index would be useful, and you’ll already know the specific a chapter or section of text that you need to read. To get there, you’ll either use the table of contents or the search feature.
Blurbs and front matter can and should also be kept to a useful minimum. If the blurbs are already part of the source document, sure, but it’s not really necessary to put them in the e-book itself. When you open an e-book, usually you start at the first line of readable text, not the cover, the front matter, or the TOC. People who choose e-books do so for reasons of convenience… which is to say, to read them, not to interact with them as objects. Blurbs are more suitable for physical books and for the websites where both print and digital versions are sold. But going ahead with the conversion while we’re still waiting on a blurb… it’s fine.
Cover images need to look good as 200 x 300 pixel thumbnails. So far we are using three sizes for the image files:
200 x 300: Omnilit/ARE
453 x 680: Apple, BookCyclone (our site automatically resizes image files when we upload them)
750 x 1100/1200: Amazon, Barnes & Noble,
Sometimes what looks good on books won’t look good as a thumbnail (we had to take some liberties with one of our covers, and I’m actually still not happy with the result), and even our Signal 8 Press original books have to be designed with thumbnail viewing in mind.
The default for mobi (Kindle) is to indent paragraphs only about 2 spaces, and to put the TOC at the back. The latter is created out of the metadata, so it’s integral to the file. If you get a Kindle book and see a TOC in the front, it was put there solely for the purpose of replicating the layout of a print book. Why, really, when there’s already one at the end, and you can navigate directly to it?
3. Supposedly our downloading issue has been sorted out. I need to test that today.
4. There was probably something else, but I’ve forgotten. Oh yeah, happy birthday to me. 🙂