Real eBooks: Are We Still in the Stone Age?

by Joel Friedlander on January 27, 2012 · 52 comments

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by James Moushon

I’m really pleased to bring you a guest post by author and blogger James Moushon. I met James through the blog and the articles he contributes to other sites like SelfPublishingReview.com and he has been a featured blogger in our own Self-Publishing: Carnival of the Indies blog carnival. In this article James poses a question every ebook author might want to think about. Here it is.



So when will we start to see REAL ebooks appear on the market? You know the ebooks that take advantage of their digital environment. Ebooks that have been rendered to improve the reader’s ebook experience. As the number of ebook devices explodes into the book reader’s world, the readers are going to expect more. This statement is especially true with the younger generation whose world seems to center around instant access.

I just completed a study of twenty newly released ebooks just to see how far the art of ebook publishing has advanced in the last year. I choose ebooks from well-known authors, from self-publishing authors, some novels, some technical books. I wanted a variety for my study. I would like to share my observations and suggestions for their improvement.

My contention is that REAL ebooks should be a different product than their paper counterparts. They should be formatted differently; sections arranged differently and in some cases they should have different covers. In short, to be a REAL ebook, they should not be just a copy of the traditional book version.

The following is a list of certain areas that I feel need improvement; areas that you must consider when you create your ebook.

REAL ebooks Links

Rendering your ebook with links is a major step in the right direction in creating a REAL book. What items MUST have links?

  1. The Table of Contents must have links to the chapter headings. Most are doing this now.
  2. Author’s References—the ebook must include links to the author’s website, email address, blogs, online profiles and social networking connections (Facebook/Twitter). You need this to get your reader/audience involved.
  3. Author’s Other Books—there should be links to the buy pages for other books created by the author. Why miss this marketing opportunity.

    For example, in my study two of the ebooks were written by top 10 authors and published by traditional publishers. Both had a list of their other titles, provided credits for the book creation and the usual publisher information. Neither used links to assist the reader in buying other titles or helping their co-developers secure new business. One did have a link to the publisher’s web site. There was no links to the author’s website, blog, email address or social network information.
  4. In book links—the REAL ebook should have links in the content to footnotes (held in appendix), to word and term definitions and to references. For example, one project I recently worked on was a pictorial about Omaha Beach with over 50 original pictures inserted in the content. With the picture, its title and the picture credits, the content became very difficult to read. The solution was to have a link from the picture title to the picture’s credits in the back of the ebook. If the reader wanted to check out the source they could follow the link and then hit the back key on the ebook device. If the reader didn’t, they could ignore the link and continue without interrupting the reading experience.


Another example in my survey was a technical book about the publishing industry. It was a well written book with lots of good information and references. But there were no links. None! It contained lots of hard coded website addresses and email contact information. All I had to do was re-enter the URL into my web browser and I could find the source.

Actually this is a missed opportunity. One of the problems that traditional books have that REAL ebooks can solve is the maintenance of links in the books. As we know we live in an ever changing world. Web and email addresses change on a daily basis, it seems. So there I am with a link to some interesting information and the link is no good. A broken link, if you will.

If the REAL ebook is managed properly, you can avoid or limit this problem. You can create an online directory of links for your ebook. Then you setup a link monitoring process and a link maintenance routine and maintain a valid list of links in the directory. I call this the Goodlinks concept. Just include a link to the online directory in your ebook and you won’t lose your audience.

In fact you can draw the reader to your site and market other products and services. Of course, the beauty of the REAL ebook is you can republish it at any time with the updated links and information.

I believe the REAL ebook can help solve the read-back problems that all readers are faced with at one time or another. I watched a reader the other day try to deal with a novel that was riddled with acronyms and abbreviations. It was getting to be such a problem that half way through the ebook, she actually started writing them down on a separate piece of paper to reference later. Here is an example. “He called USAMRIID for advice.” I give up.

Other Considerations to Ponder

Covers

Sometimes the traditional book cover doesn’t work for the ebook. In this case, size does matter. That great book cover that you had designed is going to go small. On-line distributors try to catch the eye of would-be readers with thumbnail covers. The problem is that sometimes colors get in the way, the type size and face doesn’t look good small and the art gets distorted. A professional designer can solve this problem. You need one that can make the cover work in both environments. Check with our host for this site, Joel Friedlander.

One of the other cover issues is with the effort to get the prospective reader to view a sample of the ebook; some distributors will put a label over the right hand corner of the thumbnail which obscures that portion of the cover. A good designed cover will keep important information viewable like the author’s name or even the title of the book. I saw that in my study.

Copyright

REAL ebooks should include, with their copyright notice, the page number source document for the ebook, especially if the book has various editions. This is relatively a new process but it helps readers coordinate content between the paper version and ebook. This is increasingly important in the educational environment. Students using both hardbound and the ebook versions need a reference point sometimes.

Samples

One of the current ebook marketing strategies is to allow the prospective reader to read a sample of the ebook before buying. All distributors seem to go at this sample process differently but at the end of the day they want to provide the prospective buyer with something that can help with the buying decision. Most of them use a percentage basis.

The REAL ebook concept can help with this process but there has to be a rearranging of the book’s sections if the process is automated like most of them are.

Let me start with an example. I reviewed the buy page on Amazon for each book in my study. I choose one ebook in my study and downloaded the sample, comparing it to the full length version. Here’s what I found.

The ebook sample was in the same section sequence as the paper version. I know there is a traditional way to setup a book. This sample was no exception. It started with the cover followed by the title page, the table of contents, the dedication, the copyright page and a list of the writer’s other works.

So you ask what’s wrong with this. If this sample was going to help sell my ebook, it probably failed. The sample was 80 device pages long but the viewer had to page through 24 pages before they could start reading the book to make a decision.

I believe if you are going to use the sample as a sales tool, there are some slight changes you can make. I would include the cover and the title page with an abbreviated TOC up front along with the author’s other books with buy links. Also I would include upfront the author’s website and contact information. Move the copyright page, dedications and credits to the end of the ebook.

If you get to setup your own sample, keep this in mind. REAL ebooks and their samples should give the prospect what they need to make a decision and only that. A sample doesn’t need a complete table of content. This ebook had 80 chapters which took up four complete device pages and the kicker was; the links to the last 76 chapters were no good. Make the sample simple. Get the reader to your content as quickly as possible.

Bring on the REAL ebook

In most cases, ebooks are still just copies of the paper version but there is a huge opportunity to improve the ebook reading experience. Creative book design and digital links can help us move the ebook experience forward in acceptance.

Currently we have a problem. Let’s face it. Until traditional publishers start to treat ebooks as separate products with different properties and requirements, we have not taken advantage of the digital product. Their approach is simple but self-serving. Get it out the door. Get the copy into an ebook format, charge a higher price than needed and watch the money fall to their bottom line.

The advantage should go to the self-publisher because they control the process. They have the ability to correct the problems easily and make something really special.

Seek a professional to help you through the process if you’re really serious about marketing your ebook.

What do you think about the REAL ebook concept? Is adding links to an already completed product just too much work or would it move your book to the leading edge of ebook world and improve the readers enjoyment?

James-MoushonJames Moushon helped lead the startup of the electronic forms industry in the creation, conversion and usage of electronic forms, working with over 200 companies and organizations. In 2003 he changed his focus to ebooks and their development. He is also the author of the thriller Call Off the Dogs, and he blogs at The eBook Author’s Corner

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    { 47 comments… read them below or add one }

    Marcia Richards January 29, 2012 at 7:14 pm

    Joel, thank you for bringing James to us with such a timely post.
    James, I agree with all your major points. There is much to be gained by using links and I think the idea of a track back to current links will solve the problem of broken links. For now. Things change so quickly in the digital world, I’m sure another solution will appear down the road.
    I am writing a trilogy and a short story anthology. I can see how in-book links to character synopses would be helpful for the reader, especially on secondary characters, when they are in the 2nd or 3rd book of the trilogy. It work as well for a series. Thanks for your insight and recommendations. It will be very helpful in a month or so when I in the midst of self-publishing.

    Reply

    Gary Roberts January 28, 2012 at 3:37 pm

    James, when I retired from the library and archives field, this was the hot topic that no one really knew what to do about. No one still knows a decent answer. My decision to create reprints of classic texts was born out of this conundrum. Shortly before retiring, I was asked to fix an internal collection of one of a kind PDF documents (meaning, these were the originals, no other versions) that would not load to the Online Public Access Computer of the research facility, a Department of Defense prime contractor.

    Every single PDF had been created in Acrobat 6. The OPAC system required Acrobat 9. Every single PDF had to be exported as TIFF files, recreated as a clean PDF lacking any identifier, OCR’d ,etc, in order to be accepted by the OPAC. I created the Acrobat scripts, left instructions and retired. This is but one example of the many problems we ran into in dealing with antiquated documents and software. Bins and bins of media was sent to be destroyed due to a lack of hardware or software to read or interpret it.

    Megaupload just bought the farm, and so on.

    While I think the entire eBook movement is excellent, I see it as an adjunct to the print book and not a replacement. If your book is intended to have a short life, whether print of digital, than eBook is fine. If you want the title to last, then both formats are required to ensure that longevity.

    I really feel that people are sucked in the by the idea of cheap production and supposed fast returns without taking time to consider that publishing a title is a long range process. That concerns me, as a book guy and a librarian by training and instinct.

    My apologies for soap boxing. It’s a side effect of blogging

    Reply

    Gary Roberts January 28, 2012 at 12:37 pm

    I agree with James that this is where eBooks as a whole are going. The logical extension of this process: Let’s say it’s fifty or one hundred years down the road. What has happened to those eBooks?

    On my shelves are roughly 500 books from the 19th and 18th centuries on early trades and industries, along with a smattering of other topics. And Terry Pratchett, Charlaine Harris, etc.

    The background of Cloud computing is not a service oriented one, it’s a control issue. Copyright control is the issue for the companies pushing information over the web. With Cloud computing, who controls the server controls the content. For the first time, working DRM is a possibility.

    That’s a chilling thought to any antiquarian book person, librarian, archivist, etc. I wonder how authors will feel when they discover their eBook is hard to find because the Cloud company has ceased to exist, lost the file, etc.? What backup strategies do you have? What alternative sales channels?

    That’s the reality Librarians and Archivists discuss behind the scenes. I can’t understand why authors aren’t discussing these same topics now.

    Reply

    James Moushon January 28, 2012 at 2:57 pm

    Gary, I think you’re spot on. The cloud will only be as good as its maker and their life.
    Going one more step. What happens if one of the major ebook distributors goes out of business? Let’s say BN doesn’t make it. What happens to their library of ePub formatted ebooks? Are all the authors back to square one?
    An even scarier thought is what is going to happen to ebook formats in the next ten years. Will the tons of ebooks on Amazon in the current format have a life down the road? I can’t see Amazon reformatting the millions of ebooks they have to a new format.
    Will sometime in the future Amazon say enough is enough and stop allowing any author that wants to publish their ebook, do so? Will they become a gatekeeper like the traditionals to save their ever expanding catalog?
    Of course, all the ebook readers that are being purchased today have the same fate. Take my Kindle 2, for example. Eventually Amazon purchased ebooks not work on the older Kindle.
    Also, I have a RCA ebooki device I purchased in 2003 along with several ebooks in the LIT format designed to be read on Microsoft Reader software which are dead in the water. That was only eight years ago.

    Reply

    James January 28, 2012 at 3:29 pm

    I’ve blogged about this. When I posed similar scenario to Joe Konrath on his blog, he dismissed it in his usual snarky, acerbic way as an impossibility–because “I always keep copies of my books”.

    The more I read, the more stunned I am at how willing self-publishing authors are to just pour the product of their sweat and tears into technology–then try and figure it out later. I call it the “Trust Amazon” phenomenon.

    Reply

    Scott Dubois January 27, 2012 at 10:05 pm

    So a real ebook is more like a website packed into an ePub format? What’s to stop us from reading full length books in a browser?

    Reply

    James Moushon January 28, 2012 at 6:07 am

    Scott, thanks for the comment. Absolutely nothing. In fact I my opinion this is where all this is going. ePub is already built around html, the language of the Internet. All ebooks will be assessable from the Cloud via a universal WIFI system.

    Also they will be interactive so you can share your ideas with other people or educational work groups. Education will demand this with e-textbook, study lessons and reference materials all interacting.

    Reply

    Gary Roberts January 27, 2012 at 9:32 pm

    James, the issue of distraction, overuse of internal links, user interface and eBooks seems to relate back to the beginnings of the computer/user interface. For some reason, we’re stepping backwards. Usage studies have shown that carefully structured pages with links that fit the content are most favored by readers. Overuse of links distracts and even leads the reader to eventually skim rather than concentrate on content.

    To me, a tablet is still a screen, a page is still a page. I agree with you that the sooner the writer learns to structure a book as it it was a form of web page rather than a print page, the sooner the eBook will come into it’s own.

    There’s some very insightful stuff at http://futureofthebook.com/ concerning the digital book/print book future that relates to this topic.

    On the subject of Wiki’s, once again, Librarians shiver at anything Wiki. It’s all unverified information submitted by unknown persons. There’s even a POD business for Wiki material now that I discuss on my blog
    http://toolemerablog.typepad.com/toolemera/2012/01/the-wiki-wrinkle-in-the-pod-book-scam-story.html

    I don’t mean to be negative, it’s just that so much of what I see lately is authors and publishers taking the easy route instead of putting in the full research on non-fiction material as well as taking time to learn about user interface design. Which is why I retired?

    Reply

    David Krug January 27, 2012 at 5:05 pm

    Another idea about linking is an alternative to handle outbound links. Instead of linking directly to external sources uses dynamic redirects so you can verify the links on the 3rd party site are still active. If they’ve changed you change the redirect and your links stay good in the ebook. In this way your links will always stay good in the ebook because any changes can be managed via the dynamic redirects.

    Reply

    Haley Whitehall January 27, 2012 at 4:07 pm

    Thanks for this very informative article on REAL ebooks. I agree with all your major pints. I have recently read a few interactive ebooks. One was like the old create your own adventure stories. I think those will be really successful. When it comes to ebooks the more interactive the better.

    Reply

    Gary Roberts January 27, 2012 at 3:15 pm

    By including live links to external (internet based) content, you are creating a self-limiting document that is dependent upon content which may or may not exist, moment to moment. In the world of the Librarian, this is known as a Headache.

    While the eBook would contain value added content, the very nature of the external content would reduce that content over time instead of increasing value. By doing so, you have created for yourself a book guaranteed to half-life out of the market.

    Internal value added content makes a world of sense and would only serve to increase the dollar value of the eBook over the print book.

    Reply

    James Moushon January 27, 2012 at 3:45 pm

    Gary, thanks for the comment. Oh the broken link. That is where the ebook can come to the rescue in a fashion. I prefer the in-book link for additional information for the reader.

    Of course, this is a major problem with paper books today that include email addresses and URL’s that seem to be out of date as soon as the book hits the street.

    The ebook can give some relief by giving the reader the pathway to an up to date set of links on a website as I mentioned in the blog. And the other ebook advantage is an updated ebook with current links can be published any time without the major costs of reproduction and distribution.

    I have written several blogs on the Library usage of ebooks at The eBook Author’s Corner if you wish to go further.

    Reply

    Sharon Beck January 27, 2012 at 2:34 pm

    JoAnn Bassett, I am currently working on a similar project, a book with many Hebrew words in transliteration. This is how I plan to address the translation problem.

    For print, I will footnote each word the first time it is used with the footnote on the same page. There will also be a glossary of all words at the back.

    For the ebook version, I will also have live footnote links which will go directly to the glossary entry. What I had really wanted to do, possible in full HTML, is to create an ALT TEXT type link so the translation would appear as a tool tip when the word is touched. However, that does not seem possible with current ebook technology.

    What I have not decided is if I will place footnote links on repeated references to the foreign words after the initial reference. I think it will detract from the look and ease of reading if I do so, but I welcome ideas about this issue.

    Reply

    James Moushon January 27, 2012 at 3:55 pm

    If I could chime in. I think the distraction issue is valid. The reader’s experience with the ebook should always be the deciding factor in how this should be approached.

    I use a lot of Wikipedia information in my appendix and that information is riddled with links. Some times for the good, some times for the bad. (I remove the Wikipedia links in my references.)

    In today’s internet world links are a part of the game. The beauty is the reader can skip over them if they choose.

    Reply

    DDW January 27, 2012 at 10:33 am

    On the subject of samples and the table of contents, I disagree. Particularly in non-fiction, the table of contents is one of the more informative data-points in a purchase decision. Not always, but often. I do agree with the overall point that samples often tend to waste too much space on irrelevant information, although in my experience the majority “open” at the beginning of the main text, rather than the beginning of the file. One often has to back up to see the table of contents.

    The most egregious failures are those samples in which the publisher has included so many blurbs or testimonials in the beginning of the book that the sample ends up containing absolutely nothing but pages and pages of worthless quotes about how wonderful the book or author is and leaving nothing for the potential buyer to base their own evaluation on.

    Reply

    James Moushon January 27, 2012 at 4:04 pm

    DDW, thanks for the comment. Actually I agree with you on the importance of the TOC in non-fiction. I think in my blog I am searching for something that will help the author present to the reader something they will be able use to make a buying decision. Something like the dust cover that we have with a paper book only abbreviated.

    I am with you on the starting point of the sample. Who knows how they decide the starting point. The author should be given some clue so they can maximize the sales potential.

    Reply

    Anonimo March 28, 2014 at 12:28 am

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    Reply

    Author David Brown January 27, 2012 at 9:57 am

    James, thanks for an informative, entertaining, and in-depth look at REAL ebooks. This is a long term *save* and I will refer back to it often. In short, you ROCKED it!

    Reply

    James Moushon January 27, 2012 at 4:14 pm

    David thanks for the comment. Good luck with your writting.

    Reply

    matt harrison January 27, 2012 at 9:49 am

    As a writer of technical programming books, I’m consistently surprised by the poor quality of the formatting. Yeah, links are nice, but for non-fiction technical books, formatting is the killer feature. It would be nice if there was some stamp or seal of approval that someone spent two minutes reviewing the formatting.
    (I should note that even well known tech pubs have poorly formatted ebooks.)

    Reply

    David Bergsland January 27, 2012 at 10:22 am

    As a writer in InDesign, and publisher of all my tech books in many formats, the tools we have to make epUBs and Kindle books are really limited unless you are a good coder. Designers are rarely good coders, and writers even less so. InDesign is the best tool we have at present, but there’s still a long way to go until some of the typographic niceties we rely on in print are actually available in an PUB without a lot of hand-coding.

    Reply

    James Moushon January 27, 2012 at 4:16 pm

    David, I think that ebook development software is just beginning to tackle the issues. InDesign will be on top of this if insightful people like you keep giving them feedback to improve their product.
    As I found out when I was involved in electronic forms development, if a player in the industry doesn’t keep moving forward, someone will take their place with a better product.

    Reply

    James Moushon January 27, 2012 at 4:23 pm

    Matt, thanks for your comment. This is a very important point. Sometimes I just what to yell “Would someone please take a look at their ebook product before they publish it.” The ebook reader deserves more. Download to an ereader and check it out. Would buy it?
    I know some of this originates from a scanning process and the desire to get that ebook on the market fast but most of the publishers should be working with a digital file to start with. I feel this is an opportunity for self- publishers to separate themselves from their traditional competitors.

    Reply

    James January 27, 2012 at 9:34 am

    “My contention is that REAL ebooks should be a different product than their paper counterparts. They should be formatted differently; sections arranged differently and in some cases they should have different covers. In short, to be a REAL ebook, they should not be just a copy of the traditional book version.”

    James, there is no “best” format for e-books. And if there were, I’m not clear on why it would need a “cover”.

    There are lots of reasons for an electronic book to be a copy of the “traditional” book. Why? Because there are lots of contexts for e-books.

    I agree that *some* e-book contexts should take full advantage of the medium–and that’s called hypertext and multimedia. That’s the Web. The new iBooks Author is also a tool aimed in that direction. But there are too many contexts and usages–and novels are just one minor context of those–and its growing smaller. Yes, despite the desperate attempts to clutch at Amazon sales figures to justify conclusions.

    I’m guessing that you’re largely talking about novels and similar books, though–which, despite the comments I often read here, are a minority of the books published in the world, both print and electronic.

    I also agree with you about kids and the future. I’ve blogged about this myself. But that may not turn out to be at all what people expect–that is, people who expect that technology adoption is a natural and inevitable progression. However–and I’ve blogged about this, too–iPads are already in the hands of a majority of incoming college freshmen. Not Kindles, not Sony devices, but iPads. The reason? Students need a multipurpose device, not an e-ink reader–and fiction novels are a small fraction of what they read. In fact, the source of most reading for college freshmen in 2012 is Web and multimedia content–not novels, not short stories, not television–but hypertext and video.

    Given that, if readers here have given themselves over to chasing and fretting over technological trends, they’d better get busy producing videos and highly (and visually) interactive books.

    Reply

    James Moushon January 27, 2012 at 4:38 pm

    James, thanks for your comment. I think the author should judge to what extent they use links no matter whether it is fiction or non-fiction. The readers will tell them if they go too far.
    I totally agree with you about education’s use of the ebook. The ereader is not the answer. I thought once that Amazon Notes was a possible help in this regards but not anymore. We need the tablets and laptops to step up with apps that will help with educational use of the ebook.
    In 2003, my software company was approached to develop a Windows package that could be used to access multiple ebooks at the same time, the internet and create documents with bib credits all in one place. At that time Microsoft reader software and Adobe reader (PDF) were the only choices. Of course that didn’t work out from the ebook standpoint. I am sure someone will catch this idea and write the software that will allow the student to get what should be at their fingertips.

    Reply

    JoAnn Bassett (Haberer) January 27, 2012 at 9:31 am

    James,
    Great post. I agree with everything you said–the ebook has to be a “value-added” reading experience in order to balance the “I love the feel of a book in my hands” complaint by folks who refuse to buy an ereader. My problem is I’m not proficient in “computer stuff.” I’d love to find someone (as in, hire a person) to take over this part of the business. I write books set in Hawaii, and I include a lot of words from the Hawaiian language because that’s how we talk over here. I’d love to be able to have a definition link on every non-English word rather than have to slip in some awkward-sounding context or put in a glossary. But I don’t know how!

    Reply

    Judy Link Cuddehe January 27, 2012 at 8:29 am

    This was very informative and I appreciate the insights. It makes sense to leverage the technology to transform the PRODUCT from its paper era format into a digital era product, rather than replicating the paper product. They have separate ISBNs, so giving them unique attributes that set them apart from what is otherwise a scanned copy of a hardcopy is what it is all about. Thanks for the timely food for thought!

    Reply

    David Bergsland January 27, 2012 at 8:51 am

    I find I almost always have to rewrite portions of my ePUBs and Kindle versions because things which are easy to do in the high resolution typographically sophisticated world of print do not translate well into an ebook. There is also the difference between B&W content print versus all color eBooks. B&W illustrations may need commentary which is unneeded on a color version.

    Reply

    James Moushon January 27, 2012 at 9:18 am

    Great point David. Authors need to know that. There should be a rewrite to take advantage of the ebooks capabilities.

    Reply

    James Moushon January 27, 2012 at 9:17 am

    Judy thanks for the comment. There is so much we can do to enhance the ebook experience. With color and tablets and new software we are just at the beginning of this. Watch out for the kids. They will demand more. I believe that’s why we are seeing a resistance in education. We are giving them a copy of the paper book while they are accessing current information on their cell. The e-textbook needs to be brought into the digital world.

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    C. M. Barrett January 27, 2012 at 7:57 am

    Excellent article and interesting to me as a former print book designer. I especially liked the section on how not to lose the value of a sample by moving much of the traditional print book front matter to the back.

    In addition, I have noticed that when I’m looking for a book to read from those I’ve downloaded, I often forget what the book was about. I’ve tried to address this with my own books by putting the Amazon synopsis at the front of the book. I wish more authors did this.

    Reply

    James Moushon January 27, 2012 at 9:16 am

    C.M. The synopsis is a great idea. My wife I believe lives and dies with her Kindle. I swear every time she sees something that is interesting, she buys it. She buys popular authors as well as self-publish works. I guess reading my stuff has rubbed off on her.
    But her buying gets way ahead of her reading and she keeps going back to Amazon and looking at the product description to pick which book she is going to read next. I am sure she is not alone.
    I would opt for a two paragraph synopsis rather than the complete product description. Some of them are quit lengthy.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander January 27, 2012 at 11:00 am

    I ran into this same idea put forward by people who sell articles, rather than books, on Kindle. The synopsis right at the front of the file makes a lot of sense for ereaders, great idea.

    Reply

    Marcie Lovett January 27, 2012 at 7:24 am

    As ebooks become more popular and more accepted, we’re learning how to make them better. Thank you, Joel and James, for the advice.

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    James Moushon January 27, 2012 at 8:55 am

    Marcie, thanks for the comment.

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    David Bergsland January 27, 2012 at 6:01 am

    I agree, but limits are put on us by aggregators. For example, Apple via Lulu will not accept any links within the ePUB. Maybe they’ll change, maybe they won’t.

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    James Moushon January 27, 2012 at 8:53 am

    David, thanks for your comment. I haven’t worked with Lulu. I used Smashwords to enter that market.
    My first question would be how does Lulu handle the TOC to the chapter headings? The bookmarks that are used in reality are internal links in the ebook. If they do allow internal links, put your references at the end of the ebook and link to them. You may not get the reader to all the information that is available but at least they will get something.
    One of the beauties of a normal ebook is size doesn’t matter. You can put tons of information in the appendix of the book and it will not interfere with the read. With the paper version, the volume would be apparent when the reader picks up the book.

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    David Bergsland January 27, 2012 at 9:24 am

    I write in InDesign. There I simply set up my TOC (and do not drop the story into the book itself). When InDesign exports the ePUB, it breaks the chapters using my headline style and adds all the link to the TOC style I choose. I usually make one specifically for the ePUBs.

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    Turndog Millionaire January 27, 2012 at 5:57 am

    Some nice ideas, e-books offer so much more user friendly aspects than traditional books, but like you say so many people will overlook it

    With things such as QR codes now and links we can create a mini world within a world that can take a reader down so many roads. Imagine a book with a QR code or hyperlink at the end of the chapter. it could look at an alternative look at another character, maybe one who hadn’t appeared in that chapter but never the less had a part to play. By directing the reader to a special web page it totally immerses them in another way that paper books would always struggle with.

    Matt (Turndog Millionaire)

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    James Moushon January 27, 2012 at 8:53 am

    Matt, thanks for the comment. You are right on spot. In my first novel, I referenced Belmont Shores, California which is a small ocean community south of Long Beach. Instead of going into detail about the town and interfering with the story, I used an in-book link to section in the back of my ebook that has more information about this quaint little city.
    I like your character idea. I thought about adding a cast of characters in the reference area but in the end I didn’t. I think in some novels when you have a multitude of characters, the reader gets confused about who the author is talking about some times. A character reference with an in-book link would fit in nicely at that point.

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    Beth Tobin January 27, 2012 at 5:25 am

    Great post! I work for a book manufacturer who has moved into the eBook market. This post addresses many of the challengers my customers are facing.

    One of my concerns is indices. We manufacture and convert many technical and scholarly titles with lots of indexing. Because the print page number is no longer relevant, coding the index to the page numbers is ineffective. Specific term coding is time consuming and therefore expensive.

    Some of my customers are quite rightly eliminating the index simply because search functions on eReaders. I’ve also explored the idea of simply coding index entries to launch the search function and been told by vendors that the coding would be time consuming and expensive.

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    James Moushon January 27, 2012 at 8:51 am

    Beth, thanks for your comment. I agree that it is time consuming and expensive to convert paper books to ebooks especially if you have a lot of reference opportunities but we need to look at the ebook as a different product.

    If you plan from the start of the book what you’re going to render in the ebook then at the end of the process, it should make additional referencing easier and less time consuming. (I keep track of this in a small database.) Authors should look at it from a link point of view rather than something the reader needs to search for.

    For example, now when I write a book, I keep my notes and research in a separate file. I will draw from the file during the rendering process, information I need for my in-book links. Of course, if authors are just going to create a digital copy of their paper book and not enhance it, than that is what they will end up with: a copy of the paper book.

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    Joel Friedlander January 27, 2012 at 10:52 am

    James, I wonder if you make a distinction between indices, which are inward-pointing links, and links that go to other locations outside the ebook? Anything you care to say about “planning from the start … what you’re going to render” would be very interesting for all of us who create print books and ebooks in the same workflow.

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    James Moushon January 27, 2012 at 1:52 pm

    That’s a good question. I think the ebook author should think about the reader and their experience in reading his book. Of course this answer depends on the type of book your writing.

    In a novel, the author should look for things that they don’t want to explain in detail in the book but may be of interest to the reader as background.

    For example, let’s say the book mentions a location in the Philippines and the author doesn’t want to go into detail in the content. If they think the reader might want more information about the location, they should include an in-book link to the appendix which has the additional information. Then the reader just depresses the back key and keeps reading.

    One of my pet peeves is a novel that references a character on page 25 and then, later, out of the blue, the character is mentioned on page 300. An in-book link can help with read-back situations like that. The author needs to understand what the reader is going through, keeping track of the characters and locations, etc. and take advantage of the digital environment he is writing in.

    I like to read Agatha Christie novels. Many of her novels start with a character page outlining the people in the book. With ebooks the special page isn’t needed but maybe a link to a reference to a character that are subordinate to the main characters would help the reader keep up with the story.

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    Janet Angelo January 31, 2012 at 8:05 am

    Hi, James,
    Good article, thanks, and as an independent publisher of both print books and ebooks, I try to do all these things, but I have forgotten to make the author’s and my website URLs clickable links! Must do that…

    About this statement in your post above — “One of my pet peeves is a novel that references a character on page 25 and then, later, out of the blue, the character is mentioned on page 300.” — THAT is a major writing flaw that should be corrected by a good editor. I have had to correct this very thing in many books in my years of being a developmental editor. One of the cardinal rules of good fiction writing is that a character should not be mentioned again in the second half of the book if she/he wasn’t introduced in the first half or was mentioned so briefly that the reader literally forgets who that character is! This has more to do with character development (or lack thereof) rather than a flaw of ebooks versus print books.

    Lynn January 27, 2012 at 5:07 am

    Excellent post!

    In 2000 I self-published a state history curriculum for private and parochial schools. I wanted to include over a thousand quality websites so students could discover history for themselves. I also wanted to use hundreds of full-color illustrations. This made a traditional format expensive, impractical, or impossible, so I programmed the curriculum for distribution on CD-ROM. An opening splash ToC splash page invites students to click to “enter” an era of history. I had never heard of an e-book back then, but essentially, that’s what I wrote.

    And it works wonderfully! Feedback tells me that students, and especially boys, stay engaged longer when they can interact with the material. I check my links before each school year and have not found it difficult to keep them active.

    Reply

    James Moushon January 27, 2012 at 8:50 am

    Lynn, thanks for the comment. I have had some people complain about links saying it distracts the reader but I think links are the advantage that ebooks have over the paper version. Like you suggest in your comment, fixing the links and republishing is easy in the ebook world.

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