So You Think You Can Self-Publish an eBook?

Of course you can. With the advent of the iPad and the latest incarnation of the Kindle and other ereading devices, people augured the end of the printed word and the downfall of publishing as we knew it. Along a longer time line, the future will probably reveal that enough people still enjoy reading paperback and hard cover books to justify their existence, and traditional publishers will continue to print them. Where ebooks will have the greatest influence is in self-publishing by making the process far more affordable and lowering the risk involved. If a self-publisher publishes in a printed format, there are several considerations to make:

1) How many books should I print?
2) Where will I store these books once they’ve been printed?
3) How do I get these books to buyers?
4) Who will be my distributor?

Price per unit (PPU) printing costs go down as print quantities go up. However, if you print 10,000 books to save money on the PPU, but can’t sell 10,000, you will pay the difference in warehousing (usually $.25/book every month). And what if you can sell 10,000 books? How much does it cost to ship? If you want to get your book into a bookstore to help you move the inventory, you have to hire a distributor and have a sales force pitch the bookstore buyers. All of this cost money.

Clearly these questions become irrelevant when you publish an ebook. However, new questions arise. Most importantly, into which formats should you convert your ebook? If every ereader could read every format, life would be simple. However, companies want you to buy their ereader. There is no universal format and several proprietary formats.

.epub: ePub is an internationally recognized ebook format. So far only the following software can read it: Calibre, Adobe Digital Editions (ADE), EPUBReader, Stanza, Aldiko, and a few others. Calibre and ADE are limited to PC use and can’t be read on smartphone devices. However, if you’re converting your book to an ebook, this format is a must have because it is compatible with Stanza, which will make your book readable on an iPhone, and Aldiko for the Android. ePub is also readable on the iPad, which is probably the most commonly used ereading device that is not solely an ereading device. ePub also supports the Noble Nook, Sony Reader, and Kobo eReader.

.mobi: Mobipocket books can be played with a free downloadable Mobipocket reader on PCs and mobile devices, such as Blackberries and smartphones with Windows mobile. But most importantly, Mobipocket is an company. Yep. The Kindle. You’re not going to get very far in your ebook publishing venture without it.

.azw: While Amazon owns Mobipocket now, originally it developed the .azw format for the Kindle. Anyone who owns a Kindle to a Kindle DX will be able to read your book in this format.

.lit: .Lit is Microsoft’s version of ebook software for the MS Reader. The highlighting and scribbling/quick note taking features of the MS Reader makes it a popular item. Unfortunately, Microsoft doesn’t play well with others.

There are other formats, such as prc, .lrf, and .pdb, but the devices that play them have been covered by one of the previously mentioned formats. Conversion houses may encourage you to convert your ebook into every format possible to cover all bases, which will add to the cost. My suggestion: Start with the top four and add as needed.

For more information on publishing and ebooks, visit my weekly blog.

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