Thursday, August 2, 2012

Pdf Publishing: Control AND Convenience!

  • Books are print media which are created by book designers to create a specific reading experience for the reader. To do this they need to have control over the output that you receive - the font, its size, the overall look of the page, in fact the whole book itself from cover to cover.
  • eBooks are electronic media that require flexibility for the text to be displayed in a legible manner over any number of devises and screen sizes. They also allow the reader the freedom to choose the font and font size they prefer for their eyesight and reading speed.
In both cases, either as the book designer or as the eBook reader, you are taking the creative work of another and displaying it how you see fit. In the former case it is placed in a carefully controlled environment to give a specific effect. In the latter you (the reader) take the creative work and you display it however the whim takes you. In some cases it might work well, in most others it will not.

Do you see my point? I'm treading close to an entrenched discussion I have with my college student son about art as communication (oh, didn't we have fun at last year's Picasso exhibit at the Sydney Museum of Contemporary Art!!!) Should a literary work be presented to a reader in a controlled environment or should they be given the raw content to experience in any manner they see fit?

As an amateur publisher of fan produced works, I see my job as being the author's partner in presenting their work to as wide an audience as possible and in as effective and stimulating a manner as possible. It is a fact of our modern world that time pressures are reducing our free time to read so that a convenient, if less than perfectly displayed, medium - the eBook - has its place. I'm still not sold that eBooks must, by definition, be plain. I've not done any development work on what is possible with them but I'm sure there are options that an eBook publisher can take that can improve this medium of display, not least being a great cover!

The other option, hard-copy, is closed to us because we publish fan fiction. I've long since given up on the idea that I will ever hold in my hot little hands one of the books we publish online as a physical paperback. Book printing has always been a culturally and politically hot potato so expecting the publishing industry to see my point of view is unlikely.

I believe though that we have found a third option that suits our purposes beautifully! Pdf publishing.

Before you reach for the 'Close Tab' button, dismissing us as just another bunch of amateurs who can't grasp the 'Big Picture', let me introduce you to our pdf publishing platform - you might be surprised with what you can do with the Old Girl these days!

One of the things, for example, that was a drawback with pdf was that you had to actually download the pdf before you could open it up and look at it. This was more of a problem on older systems where internet connections were slow and expensive. All browsers now have it as a plug-in so that you can click on a link and it will open in everything from Explorer to Opera. There are a number of web-based pdf viewers that have taken this a step further by adding free online storage, making them into on-line publishing platforms.

Our choice is Issuu and this is an example of one of our early books - an anthology of short stories formatted as an A5 Digest.

Go ahead, click the viewer! What you see is just a preview and when you click on it, or on the hyperlink below the viewer, you go to the full-screen viewer. There is so much to say about it that I can only touch on the highlights here.

It's Accessible - Sure, the software for ePub and Mobi is free and easy to download but is there a computer operating today that doesn't have Adobe Acrobat on it?

It's Archivable - You can download all our books as pdf files for free and they can be stored on any electronic media from your computer's hard drive to your archive of choice in "the cloud". You own it and can save it for posterity.

It's Future Proof - One of the more Luddite complaints against eBooks is that the software that your expensive eBooks are saved in might someday become unsupported. One thing you can bet money on is that Adobe Acrobat will be the Latin of 23rd Century computer users! It might not still be commonly used but it will be readable.

It's Graphical - How many eBook graphic novels have you seen? You probably won't see many either until the next generation of eReaders start to take advantage of the new standards. Because pdf faithfully recreates the printed page in high resolution and colour rendering, graphic novels are the mainstay of our book list!

It's Visible - You can embed viewers that will show different sized teaser viewers on social media sites from Blogger to WordPress and LiveJournal, from Orkut, MySpace and Joomla to Tumblr, Typepad and Facebook! All done using automatically generated code.

In fact, it is Very Visible! - Ever wanted your very own bookshelf? I embedded this into this page in less than five minutes!

There's more to be said, much more! Over the next few weeks I'll show you what we've done and how you can do it yourself - online publication that faithfully recreates on the screen anything that you can create with a word processor or DTP software and output as a pdf.

Of course I can't guarantee it will be a good book - only you can do that!

I'm a publisher, Jim, not a magician!

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