Thursday, May 26, 2011

Ebook Authors: Travel Guides are the Ultimate eBooks

Do you want to create a travel guide that is the centerpiece of your reader’s travel experience? You know an ebook that is the foundation of their travel decisions. A travel package that they have at their fingertips. One that will help them with every part of their journey.

You can do this but you need to look at your ebook differently. You cannot create just a copy of your bound version.

Last week I got involved in a discussion on Linkedin which was started by Nola Lee Kelsey of ‘The Voluntary Traveler’ about creating travel guides as eBooks.

This brought back a memory of an experience I had last November. At the time I thought that ebook authors were missing the boat on the opportunity to create a living, breathing guide that took advantage of a digital book. It has linking ability. It is convenient and portable. You can add notes and highlights.

I think travel books could be the ultimate ebook. The information in paper travel guides become inaccurate over time and the Internet links become quickly out of date.

Ultimate eBook

So what is the ultimate ebook? Right up front I suggest it should not be just a reproduction of the paper book. For starters, it must contain a live link back to the author, publisher and even the cover designer, editor and so on. I shouldn’t even have to mention that one.

But we are discussing the ultimate ebook here.

It should include links to the Internet for special references. The rendering process should create real links here not just the written URL for the site. This is a problem in many ebooks today.

It should allow a path to the Internet for the reader to find an updated link when one goes bad and as they always do.

In-book links should be inserted pointing the reader to extra material to assist them in defining special terms.

The ebook should have color pictures that fit on a small device screen. Eventually all devices will have color. Video clips will be common place.

It should be created so that it is easy for the author to update and change information.

The ultimate ebook should allow notes and highlights that can be copied to other applications like copying a paragraph to a Word document.

Keywords should be inserted at the appropriate place to allow easy searching.

The content should be written in snapshots, or chunks of information rather than a long dissertation.

So where does the Travel Guide fit into this and why do I claim it can be the ultimate ebook? Because it can be the complete deal. It can not only present valuable information but it can be the center point for your travel experience using the digital world. Let me explain.

Trouble in Paradise

I am a frequent traveler either by car, by bus or by plane. I am not picky. Just say let’s go and I am ready. Hawaii was calling so I started planning for my 10 days in paradise. This should be easy. I went online to purchase a Travel Guide about beautiful Hawaii. I thought an ebook version would be my best alternative, being portable and all. I downloaded a sample and I stopped right there.

As with many ebooks today, this was a very poor reproduction of the paper version. The table of content was one of the very worst I have seen. The book’s price ($12.95) was completely out of the question for what I was getting. So reluctantly I purchased the paper version. ($14.95)

Now I was stuck with over 750 pages of very good information that I could highlight and use to make my plans. As you can see from my picture at the start of this blog, I had no room to pack the guide in my luggage so I had to take a lot of notes.

How could a Travel Guide ebook and an ereader or tablet solve my problems? I started brainstorming how this experience could be improved and this is what I came up with.

The Travel Guide

Let’s start by saying the Travel Guide needs to be a package of information that will guide me through the planning and the sightseeing and leisure time with my being able to control the costs as much as I can.

A travel package, unlike a lot of Google searches, puts all the information and references I need under one roof so to speak or at least on my tablet. I recommend a tablet for convenience and portable and the extra apps benefit.

The author needs to use color pictures to sell his ideas. There is nothing like a gorgeous photo to spur interest in a location.

He should bundle apps with his ebook. Make apps available for the convenience of the reader. The free ones get the most interest.

The Travel Guide should be turned on for Kindle public notes. The author can use this vehicle to update information until the guide can be republished with updated information. Besides it is a good opportunity to hear what reader’s think about the content. In the past I sought used travel guides because former users would usually highlight things they were interested in. Sometimes you could catch a gem like a unique restaurant or night club. Others experiences speak volumes.

Another opportunity is to reference other books in the guide that are about the destination. Throw in a link to a travel game as an incentive to buy.

Paper travel guides have some problems that can be overcome with a well done Travel Guide package. The paper version’s biggest problem of course is the information is cast in concrete. The ebook can solve this problem big time.

Planning the Trip

So the ultimate Travel Guide armed with great descriptive content and color pictures starts the planning process. Now the traveler’s big money decisions need help from the author.

Budgeting and expenses/costs
Displaying a range of prices to assist in the budgeting is a big help. A spreadsheet or a template for tracking the budget is a good giveaway plus you have the opportunity to capture the reader’s name and a communication avenue like the email address.

Planning and Itinerary
The format for a digital plan could be incorporated like the budgeting above.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles
Now that I am here, how do I get around? Transportation information links can be invaluable for a tourist including subways and trolley data, where needed.

Hotels and Accommodation
A digital matrix of possible selections can help the traveler better organize the trip.

Appointments and Tours
A schedule app can help the reader organize their stay more efficiently. Bundle it in the complete travel package.

Paradise Cove Beach

So I am off to Honolulu armed with the ultimate travel package and a library of ebooks for my reading pleasure. I like the tourist traps so they are highlighted in my Travel Guide and I have added extra notes to jog my memory.

I have all the tools loaded on my tablet that I need to survive the island. But I have more in my package. I have a calendar with the special events I have scheduled like my luau at Paradise Cove, my Island tour and my visit to Pearl Harbor.

I have photo gallery software to keep my pictures organized. I use the tablet camera and note the location and time as I take them. I have software to keep track of the current weather and the forecast. I even have a currency calculator and a language guide loaded which I hope I don’t need.

And for those who enjoy the night life too much and need to ask the question. ‘Where in the world am I?’ I have Google Earth and Maps installed and a GPS locator to help me get back to the hotel.

Back Home at Last

All good things must come to an end. Back home I now have a record of my trip. I can compare my budget to the expenses I have been tracking as well as checking my credit card charges when the bill arrives.

I have a permanent record of the great time I had, all thanks to the Travel Guide package.

So What Makes the Travel Guide the Ultimate eBook?

1. It is a digital package and can be stored on an electronic device for easy carrying.
2. It is convenient and easy to update and add information.
3. If the authors rendering process is complete, the links will be there to access current prices, phone numbers, street addresses and web sites.
4. Turning on public notes can help in the planning as well as a record of the experience.
5. The Travel Guide ebook becomes part of the travel experience. It makes the content unique.

It makes the ebook a total experience not just a reference book.

Other Opportunities

Other opportunities for authors are publishing the Travel Guide in parts, being more specific to a location. I was headed to Oahu and information on the other islands was overkill. A smaller edition about Honolulu would have been just fine.

A frequent traveler may want a special version created for them or maybe a paid serial publication for travel destinations with updated information.

You may even want to include ads specials to various locations and link into affiliate sales to increase revenue.

The author must try to drive the reader to his home website. Updating the information must be an ongoing process. A path for the reader to access updated ebook links is a large opportunity.

We should take lessons from what you can do with a Travel ebook and carry it over to other kinds of ebooks.

You say this is all on the Internet. It is all about time and convenience. A complete package can save the reader hours of surfing and put dollars in his pocket. It would be the ultimate choice.

What do you think about my choice for the ultimate ebook? Can you think of any other candidate for the ultimate award?

Related blogs:
Rendering Your Ebook
Use the Power of Links

View my website: HBSystems Publications
Or EMAIL at:
Author: Call Off The Dogs, a rendered ebook
LinkedIn Profile: James Moushon

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Ebook Industry: Where Is Microsoft?

As the ebook industry progresses and the major players compete, it seems we are headed in several directions at once. Self-publishing authors are confused where to start with all the various formats and devices and platforms to publish on.

The major players are bent on keeping control of their domain as they clash with each other for control of the industry. You have Amazon and Barnes and Noble in a struggle for control of the online distribution business and the sale of low end ereaders.

Then you have Apple and the ipad and ibooks positioned a notch-up in price.

Following is Google with their great exposure and Adobe with their brand in the PDF format. As these major players battle it out, one question begs to be asked. Where is Microsoft?

A lesson from the past

We have been through this same type of industry fragmentation. The PC industry in the early 1980’s was in just as much disarray as the ebook industry today with major companies fighting for control.

I know. I was at ground zero on this one. When the PC industry started, the Phoenix area was a hot bed of PC development. Motorola was building the 68000 processor for Apple/MAC and Microage was franchising computer stores across the country. DEC (Digital Equipment Corporation) was entrenched in the minicomputer industry and had a large presence in the valley.

In 1980, I started a custom software development company in Phoenix to try to jump on the bandwagon. But like the ebook industry of today, the PC startup industry lacked standards. There were lots of different microcomputers. Each one had a different programming language and operating system. It wasn’t anything to be working on three custom projects with three different makes of microcomputers and three different programming languages.

At that time Digital Research was the leader in operating systems (CP/M) for the PC industry and Apple and Radio Shack (TRS-80) had begun their PC hardware adventure.

In 1980, IBM entered the PC industry and everything changed. They needed an operating system so they contacted the leader, Digital Research. They promptly refused because they wanted to control the process. Sound familiar.

Microsoft to the rescue. Microsoft agreed to IBM’s terms plus they added a Basic Programming language. Now software developers had something to hang their hat on. That one decision made Microsoft the leader in the software industry. MS-DOS made it a standard playing field for all the players.

IBMs next move was to try to control the startup of the PC industry. They licensed Computerland and Sears Computer Stores to sell the IBM PC exclusively. They put together MS-DOS(really PC-DOS), Lotus 1-2-3, and their PC and sold them through the stores. The PC wars had begun. This is similar to the confusion in the ebook industry today.

The PC needed software to make it useful. Lotus 1-2-3 started the ball rolling with the first spreadsheet written especially for the IBM PC. Following right behind 1-2-3 was the WordStar word processor and the dBase database system. These were the “big three” as someone once said. These were indeed killer apps.
These were great tools but users wanted them to work together. The parts were greater than the total product in this case.

Lotus Symphony was the first attempt at combining the three functions together with mild success. Again users were accustomed to the killer apps and the Lotus database and the word processor fell way short. It was not really designed for joint tasks.

Again Microsoft to the rescue. In 1989 they introduced Microsoft Office. It combined Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, and Microsoft PowerPoint with Visual Basic for Applications scripting language. Later they added Microsoft Access. Now users had the interrelationship they were looking for. Ebook users are looking for the same interrelationship. They want to do more with the information than just read it once.

Back then, the marketing was done by computer store. Prospects could easily touch and feel the products and the sales soared.

I will only mention COMDEX briefly because of the major part it played and as a segue into my ‘needs’ takeaways on this blog. It was a computer trade show held in Las Vegas every November. It started in 1979 and continued for over twenty years. This is where major product announcements and releases were made. It had been a “must attend” event in the industry.

For the last few years of existence of COMDEX, Microsoft kept the show going taking up a considerable amount of the convention floor. It was a place where small companies could display their wares and hope to catch on with dealers across the country.

Microsoft and the eBook

Being entrenched in the digital conversation world since 1994, I started changing my focus to ebooks in 2003. One of my clients wanted to put together a system using a PDA. So off to the computer store I went to buy a Palm Pilot V with its syncing ability.  At the same time I purchased my first ebook reader, a RCA REB1100.

I thought I would put their technical manuals on one to help them with the information overload they had developed. Immediately a problem arose that still plagues the industry. The REB1100 had a proprietary format which did not allow documents to be created in-house. Calibre has solved this problem now.

Ebooks were not new. The Project Gutenberg had been going on for years and most computer technical manuals included a CD with text, html or PDF files but no one had tackled any main stream novels or anything like that.

I started working with Adobe Acrobat eBook Reader (now called Adobe Digital Editions) and the Microsoft eBook Reader. I had been using the Adobe’s PDF files for a while but the free Microsoft ebook software seemed to be the best choose.

Most ereaders had screen problems, especially in bright light, but Microsoft’s Cleartype display technology solved the on-screen reading problem. Also, they had an add-in program that let you take a document in MS-Word and create an ebook automatically. (LIT format) A very simple process.

Their software included bookmarks, notes, a library function, online ordering and the ability to create free-form drawings or margin notes. You could zoom in on pictures and highlight text. It ran on any Windows platform including Windows Mobile.

It seemed like the best choice because Microsoft was entrenched in the computer industry. It seemed to be where the expansion was going in the new ebook industry. Wrong. Microsoft dropped the ball for some reason.

Now the ebook industry is fragmented with numerous formats and proprietary ereader operating systems with no path upward to the next level of devices. For example, you cannot insert notes and highlights on an ereader and do anything with that information on a PC without a lot of work.

What do we need?

We need standardization. Not necessarily one format but devices that can read the most popular formats. A tablet like the ipad can read the popular formats but the cost rules out many readers from ever going digital.

We need a place for a hands on experience like a computer store or a bookstore. Recently I visited an Apple store and I could not believe the activity the store was experiencing. Of course they are limited to the Apple offerings. Bookstores are positioned to push this concept forward because they are not tied to one solution.

The ebook industry needs a ‘SHOW’ presence. You know. A must attend show for readers and authors and device manufacturers with product displays and workshops. Maybe the computer electronics show held in Las Vegas every January would be a good start. At the CES show this year, ereaders were ‘the thing’ at the show but ereaders were a small fraction of the total activity.

We need a device with an upward capability to be able to do more than just read the ebook but use its content in other meaningful ways. Tablets will be the key here but the need for the low-cost device that just allows a good read will not go away.

We need an even lower cost color device to appear that is aimed at the children’s market. You know the kind that is made out of hard plastic that can be dropped and the content can be controlled by the parents. No need for WIFI or 3G here. A USB or Simm card will work just fine.

So where is Microsoft?

We know they are up in the clouds. Will this be our answer? In the future, will all ebooks be up in the clouds, ready for us to snag, read and go on our way? Maybe we are talking about paying a small charge to view an ebook but not necessarily downloading it to a device like the Netflix model.

We need a company to smooth out the process. It is going to be fun watching how all this shakes out. At the end of the day, new software and digital devices will lead the way.

To read a related article, ‘Lessons For the eBook Industry – Study the E-Forms Industry Beginning’, click here.

Another blog came across my desk, forwarded by Dominique Raccah via Linkedin,  about, a cloud eBook distributor, that is good reading on the cloud distribution topic.

Let me know what you think about where the ebook industry is going? What else do we need to do to push the process forward? Who out there wants to start an ebook only oriented convention?

View my website: HBSystems Publications
Or EMAIL at:
Or goto my blog: The eBook Author Corner
Author: Call Off The Dogs, a rendered ebook