Thursday, June 2, 2011

eBook Authors: Render Thy eBook or Miss The Boat

I am a non-fiction and technical book reader at heart. Lately I have become addicted to ebooks. I like the ability to get the ebook anytime and anywhere and read it anytime I want. Recently a historical fiction hardcover book was passed to me. A book about Elizabeth 1 of England and the period in history called the Tudor dynasty.

Sometimes I like to read a good historical fiction novel and this turned out to be a good one. After I was about half way through the novel, the analytical part of me took over. This hardcover book was the ideal candidate for an ebook.

It was large and heavy. It was over 670 pages and weighed in at almost two and a half pounds.

I put down the book. I needed to see how this book appeared as an ebook. Online I went and seconds later the same book was on my Kindle. No expense spared for my blogs.

As a side note the Kindle version was $14.99. Ouch!

I started a comparison of the hardcover and the ebook. I wanted to find out what the publisher had done in the way of creating the ebook. They had made it digital okay. They did add a linked table of contents and they did put a link to their website. That was it.

The potential for so much more was there. What could they have done to make this a real ebook not just a copy of a hardcover book?

Right up front they missed the opportunity when they listed the author’s credits. They listed several of the author’s books with no links to a buy page. I guess they wanted me to go to the Internet and search for the other books, if I was interested. There I had the purchasing device in my hands and they missed the opportunity.

Next there was no mention of a website for the author or even better a link to that site to get the reader hooked on the author’s books. Now mind you this was not an older book that the publisher was just getting around to digitizing. This was a brand new release. I went back to the hardcover and that information was missing there also. Finally they got it right on the dust cover. There it was. A web address for the author.

The cover was not included in the ebook, just a title page. I don’t understand that one.

There were many historical characters referenced whose names I recognized like Sir Walter Raleigh, Sir Francis Drake and Shakespeare. Some I had never heard of like Robert Dudley, one of the main characters in the story and in English history. This was a great opportunity to have some information in the appendix about him and many of the other fringe characters. Not done.

I am one of those readers that always is looking back in the book to try to keep up with the story. In-book links added in the rendering process can help the reader with this problem especially with a book of this size. Sorry no effort here.

How about a family tree of the Tudor dynasty? Or some background on the Spanish Armanda? Or some pictures of some of the characters? Wikipedia has some great pictures of Elizabeth and her followers. I can think of lots of things I could do to make this a real ebook.

This book is a great read but there is little or no effort made to make it a real good ebook. If you’re going to read this book while you are traveling, you definitely want the ebook version. It is not a book that you want to read on your cell phone or blackberry. So why not go further than just a copy?

By the way for you ebook reading buffs, I am 54% done with the hardcover version. eBook Authors, you are taking notes aren’t you?

Good Examples of Rendering

First I would like to highlight a good example of how an author can use the power of in-book links during the rendering process. Bloody Omaha by biographer Garry M. Graves is a rendered ebook. His ebook had 39 pictures and illustrations in which he needed to give credit to the sources. Instead of interrupting the reading process, he linked the picture’s titles to a credit note in the appendix of the ebook. If the reader wanted to know the source of the picture, the information was just a click away.

Another example is my novel, Call Off the Dogs, a story about the Assassination of President Kennedy. This is a rendered ebook with in-book links to various terms, location descriptions and color pictures to assist the reader in enjoying and understanding the content. That additional information is also held in the appendix of the ebook so it doesn’t interrupt the reading flow.

Another example of rendering to improve the ebook experience is the use of links in Travel Guide ebooks. So many times the ebook Guides don’t have quality links to important information. Again most of the Guides I have read are just copies of the hardcover version.

Missing the Boat

I think we are missing the boat here. Not only traditional publishers but self-publishers are falling into the same trap. Let’s get the printed version out there and follow up with a copy in an ebook format. No wonder the indie authors/publishers are getting a bad rap. And the traditional publishers must feel like that with little or no effort they can add to their bottom line.

We need to do something here. What are your ideas? Do you think new ebook author can take advantage of the ebook technology? Is a copy of the original hardcover version good enough?

Related blogs:
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Author: Call Off The Dogs, a rendered ebook
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  1. This is such a hot topic in publishing, but as a childrens illustrator I would agree that print and ebook can go hand in hand. There is still an audience for print and of course a growing audience for ebooks. Why not give people the option?

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