eBook Formatter is a turnkey formatting and file conversion service to produce your work in formats better suited for the small screens your readers are using.
Mobile is the next wave of technology. Smartphones now outsell PCs and laptops. This trend isn’t going to reverse anytime soon. Meanwhile, the introduction of the Amazon Kindle has revolutionized the portable e-reader industry and sales of e-readers of all flavors are at all-time highs. Providing your books and ebooks in formats better suited to these smaller screens will win you favor with your readers and introduce new readers to your ideas.
The Truth about PDF
Portable document format (pdf) is a page-layout format designed in 1993 to ensure that a document looked the same regardless of the viewer. When the computer monitor ruled supreme for viewing digital data, this was a great idea, but its time has passed and its strengths are now its weaknesses. In 1993, the average monitor was 13″ and had a resolution of 600×800. In contrast, the Kindle has a 6″ screen, and the iPhone has 320×480 resolution. That’s just 1/3 the screen real estate as what was envisoned for the pdf.
When viewing a pdf of these smaller screens, there are generally three options:
- Magnifying glass
- Pan & Zoom (lots of scrolling)
- Reflowing (similar to word-wrap, but most free or low cost pdf creators don’t properly support the features that allow this to work – click here to see the result of that)
When Amazon introduced the Kindle, it opted to use the Mobipocket format. Mobipocket was an early e-reader format originally designed for PDAs. It supports text reflowing, text resizing, images, bookmarks, highlighting, and table of contents. The Nook from Barnes & Noble operates on the IDPF standard epub. Epub is also the format used by the Sony Reader, Google Books, Stanza, and Apple’s iBooks for iOS devices such as the iPhone and iPad. Epub supports text reflowing, text resizing, images, bookmarks, CSS, and table of contents.
A Word about DRM
DRM stands for Digital Rights Management. It’s purpose is to limit unauthorized uses of a file (such as pirating). Amazon ebooks with the AZW extension are mobipocket books with Amazon’s proprietary DRM. Epub supports DRM with Adobe ADEPT. I do not provide files with DRM for two reasons. For one, it is either costly (Adobe’s Content Server, which handles ADEPT, costs $1500/year + usage fees) or not possible (Amazon has not released any tools for their DRM). For two, it just doesn’t work.
Books have been pirated as long as they have existed. First it was with hand-copying, then photo-copying, and scanning. Meanwhile, DRM protections all get hacked, usually sooner than later. DRM tends to frustrate ordinary users who want to do ordinary things, rather than those interested in freely distributing your work. Besides, sales of non-DRM files are just as robust, if not more so, than for DRM’ed files. Removing the DRM from songs sold in iTunes certainly hasn’t hurt Apple! For more thoughts on DRM, please read Cory Doctorow’s Content, available for free and in multiple formats.