You’ve done it—you’ve written a book. Chances are that you understand the process for getting the book to readers to enjoy in a print version, but then you’re met with questions such as, “When will this be available for my Kindle, iPad, or smart phone?”
If the world of publishing content for mobile audiences is new to you, you need to consider a few things before starting the process. If you’re self-publishing, you assume all of the cost and effort, and need to know what challenges exist to get your book findable and readable to meet varying audience requests (and sometimes, demands). If you choose to work with a publisher, you need to meet a high standard of quality with the delivery of your book to all formats. Let’s take a look at some of the common considerations you’ll need to make when you transform your books into mobile-ready content.
What kind of book did you write?
Did you write a text-only novel? A textbook containing math formulas? Or a children’s book with colorful illustrations? The type of content you produce impacts the complexity of the conversion into an eBook. Often, a novel is easier to prepare and clean up than something with multiple columns, formatted tables, images, poetry with unique formats, and footnotes. Incorporating several of these items into your book increases the complexity, because the items must be reconfigured to fit what’s often a much smaller reading area for a smart phone, tablet, or eBook reader. And, even for a novel, there’s no easy button, because no two books are formatted exactly alike. For a majority of content, extracting and moving into mobile formats usually requires that you make edits.
Common challenges in the content include ensuring correct spacing after punctuation marks, delineating paragraphs effectively, reviewing accuracy of hyphenations, and validating style choices such as bold for emphasis or subscript.
What did you use to write the book?
Source material matters to the content conversion process, and directly correlates to the amount of time you’ll spend preparing and converting the book. A handwritten manuscript presents challenges because a person must validate and proofread the content in addition to scanning it into an electronic form.
Electronic files also present challenges. For example, portable document format, or PDF, files often introduce errors in spacing, paragraphs, and style when converted. Even standard Word files or extensible markup language (XML) files introduce challenges since no set of content is created especially to work with the conversion process.
What level of quality do you (or your publisher) require?
Before you convert your book to mobile formats, you need to research the available software, and consider whether you need to partner with a conversion expert to help the process run more smoothly. The software isn’t one-size-fits-all—you’ll need its conversion process to match your content. And the conversion process can be rough, requiring an expensive commitment of time and money to rework. The software needs to operate under some conversion specifications, but it also needs some flexibility to handle unique situations.
You can improve the quality before converting content by cleaning up errors upfront, or at least documenting areas you think might present challenges (i.e., complex math formulas or lengthy tables with images inserted).
When you do convert the content, start small with a prioritized sample of material that you can test. This representative sample quickly shows the level of quality you’re achieving, and if it’s not good enough, you can modify the process and tools before you’ve already wasted time converting everything.
Conversion introduces new items to consider. For example, in the paper version, you don’t have to think about the content automatically changing directions when a reader rotates a smart phone. Don’t make the mistake of skipping this step, because it’s essential to know how well the material works in each platform. When you complete the conversion, you’ll need to test the content within every device platform you’re planning to have available for readers.
Again, the type of content impacts the level of quality you or your publisher are willing to accept. If you create fiction novels, you might not have to reach the same standard as someone sharing the results of a medical research study.
Converting books to electronic, mobile formats isn’t easy, but it provides new opportunities to reach audiences across the globe. Armed with the understanding of potential issues you’ll face when converting, along with knowing how to select the conversion software and partner, and finally, knowing the level of quality you need to meet, you can manage the conversion process to run as intended.
Devorah Ashlem is a Senior Project Manager at Data Conversion Laboratory (DCL). DCL offers world-class data conversion services and software, and specializes in complex projects with expertise spanning all industries.