If I was writing this article just five years ago, when asked what an ebook is, I would probably have said a PDF. Where PDF is an acronym for Portable Document Format which, unlike say an Word document, is read-only and retains all the source formatting and layout.

Nowadays, with the increasing ubiquity of ereaders, it might be tempting to define an ebook as something you downloaded to be read on an Amazon Kindle or Apple iPad. To make matters slightly more confusing, the humble PDF can be read on both devices.

Where a PDF essentially differs from a book formatted for an ereader is that the latter, be it in ePub, HTML5 or the techie format, tends to be copy protected and tied to the purchaser’s account – not even their device. This means they can read it on their Kindle, iPhone and computer if they own all three.

Neither of these descriptions however fully defines what an ebook is or can be.

Before I explain, although I am a technophile and even writing this article on an iPad, as a reader, I am a big fan of the printed book. Specifically, I much prefer reading fiction in print but now favour the ‘ebook’ for non-fiction.

As an author though, I am both agnostic and catholic about how readers of my books engage with them. An ebook in my eyes (and ears) is simply any of my content which isn’t print and that is delivered by electronic means. I want the reader to choose how they engage with my work.

The publishing industry is going through the same transition as did the music industry 10 or so years ago. In some ways and in some areas, it is even overlapping and merging with it. One of the reasons being that the ebook is just about to come of age.

Now an obvious format for an ebook is audio. This allows those with visual impairments to enjoy a ‘good book’. Many people like commuters and those with dyslexic different-abilities might prefer auditory input.

The exciting developments in the ebook arena are the Enhanced Edition book and the mobile app. In addition to the rich functionality offered by these two developments, the ebook and app also come with the potential of royalties of up to 70% for the enterprising author. All of this is of course in a context where the number of target devices is in the millions and growing daily.

If I now have your attention, let me explain what they both are. Enhanced Edition books allow you to embed multimedia elements like audio and video inside a book. Good use of this format are books like Knitting for Dummies and Yoga in Bed.

For ‘ebooks’ which are apps, even richer functionality is possible. For example, user input such as completing exercises or a journal or even engaging in dialogue with the author. Content can also vary depending on date, location or user type. The latter could be dependent on parameters such as age or subscription level.

With all this choice, it would be easy to get carried away. Baby steps are advisable and market testing is essential. The future is very bright for both authors and publishers who embrace the possibilities that are opening up. The caveat being that the reader, listener and viewer is the ultimate judge of what is good use of the technology.

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Some example links

Example of an ebook with embedded audio and video – Wordlube

Enhanced Edition : Yoga in Bed

A discussable book – 140 Characters the Short Form

A multimedia app : Elements a Visual Exploration

Originally written for and posted in

Do I App or do iBook?

Soulwave iPhone appApple announced recently that they’ve followed Amazon’s lead and iBooks can now have audio and video embedded in them.

See the blog on The Bookwright site Do iPad or do I Kindle for more on this …

So with increased functionality in iBooks, I thought it worth pointing out the pros & cons of publishing your ‘work’ as an iBook or as an App.

Why iBook?

If your content is essentially uni-directional – i.e. read, listen or watch onlythen iBook is a good route. It is worth doing a Kindle version too though to get on both platforms at not much extra complexity or cost.

The production costs for a text-only iBook are in the low hundreds of dollars and for a multimedia iBook (if you have the assets), about 20% of the cost of producing an app. This means you will be able to get your investment back quickly for a reasonably popular title.

At the moment, authors and publishers need a US Tax ID to submit self-published works – this will change shortly.

Note that Storyist software is brilliant at generating compliant ePub files as is now Apple Pages.

Note also that various aggregator sites, like Smashwords and Lulu, allow international self-published authors to submit to the iBookstore. They will have to catch up a little to support the new format though.
See this blog from Bubblecow for How To Publish Your Book On Kindle and Ipad

Why App?

An app is a completely different kettle of bananas. When you build an app, you can access all the features of the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad operating system.

Apps are interactive and bi-directional. In my opinion, they should be used to either augment a conventional or ebook OR to extend the idea of what a book is about in the first place.

For example, see these App Books and note their main features:

140 Characters – embedded discussion forum for author and readers to interact and inclusion of live Twitter stream based on keywords, Twitter handles and hashtags

Kryo Pro – card set and book integrated with auto-switch between four languages – English, Russian, German and Spanish PLUS ability to email or Tweet a sample card

The Elements: A Visual Exploration – incredible multimedia experience with 3-D rotating graphics

Top 10 City Guides – geo-coded information, latest news via live RSS feeds

Now before you get excited, your investment in an app like these starts at a few thousand dollars. Get it right though and you have access to tens of millions of owners of a device.

Even if you give your app away, the exposure alone can be worth it.

Note also that the other advantage of an App over an iBook is the separate listing on the iTunes store on the web, as opposed to within the iBookstore which is only accessed via the device at the moment. Your app also appear as an icon on a device as opposed to a book inside an app.

This is perhaps not of great significance but you do have your own App URL and it seems to get great Google rankings too.

Note also that as Apple and others allow more features of HTML5 to be introduced, this gap will narrow even more … watch this space … ePub2 will be with us before you know. Great time to be an author and a publisher.