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Publishing Books on line – Amazon Kindle vs Apple iBooks – My impressions.

May 26, 2014

Publishing Books on line – Amazon Kindle vs Apple iBooks – My impressions.

Nothing beats experience is one of my favourite mottos. Or to put it more accurately: I can teach people almost everything I know except experience. That is something that people have to gain by themselves. In writing I consider experience as crucial. Not just writing a book or a report but writing for an audience with an explicit purpose. The feedback and impression that the audience of readers offers quite often helps a writer develop a sense of how to write better. This is particularly useful if you are trying to express humour in your writing.

Online writing like Blogging can also be false and misleading. I have walked away from blog sites that become ego driven rather than writer driven. I see such blog sites are counterproductive to a writer’s development because they start writing for each other’s clique rather than for a broader audience of actual readers. The other problem with an immediate environment of the blogging is that it is inherently disposable and so quality is often sacrificed for quantity.

Writing for a publication or for a professional environment is completely different. The permanence of the writing raises the bar to a whole new level of scrutiny. A typo online can be edited in a moment or ignored when the next post comes in but a typo in a book is there forever. This goes for all the common forms of writing mistakes from grammatical errors to poor formatting of the final print.

Online publishing of books is not much different than the printing of physical copies. The same level of detail and proof reading should be applied but with far less resources than a publishing house. Once all the editing is completed it needs to be exposed to a test audience. Positive and negative points will flow from this and it gives you the chance to edit, rewrite and even delete passages that do not work. From experience I have noticed that reader opinions have been far blunter with my works of non-fiction than they are with fiction.

All done? Time to publish.

This is where the hard work begins.

Signing up to an online publisher

My first online publication is a work of non-fiction aimed at Information Technology students so offered online free. I wanted to do this because I could see need for such publication as it pinpointed a critical area of knowledge that was either being glossed over or over explained to the point of tedium. As fate would have it I decided to publish on the Apple iTunes website. The cost for publishing was zero as long as my desire to make money was zero.

This is the first hurdle I had with iTunes. For some reason iTunes have divided their clients into two distinct groups: those who publish free books and those who want to be paid. Once an account is set up as a download-free it cannot be upgraded to a pay-per-download account. If you wish to charge money for your publications then you must set up your account to do so from the beginning. Sadly you will have to create a whole new account with a new username and password to achieve this.

No problem, you think, you can manage another username and password. However you must also insert you US tax file number. For me this was a dead-lock in what should have been a straight forward procedure. I live in Australia so how on earth would obtain a US tax file number of any description. After researching the Apple iBook Author forums, the US tax department and numerous I ran into endless brick walls. I even contacted Apple in Australia to see how this could be achieved but time passed and the elusive tax file number was no closer. Online attempts to use the US tax website crashed and burned when it asked for more US based information such as a Social Security number. A friend of mine, who was a US citizen, even offered to let me create the account under his name but I respectfully declined. Finally I found some advice from another Australian that was worth reading: Call the US Tax Office by phone. So I called. With 30 minutes I had my (EIN) which is the equivalent of a personal tax file number. Now I could set up my ‘pay-per-download’ account.

Grrrr…. It takes time for a new EIN to go through the system.

Amazon on the other hand was much smoother process. I created an account. The website automatically linked me to the US Tax Office. I entered my banking details and within a few minutes the account was up and running. Why did Apple have to make the same process so hard? Surely they must know how many potential clients are walking away in frustration.

Book Formats

Let me be clear, I love the iBook format. It is clean, neat and incredibly interactive. I can produce engaging multimedia publications that leave other eBook formats green with envy. I can import audio, videos, sideshows, 3D objects and make them all dance to my design. If I needed to create a multimedia publication then Apple iBook would be one of my first choices.

iBook Author has range of templates to help you out

However not everyone needs to produce such sophisticated publications and as a result the bells and whistles that iBooks offer will be wasted.

What about the traditional form of a book? In such an example text dominates and content is reduced to merely interpreting words. The publication will have a cover design to attract a new reader but in essence it is a container for formatted text and images.

One advantage of iBooks Author is its formatting capability but its big drawback are its limited export options. You basically have 3 choices: iBooks, PDF or Plain Text. (There is no ePub option) Sadly the iBook format locks you into publishing exclusively for Apple computers and devices like the iPad.

Adobe Indesign looks very stark and boring compared to Apple Pages

Publishing in the ePub format is equally cumbersome. Third party applications like Adobe Indesign or Apple Pages do help. However a keen knowledge of formatting is also required as this can often be a painful process. As person who uses Adobe products professionally I chose to Adobe Indesign to format my latest book called Illuminiods. I am aware that not everyone can afford this kind of top end product so I suggest a Freeware product like Sigil.


The Final Decision

The most ubiquitous type of eBook is the Amazon Kindle format. This was also the format that was easiest to upload and convert from an ePub document. Kindle also helped by spell checking my book after the upload. Setting up the paid option of the book was dead simple compared to Apple. However I have already had thousands of downloads for my free book on iTunes. Only time will tell if Kindle is as popular.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Damian Tangram permalink
    June 16, 2014 10:03 pm

    Reblogged this on Damian Tangram .


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