Why Ebook Authors Need to Embrace New Technologies

by Joel Friedlander on April 16, 2014 · 31 comments

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By Jason Matthews

“Knowing what you know now…”

I work with new writers online and at events. They ask a myriad of smart questions including this one: how would you publish differently if you did it all over again? As the saying goes, hindsight is 20-20. I’d do dozens of things differently than the blind assault to digital publishing I debuted with.

But that’s true for most authors. This industry has evolved so much in just a few short years; even the “experts” have had to learn the ropes on the fly.

You’ve probably heard most of the common answers that follow I wish I had:

  • been more involved with social media
  • blogged sooner
  • invested in a great cover
  • done more market research
  • worked with a professional editor or two
  • learned more about SEO (search engine optimization)

Here’s another answer you may not have heard as much, but this would have helped me immensely and is still true for many writers today:

  • embraced the technologies available for use in ebooks

There’s a common dilemma in this digital author business: most writers are of advanced age, and the technology they need to succeed is easier learned by the younger crowd.

This is a generalization of course, but I see a lot of frustration behind threads of gray hair when discussing issues related to blogging, social media, converting documents and more.

The tech learning curve is something we all experience since nobody knew anything about this stuff several years ago. That’s when Amazon introduced the first Kindle (circa 2007) and the ebook revolution really took off.

Dealing With the Pace of Change

Let’s back up further for a moment; what is writing? It’s story-telling and sharing information. It probably began with oral tradition, moved into hieroglyphics, saw the rise of alphabets, then the printing press and finally the computer age.

Publishing has evolved at a snail’s pace compared to what’s happening today. Most industry insiders were astonished how fast ebooks became mainstream while also changing the paradigm of authorship and how retailers sell books.

It’s reasonable to assume that ebooks may soon be far more elaborate than they are today, and that’s why we need to embrace the recent technological changes while we also contemplate the unknown.

Those are the two sides to this coin: making the most of what’s currently available and keeping an eye open for the next wave. Let’s talk first about what’s available now. What does that mean in practical terms? Your ebook should or can have:

  • Active links for navigation in the Table of Contents and/or an NCX file. It’s wise to also have links to locations within the book like a References page.
  • Links to your primary social media pages, website and blog so readers can connect with you. If you have a Facebook “Like’ page for the book, a link needs to be in there.
  • Pages for About the Author and your Other Books with direct links to them.
  • Links for leaving reviews (e.g. the Amazon review page for your Kindle version).
  • A sample chapter of another book, especially if part of a series, with a link to buy at the end of the sample.

Notice how most of this involves simple hyperlinks. Hyperlinking isn’t going away, but much more is entering the picture. Let’s talk about some of those things now, with this disclaimer:

While it would be impractical and perhaps foolish for most authors to attempt to put all of these elements into their ebooks, these are possibilities worth considering.

Some authors and books will be more suited to some of these enhancements than others.

Enhanced Ebooks

What is an enhanced ebook or EEB? Amazon has some newer titles called Kindle Edition with Audio/Video. Apple iTunes and Barnes & Noble both list it as the Enhanced Edition, and they’re a few dollars more than the regular ebook.

Most notably enhanced ebooks have a range of audio and video additions embedded into them, but much more can be done including:

  • photo albums,
  • pop-up graphics,
  • maps,
  • animations,
  • even instant messaging with other readers.

EEBs don’t work on older devices, like basic Kindles, but the newer tablets and smartphones are fine. At present, making EEBs might suggest making an app rather than an ebook. Apps are more difficult for the average indie author to do without outsourcing.

This might change in the near future as solutions should appear for anyone who wants to make EEBs, so it’s wise to start thinking about additions that might benefit your books.
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