E-books and tools.

ereaderstabletsI’ve been learning a few tricks about sharing books electronically (sometimes called “self-publishing”), so I thought I would post some of the techniques I’ve found. These tips are extremely basic — most self-publishing authors will undoubtedly consider them kindergarten level. But after figuring out these steps, I wanted a place to record them for my own reference. The goal of my research was to find the easiest way to get a book into the hands of friends and family. I’ll try to update this post over the months as I learn more. But for now, we’ll start with the basics. (Note: This post does not include instructions for submitting a book to the online stores like Amazon, etc. That will come later. For now I just want to distribute my book manually and freely.)

Sharing the book the useless way.

The first time I sent out some sample chapters to people, I sent it as a .pdf document. That may be the best way to share business documents at the office, but it’s a terrible format for a book. Sharing it as an MS Word document (.docx) is just as bad. Both of these formats essentially lock the readers to their desktop machine, which is hardly amenable to an immersive literary experience! I’m not surprised that nobody ever provided any feedback from that approach.

For my next “mini-release” I plan to provide the book in formats that most readers are more comfortable with: eBooks. This will allow them to read it on virtually any device they own, including their iPads and Kindles. So many people own mobile devices these days, many of which designed specifically for reading. The eBook format employs what is known as “flowable” text, which allows the pages to fit nicely on whatever sized device you are using.

However, eBooks come in different flavors, so I will describe the process for each type separately:

Sharing a book for iOS devices (iPad, etc).

This is the easy one. Nearly every iPad and iPhone have built-in readers for standard eBooks. Which means they can read any book that is in the “ePub” format. So the first step is converting your text (the Word document or .txt file, or whatever you authored in) to ePub. One popular way to do this is to use the free Calibre software. I have used Calibre briefly, and it does seem great, but in my particular case there is an even easier method. As I mentioned in an early post, I chose to author my book using Google Docs. And, as it turns out, the nice folks at Google have just recently (in fact, just last month) added ePub as one of their new export formats!  Two clicks and I’m done! (“File” and “Download as…”).

Well, not exactly “done”.  I still have to get the eBook onto someone’s device. But that step is even easier. All I have to do is email the file (or provide it as a download), and anyone with an iPad or iPhone can simply click on the file in their email, and it will automatically open up in their standard eBook reader (which, for most people is iBooks). I’m really impressed and excited that this method is so easy.

Sharing a book for Kindles.

This method is slightly more difficult than the previous one, but not much. Unfortunately, Kindles don’t use the ePub format; they use Mobi instead (and Google Docs doesn’t export that format… yet.) But fortunately, there is a free software program that can do the conversion for you. As I mentioned above, it is called Calibre, and it comes highly rated by many self-publishers. And it’s easy: I downloaded Calibre, installed it on my desktop, and had my first Mobi book ready for distribution in just a few minutes. (Note: This is the method that I used and it worked. However, according to this page, there may be an easier way.)

Once the book is converted to Mobi, the next step (as with the previous method) is to get the file onto someone’s Kindle. Of course, Kindle owners can connect their device to their computer with a USB cable and upload documents that way, but that’s a pain. Fortunately, Amazon has provided an alternative method: email. Each Kindle device has its own personal email address (which you can find by logging into your Amazon account, navigating to “Manage Your Kindle“, click the “Settings” tab, then scroll down to the middle of the page under “Personal Document Settings”, or you can find it by clicking the Information icon on the Kindle itself; the address usually ends with “@kindle.com”). So all I need to do is send the document to a friend and instruct them to forward the document to their Kindle email. (IMPORTANT NOTE: This method will NOT place the book in their “BOOKS” list. They must switch over to their “DOCS” list and they will find it their instead.)

Well, that’s it for now. As I said before, I hope to update this page in the future as I learn more.

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