Posts Tagged ‘E-book’

Where did you find those photos? All of us can tell stories of old shoe boxes full of family snapshots turning up in the back of a closet, under a pile of boxes, or who knew where. What do you do when you find precious family memories? You certainly don’t want to dump them back into the box. Here’s what I did when I found a small suitcase filled with family photos, some taken nearly a century ago.

I created a photo book — my first. Here’ a sample page from the book I made for my mother as a Mother’s Day gift this year. The book, “Photo Vignettes from the Life of Frances K. Sullivan” (my grandmother) contains 46 of the best photos selected, scanned and restored from the mess I found in that suitcase.

Instead of a jumbled pile of old pictures, many of dubious quality, we have an archival quality, hard bound book. The images in that book are organized, tell a story (or stories) and brief comments identify people and dates.

A photo book lets you bring consistency to dozens of images. Since many of the originals were sepia toned, I used sepia toning throughout for uniformity. I played with the layout and image sizes as I went along. With a decent flatbed scanner and competent photo editor, it’s a simple task to enlarge small snapshots and reduce larger photos to fit

No other format that I know of can match a well designed photo book. In the end you’ll have a book that’s a pleasure to leaf through, easy to store and preserves memories for future generations.

Expensive? Not when you consider the cost of prints and a decent quality photo album. I went through some of our old photo albums today. What a mess! Maybe they were quality years ago but today they are deteriorated, plastic holders falling out. I pulled all the photos out and tossed two albums.

Never use one of those albums with the sticky pages and a plastic overlay. These things are supposed to hold the photos lightly. Don’t believe it. I have a few of these to go through and salvage what I can. After all these years, all the pictures in the albums are permanently glued to the pages. You cannot get them off without destroying the photos. The only way to save any of the photos is to scan entire pages. I can hardly wait.

As I flip through the pages I see too many photos that should have gone into the trash years ago. We save too many poor images. The key to a successful photo book is triage. Toss the garbage, the blurry, the silly, the who cares and concentrate on the good stuff. Select the best photos, images that celebrate special events, images that capture the essence of our loved ones at different times in their lives.

What about recent digital images? My daughter has hundreds of digital photos stored on a computer that refuses to boot. I’m going to try a rescue mission. Digital imagery has changed the way we make pictures, but permanent storage is an ongoing issue. Imagine your grandchildren finding a box full of CDs or DVDs 30 years from now. What are these things they’ll say? Even if they know what’s on them how will they view the content and will those CDs or DVDs even work?

Now imagine your grandchildren leafing through an archival quality photo book. Can you picture them sitting together reliving the memories? I can. I’ll have more to say on the topic of photo books in subsequent posts. I’m sold on the concept and when my latest order of six new books arrives later this week, I’ll have 10 volumes in my photo book library. Thank you AdoramaPix. I can hardly wait to tear the package open.

PS — I have a high quality e-book for each of my photo books as a bonus.

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So you’ve decided to make a photo book. Where do you begin? Start with a concept, a theme for your book. What’s the book about and what kind of photos will I include? When I made my first photo book a few months ago, the theme was easy. I had dozens of photos from my grandmother’s life and I wanted to tell her story, at least part of it anyway. My next project was to make two photo books of my best images from my year in Saigon, one B&W and one in color.

Here’s the cover of my latest project: “Flowers — A Closer Look.” I haven’t ordered a print version of the book yet but I do have a finished e-book. The ability to make high quality photo e-books is one of the main reasons I’ve chosen to use a desktop publishing program for page layout and book construction. When I finally decide to have the Flowers book printed I’ll use Adoramapix. Adoramapix has printed four photo books for me so far and they’ve done a marvelous job with each. You won’t be disappointed in their work.

When I’m ready to submit my photo book to Adoramapix, I simply upload my pages as individual jpeg files and use their online flash app to quickly and easily add my preformatted pages to the new book. In other words, I do all my page layouts offline using Scribus then complete the book using the Adoramapix flash app.

As an alternative, Adoramapix has dozens of preformatted templates that make it easy to create a photo book. Most people will be very happy using one of these templates. Me? I’m climbing the steep learning curve of Scribus and I’ll explain why in detail in a subsequent post.

Let’s get back to the subject at hand, first things first. Once you decide on a theme for your photo book, it’s time to gather and sift through your images. I create a new folder and name it accordingly. For instance, my flower folder is simply flower_book. My Saigon B&W folder is saigonBWbook. Then I gather scattered images and make copies that I put in the new folder.

Once I have all my images in one place, I go through a triage process. If the image isn’t good enough or I decide to leave it out, I delete it. Remember that only copies go into this folder so all my originals are safe. I may end up with more images than I can use but that’s OK. I’ll make final decisions as I work on the page layouts.

Adoramapix expects your images to be 300 dpi and either tiff or jpeg format in sRGB color space (even if your images are B&W). I load each image into my photo editor and convert to sRGB (it’s easy). I prefer one photo on each page and I resize the image (making sure it’s 300 dpi) to fit my page layout. When I say resize, I mean downsize. If the version of the image I’ve chosen is too small, I’ll either dig out a larger image or rescan.

For an 8 inch X 8 inch photo book, I’ve been sizing my images so I get a nice wide white border on each page. This means about 4 x 6 or 4 x 5 for rectangular images and 5 1/2 inches or thereabouts for square images.

While in my photo editor I make tonal adjustments and add moderate sharpening as needed. In a few instances, I’ve rescanned to get a better image. The main thing here is to tweak your photos so they will be ready for the next step.

First things first means choosing a theme, then collecting, sorting and preparing your images for the next step: Either creating a book using a desktop publishing program like Scribus or uploading directly to Adoramapix. I use Adoramapix as an example because I use and like them. The principles remain the same no matter who you choose to print your photo book.

One of the real benefits of this first step is it forces you to choose and organize your best work and assemble it in one place. My images are all over the place but as I build each photo book, I know where to find things and can easily back up.

I’ll explain my next step(s) in the next installment in this series. Stay tuned…

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The E-Book market is growing — fast. Nikkei Electronics Asia’s August 2009 Cover Story paints a rosy growth picture. The article focuses on electronics and dedicated readers. They report that a recent survey predicts that shipments of dedicated e-readers in the U.S. will hit 28.6 million units by 2013. Only one million shipped in 2008. That’s a huge increase. Yes, but…

Photo by "Alton"

Photo by "Alton"

The real explosion will come when content is compatible, runs on many different platforms (not just dedicated readers) and delivery is easy. One argument you hear often is that people prefer the feel of “real” books and don’t like reading from a small screen. Ya think?? A connected generation growing up with blackberries, smart-phones, laptops and the Internet would beg to differ.

People want simple, convenient and stuff that just works. You don’t need a large screen for recreational reading. People carry their Blackberries or smart phones everywhere they go. Get to a meeting early and have a few minutes to kill? Whip out your iPhone and pick up where you left off in the latest novel you’re reading. Stuck in the airport? Pull out your Blackberry, connect to B&N and you can be reading a novel in minutes.

The ecosystem of content delivery (and compatibility) is evolving quickly.
Sony announced their support for the ePub format. All of the Barnes and Noble E-Books will be in ePub format. ePub is a new standard for “reflowable digital books” developed by the International Digital Publishing Forum. Reflowable means that the text adapts to the screen of the device. It’s a fancy way to say the text will wrap at the edges of the screen.

Back in the stone age of handhelds, I read many books on my palm pilot’s tiny 160 x 160 screen and enjoyed every minute. I even snuck in some reading when I was supposed to be working. The screens on today’s handhelds are far superior and highly readable.

More and more big names are jumping on the e-book train. Google, Samsung, major publishers and rumors of Apple joining the fray abound. What’s needed is a critical mass and I think that will come the adoption of the ePub standard. Proprietary formats (like the Kindle) are doomed.

When people can use the devices they already have and when most E-Books use ePub, a completely free and open standard, the stage will be set for a seamless ecosystem of content delivery for E-Books. The market will decide, not the proprietary dinosaur formats. Self-publishing will target The Long Tail and give people what they want. ePub and the ecosystem it will spawn will be the final nail in the coffin of traditional publishing.

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ebookcoverIt’s finished. “How to Create & Publish Your E-Book Using Free Tools” is complete and available on the E-Book page. Please be my guest and grab your copy.

I woke up yesterday energized and full of ideas. I made significant changes to the book’s format and I’m pleased with the results. it’s much easier to read on screen and the two page view works perfectly. (so does a two page printout on 8 1/2 X 11 in landscape mode). I think you’ll like the changes.

Writing this book has been a continuous process of exploration and discovery. As I learned, I folded my lessons into the book itself. I eliminated about half of the figures. I had too many and now I have just enough to be a help. I tweaked the text to match my changes and expanded the final chapter.

I have a lot more to say on the subject of writing and self-publishing. If I tried to incorporate all I have to say into this book, I’d be months doing a complete rewrite. I’m not going to do that. Instead, I’ve already begun the early stages of a new book.

The new book will take a fresh approach from an entirely new direction. From gestation to birth, I want to explore writing, dragons, inner critic technicians, and more. Problem — solution(s), from idea to completed book and all that lies in between. I’m excited.

Title? Who knows. It will come to me as I write. I’ll keep you posted on my progress. Meanwhile, “How to Create & Publish Your E-Book Using Free Tools” stands on it’s own as a completed work. Enjoy and be sure to leave comments.

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My New E-Book: Final Draft is Here

ebook_cover(rev)The freshly baked pie is on my kitchen windowsill cooling. Go ahead — snag a piece and have a taste. I’m a pretty good baker. I bake a mean loaf of bread and you would love my chocolate chip cookies. Now I’ve gone and baked my E-Book. It’s sitting on the windowsill on my E-Book page. Go on. Help yourself. I hope you enjoy it.

I’ll say it’s done, but it’s the final draft. I’m going to let the book rest like a fine yeast dough and come back to it for a final (I hope) edit in a few days. I’d appreciate any comments you might have. I’m so close to this book I have it practically memorized. I need a bit of distance so I can see if I’ve missed anything crucial or muddied the waters.

This is my second book. My first was as the compiler and editor (and typist) for my grandmother’s cookbook back in early 1980’s. One of these days, I’ll revise and republish. That first book was a labor of love created on a Kaypro PC with WordStar on DOS staring at a 12 inch amber monitor. The final book was printed on a dot matrix printer and copied at a print house. Wow, believe me, working with LyX is a bit simpler.

I’ve discovered how much fun and work writing a book can be. I love working in LyX and I’ve learned much during my journey. I still have more to learn. I’m an inveterate tinkerer. I gotta know how stuff works. I’m in love with creativity and discovering new things. I’m just getting warmed up with this E-Book business.

When the final copy is ready, it won’t be up for sale.
I’ve decided to offer it at no charge. I’ll upload to Scribd and put a link here on The Aware Writer. Maybe I’m nuts but this feels right. I might put out a tin cup for tips. Who knows? Please don’t be bashful. Grab a copy and please…give me some feedback. The truth too!

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Photo of Chiostrino di Santa Maria Novella by Sailko

Photo of Chiostrino di Santa Maria Novella by Sailko

I love the novella form. The word “novella” is an Italian term meaning “story.” I thought it would be fun to use this photo of the Cloisters of Santa Maria Novella as an illustration. If a short story is like a snapshot of life, a novella is like a photograph that invites and explores a single issue. If you carry my analogy a bit further, the modern novel is more like a full length movie.

Longer than the longest short story and shorter than a novel, a novella is typically between 15,000 and 40,000 words in length. The length of the novella gives the author the freedom to explore a single issue in great depth not possible in a short story.

The novella form has a unity, a singular focus that can be lost in the plots and sub plots of a long novel. Here are a few examples of the novella:

  • Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness”
  • Thomas Mann’s “Death in Venice”
  • Franz Kafka’s “Metamorphosis”
  • Ernest Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea”
  • George Orwell’s “Animal Farm”

Each of these fine works can be read in a single sitting. Single novellas in book form are rare because they are too short to meet the structural requirements of the printed book. When you can find novellas, they are often grouped into a quartet to meet print publishing requirements. I’d love to see a renaissance of the novella and the E-Book is the perfect format.

It’s time for a paradigm shift. Instead of viewing E-Books as digital versions of printed books, why not capitalize on the virtues of the E-Book instead? Freed of traditional production and distribution constraints imposed by printed books, E-Books can go where the printed book can’t.

Novellas, short stories, thoughtful essays, single articles are all E-Book candidates. Instead of being aggregated into anthologies or included in print magazines, short pieces can finally stand on their own. Might this be an opportunity for writers similar to single music tracks and the iPod?

I read a book containing four novellas by four different authors last week. It was a $15 paperback. With a typical 10% royalty, each author would receive a mere 38 cents from the sale of each book. What if each novella was offered at 99 cents on a site like Scribd? Too low? Well even at this price, the author would receive 54 cents, almost 50% more than book royalties. 99 cents is probably a good price for a short story.

A novella ought to be worth a bit more, say $1.59. An author would receive $1.02 from Scribd, nearly three times what he or she would receive in book royalties for the same novella. A best selling author who receives the highest print royalties would get about $4.19 on the sale of a $27.95 hardcover book. A book of four novellas would net the best selling author $1.05 for each novella. Hmmm — I like this math.

Readers benefit as well. I’ve purchased short stories and novellas from fictionwise to read on my palm. You can tell that was a while back. I never minded paying a dollar or two for a good read. E-Books open a new world of writing, publishing and reading not possible in the world of printed books.

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Competition is healthy. Up to now, Amazon and their Kindle have dominated the E-Book market. Barnes & Noble made two exciting announcements on Monday that will pump new life and energy into the E-Book market. Barnes & Noble Makes a Big Splash Into E-books (Melissa J. Perenson, PC World, Jul 20, 2009 4:40 pm).


B&N opened their eBookstore on Monday, July 20. All new releases and bestsellers will be priced at $9.99. The virtual shelves add the half-million free public domain ebooks available from Google to B&N’s own stock of 200,000 titles. That’s a lot of books. Not as many as Amazon’s 300,000 Kindle titles, but B&N expects their inventory to top one million titles within the next year.

Todd Weiss, in his PC World article, hopes B&N will get it right and learn from what he calls “Kindle mistakes.” Barnes & Noble: Please Avoid These Kindle Mistakes, (Todd R. Weiss, PC World, Jul 21, 2009 10:11 am).

When you buy an E-book from B&N, it’s yours. You won’t be held hostage to a device. All their books will be in the ePub format and yes they will be DRM protected, but once you purchase a book from them, it’s yours. If you need another copy, all you need do is log in and download. I’ve had a fictionwise account (B&N acquired fictionwise earlier this year) for years and it works well. Content from B&N won’t be tied to their e-reader like Amazon locks people into the Kindle and that’s a good thing.

The ereader coming from B&N is next generation and has me excited. B&N is partnering with Plastic Logic and the device will be available early next year. The new reader uses plastic transistors! It’s thin, it’s light, it will hold thousands of books and it’s 8 1/2 x 11. Plastic Logic says their reader is primarily intended for business users and that’s great because you’ll be able to load the reader with PDF, excel, Word, and other common file formats.

Push buttons to navigate the reader? Nope, it’s touchscreen all the way and has a built in file management system to make life easy for the user. The Kindle is just a reader and proprietary at that. The Plastic Logic reader is a document management system, an electronic storage and reading device and it’s next generation. Sorry Todd, but no backlight. Then again, how many printed books are backlit?

Plastic Logic Demos E-Book Reader With WiFi , 3G
(Ian Paul, PC World, May 28, 2009 8:40 am). I want one. No price announced as yet, but B&N will have to compete with the Kindle on price. They win on features. War or healthy competition? We’ll all benefit from B&N’s move into the E-Book marketplace. The market should expand (I bet it explodes over the next few years) and that’s a good thing for readers and writers alike. Plastic Logic is hard at work on a color version. This is exciting indeed.

Update. Zack Urlocker of Infoworld, thinks Barnes & Noble’s new eBookstore lacks significance. Can Barnes & Noble — or Anyone — Dislodge Kindle? B&N and Plastic Logic are doing more than getting out there and creating noise Zack. This is anything but a me too strategy.

The Kindle is only good for reading Amazon’s proprietary ebook format. OK, you can read PDF files too but you have to jump through hoops to install a PDF. What else does the Kindle do? I wouldn’t drop one, the glass might break.

Plastic Logic’s device is next generation and will store common business formats. The owner is in charge of their own reader, not the vendor. All of Barnes & Noble’s titles are being issued in the ePub format and can be read on just about every electronic device with a screen. You buy an E-Book from B&N and you own it. They won’t snatch it back in the middle of the night either.

Me too? Nope. Amazon wants to control the market. B&N and Plastic Logic are betting on people, an open market and real innovation. The Kindle in it’s present form is a dead end.

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Can you see the irony? Amazon removed Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four” and “Animal Farm” from customer Kindles this week. Amazon sends Orwell to ‘memory hole’ (AFP) July 18, 2009. Sucked into a black hole and gone without a trace. An Amazon spokesman said the books were removed because the publisher didn’t have reproduction rights. Whoops.


Black Hole -- NASA concept drawing

Amazon Removes E-Books From Kindle Store, Revokes Ownership, by Melissa J. Perenson, PC World, Jul 17, 2009 8:08 pm, compares physical and digital purchases, copy protection and wonders if we are truly purchasing digital content.

My concern isn’t so much what Amazon did, but that they can. Amazon said the system would be changed so “books would not be erased in fututre.” So they say, but they still can. Amazon’s control of copy protected Kindle e-books reaches right into the homes of Kindle owners. They can visit silently in the dead of night and wirelessly remove anything they want. They did it because they could.

Will Amazon do it again? Do purchasers really own their Kindles? Do they own the e-books they purchase? What else can Amazon do with your their Kindle?

When you buy a physical book, you own it. You can read it, write in the margins, lend it to a friend, lose it…  You paid for the book. It’s yours.

What kind of signals will Amazon’s actions send to their customers? How about prospective customers? You’d have to think twice before forking over $299 for a device that you have little or no control over and content that might disappear into thin air.

Some e-books are more equal than others? When someone buys an e-book, they should have all the rights of ownership. They don’t when e-books are crippled with DRM copy protection. What are publishers afraid of? Why do they treat paying customers as potential thieves?

I’m glad this happened. Events like this show the true colors of copy protection and closed system reading devices. I trust people to be honest. My forthcoming e-book will have ZERO copy protection. Most people will do the right thing. They don’t need to be insulted and hamstrung. They buy the e-book, they own it. How hard is that?

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Publishers carry on about Amazon and E-Book pricing. They worry about E-Books cannibalizing sales of their printed hardcover editions. Amazon drops the price of the Kindle to below $300 for the first time. Publishers, who have always controlled the market, are losing their publishing and distribution monopoly. Amazon wants to take their place and dictate E-Book pricing and make the Kindle the dominant ereader.

"Gustave Doré's illustrations to Dante's Inferno, Plate LXV: Canto XXXI: The titans and giants. "This proud one wished to make experiment / Of his own power against the Supreme Jove" (Longfellow)" is the image of the day (July 15, 2009) on Wikimedia Commons.

"Gustave Doré's illustrations to Dante's Inferno, Plate LXV: Canto XXXI: The titans and giants. "This proud one wished to make experiment / Of his own power against the Supreme Jove" (Longfellow)" is the image of the day (July 15, 2009) on Wikimedia Commons.

The true titans and giants of the written word are authors, readers and the Internet marketplace. Publishers owned the presses and controlled the distribution of their printed books. They chose the writers who would be published and set the prices readers would have to pay. Amazon is trying to do the same thing with their aggressive pricing and kindle monopoly.

It can’t work long term. Writers have all the tools they need to publish their works without the need for publishers. Readers won’t be herded into accepting still another proprietary electronic device just to read books crippled with ridiculous copy protection schemes.

Innovative display technologies are in the pipeline now. Remember the floppy disk? Who buys CRT monitors these days? How long will the Kindle remain on the cutting edge? Not as long as Amazon hopes.

Once writers and readers realize that their chains have fallen away
and their prison doors are open, they will come together without the intervention of the middlemen. The greatest market we’ve ever seen, the Internet, driven by The Long Tail, will decide who will be read and how much they will earn for their efforts. And that’s a good thing for writers and readers — the true titans and giants of the written word.

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ebook_cover(rev)I created a new page for my E-Book. Just click on the E-Book tab at the top of the Home page. A separate page will work better than a post because it’s much easier to find. I tested the download link and it’s working perfectly. Score one for the first try.

I’ll continue to work on the book and I’ll probably wait until the book is finished (at least the complete first draft) before I upload a new version. This way keeps things simple.

I’ve enabled comments on the new page. Please let me know what you think of the book so far. I mean the good, the bad and the ugly.

If you don’t understand where I’m going with something, speak up and I’ll make it clearer. If you think I’m missing something, let me know. I may be planning on including that something later, then again, maybe it never occurred to me. I’m so close to this book that I have it memorized. You guys are coming at it fresh and objective. I’m looking forward to a great adventure together.

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