Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Creating an ebook with eCub

One of the tools suggested by LuLu to create an Epub eBook was eCub (also for MobiPocket books, which are similar to the Amazon kindle format). I was able to install eCub on my Ubuntu netbook and run it. I also tried the more sophisticated Calibre tool but was unable to install it (and caused problems with my Linux configuration in the process).

I like the eCub approach which is that while it has a graphical user interface, it is a simple batch program working on a directory of files underneath. You place the content you want converted to ePub in a folder and then run eCub, which creates the ePub file. You can't preview or edit the document with eCub, you have to use other programs to do that, all it does is take the files you provide and package them up.

On my first attempt I created a book which has a cover and all the content, but the menu is not correct. However, this is good progress for a few minutes work (after hours of working out why Calibre did not run and what happened to my software configuration).

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Monday, March 22, 2010

Converting a manuscript to Epub Ebook format

LuLu now offer Epub eBook format as an option for distributing via the service. They seem to imply that they have a service to create Epub format, I could not find it. WHat I did find was "Can I convert my manuscript to Epub on my own?". This had some suggestions for tools: Epub Tutorial, Calibre (Free tool), eCub (EPUB and MobiPocket books), Google Epub Toolkit. What they do not seem to have is an online sercvice like the Amazon DPT service which turns your HTML into a Kindle book.

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Apple iPad online ebook tool

Print on demand service Lulu.com, are encouraging self publishing authors to produce their books in the Epub format used by the Apple iPad. My Green Technology Strategies book is avialable though LuLu.com and I was already considering a Epub version. So it was timely that LuLu sent me an offer, where if I created an ePub version of my book by 3/22/10 they would offer 50% off their usual fee. There is also a competition to win an Apple Ipad, but this is only for US residents.

Unfortunately what LuLu.com did not explain was what their new Epub service was, what it cost, or how to obtain more details. I assumed that if I entered the LuLu.com website with my user-id there will be details of the Epub option added next to the existing PDF ebook option. But I had to look in the help files for any mention of Epub. There I found Epub, but discussed as a variant of DRM. , which I assume stands for "Digital Rights Management". That is the topic of how to create a digital book seems to be treated as an exercise in electroncially tagging the file to protect the interlectual proproty rights to the content. So I am still none the wasiser as how to create a Epub ebook with LuLu.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Large print edition of Green Technology Strategies

Green Technology StrategiesThe large print edition of Green Technology Strategies is now available. After looking at the options for large print I took the easy way out and simply enlarged the existing typeset version to A4. This increases the print 130% to 14 points. This is a bit small for a for a large print book but has the advantage that the pagination and layout are the same as the regular edition. When I revise the book I will look at changing the font used and allow for a large print edition in the basic design.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Producing a large print book

With the e-book, paperback and hardcover editions of my book "Green Technology Strategies" available, I thought I might try a Large Print edition. These books use fonts of 16 to 20 points to make them easier to read for those with limited vision.

Guidelines usually suggest a sans serif font and wider spacing for large print books. For a novel, the larger font is usually accommodated by using smaller margins, a slightly larger page and increasing the number of pages in the book. But for a textbook, the page numbering can be significant.

The largest paper size offered by LuLu's print on demand service is A4 (8.26 x 11.69 inches). My PDF typeset original is designed for U.S. Trade (6 x 9 inch) with a 11 point Times Roman font. Simply by printing on larger A4 paper will enlarge the pages 130%, increasing the font to 14 points. This is a bit small for a for a large print book. I could reduce the margins to .5 inches (the minimum for LuLu), which would allow the text to be enlarged to about 138%, or about 15 points .

Other changes would require redoing the typesetting of the book. Currently I have just one typeset version for hardback, paperback and the e-book. Some of changes could be made to this with a large print version in mind, so the one original would work for all. As an example, a slightly larger font could be used for the standard editions, such as 11.5 point (up from 11 point) and slightly larger margins (1 inch up from .79). This would allow a larger large print version wile maintaining compatibility. Others require a different typesetting for the large print edition.

Times Roman is a serif font, which is not recommended for readability for those with limited vision. LuLu provide a limited range of fonts, which those in supplied PDF documents are converted to before printing (so it is best to start with one of these). Of the LuLu supported fonts, these are sans: Arial, Tahoma and Verdana. Of these Verdana looks the most suitable as it designed for readability at small sizes. Changing the font to Ariel adds about 10 pages to the book. Verdana is more generously spaced and ads about 20 pages. Increasing the font to 16 point would increase the book to 156 pages.

It might be worth changing the font for the e-book version as well as the large print edition. In fact it might be worth reversing the usual priority, where the print edition is seen as normal, and large print and e-book versions are derived from these. A standard size print edition with 11.5 point Verdana would look a little unusual, but be very readable.

Also adding 20 pages to the book might make it more marketable, with the customer feeling they are getting more (even if what they are getting is more white space). Originally I laid the book out to minimise white space, ignoring some printing conventions (such as starting a new chapter on an odd numbered page), so it looks a little crowded. Adding more white space, a larger font and larger margins would increase the book from 114 to 172 pages (a 50% increase).

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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Green Technology Strategies Hardback Book in Print

Green Technology StrategiesAfter some problems with the LuLu publishing system, the hardback edition of my book "Green Technology Strategies" is avialable (ISBN: 978-0-9806201-4-6) This took two hours to create, starting from the paperback edition.

The process of producing a hardback edition of an existing paperback book was something I thought would take a couple of minutes. LuLu.com have a button to push to create a hardback if you have already set up the files for a paperback. This seemed to work, copying all the book details to the hardback. I just had to specify if I wanted the book covered in cloth (with a dust jacket) or have a glossy printed paper cover (I went for the glossy paper).

The cover and book content were unchanged from the paperback. But then I noticed there was no where to enter the ISBN of the hardback (issued by Thorpe Bowker) which is different to the paperback. A check with the LuLu help files and some head scratching told me I had to go back a step before the one I started at. The problem was that LuLu assumed I would use an ISBN issued by them.

Then the subtitle on the cover did not quite line up the way it did on the paperback. This might be due to the slight difference in the size of the cover. A hardback cover extends a few mm beyond the pages of a book, whereas a paperback cover is the same size as the pages. I had to manually break the text in the subtitle so "carbon emissions" was on one line.

Then I found the LuLu price calculator kept rounding the price up one cent more than the amount I entered.

That all took about an hour to fix. Then I realised I had to modify the content of the book to include the new hardback ISBN in the front matter (LuLu automatically generates the ISBN and barcode for the book cover, but leaves the interior up to the book's creator). That required generating a new PDF file of the entire book and checking the pagination and paragraph numbering, then uploading it. Also I had to remember to upload the new front matter to the web version of the book and the e-learning version in the ANU Moodle content management system (which is the version my students actually read).

Last of all I found that the preview of the book (so people can browse before buying) was missing. The LuLu preview generator appeared to be producing a blank preview. After going through the process a few times I discovered the preview was being generated, just not displayed.

One thing which did work was that LuLU linked the downloadable e-book, paperback and hardcover editions of the book together, so that customers can see they have three versions to choose from.

All that took another hour. I guess that publishers earn their money after all. ;-)

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Green Technology Strategies Book in Print

After some problems with the LuLu publishing system print on demand copies of my book "Green Technology Strategies: Using computers and telecommunications to reduce carbon emissions" have arrived. So I have pushed the button to have the book distributed by Amazon.com, Baker & Taylor, Barnes & Noble, NACSCORP. Retail book stores will also be able to order the book through wholesale suppliers. This will all take two to six weeks.

Also the book will be available via , and the Espresso Book Machine which prints book on demand in store. The University Bookshop and Melbourne University Library were to take delivery of one of these machines, in 2009. This will be handy for students of my Green Technology Strategies course at Monash, RMIT and Swinburne universities.

The book printing machine is surprisingly complicated, consisting of a laser printer for the inside of the book, a separate colour printer for the cover and a binding and trimming machine. There is scope here fore an industrial designer to produce a simpler device.

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Thursday, December 03, 2009

Print on Demand Books for Libraries in Australia

In looking to solve my problems with Lulu.com Print on Demand (POD) for my book "Green Technology Strategies" I discovered some Australian connections. LuLu prints books in Australia and the National Library of Australia buys them.

One aspect of POD which worried me was that if the books are printed overseas, then there will be a high environmental cost in delivery. I criticised Professor Garnaut for his decision to publish his "Climate Change Review" for the Australian Government in the UK. Each book flown to Australia would cause 104 kg of carbon dioxide pollution.

If my "green" book was printed in the USA it would case unnecessary pollution. However, in ordering some more books I noticed that the postage was domestic and checking further showed that LuLu is printing books in Australia. Hopefully, the books travel a few hundred kilometres on a truck, not thousands on a plane.

Also in 2008 there was a National Library of Australia LuLu.com trial for the acquisition of items. NLA had some quibbles with the POD process, as this resulting in one order arriving in many separate packages, from different print depots, rather than in one delivery. But this seems to be more a problem of the NLA's old fashioned systems unable to cope with the modern world, than with LuLu.

Also selection of items was resource intensive, as LuLu simply supplies whatever the customer orders, it does not choose the books for you. This may seem a curious problem, but one of the services which book suppliers provide for libraries is to choose books for them. The library orders books on a particular topic, or for a particular type of reader, and the supplier provides what they think relevant.

There is the opportunity for a new business where an intermediary web based company selects books for libraries and then orders them via a PoD. Such a service might also be useful for individuals looking for a gift or a book for themselves. Amazon.com attempts this to some extent, both with automated suggestions, and lists of books generated by customers. A new service might also use the wisdom of crowds by providing the opportunity for the library patrons to suggest books and vote for a short list of what is proposed for acquisition.

A simple automated acquisition for the NLA would be any book published in Australia and printed by LuLu. Under Australian law a publisher is required to supply the NLA and the relevant state library with a copy of their book. This is not a burden for a commercial publisher who produces thousands of copies of a book. But for a DIY author this could be a burden. NLA might like to choose to simply buy those books themselves. They could offset the cost by offering the books for sale in their catalog and take a commission.

So far I have not managed to get my book into the NLA catalogue. Because the book was POD, NLA refused to provide "Cataloguing in Print", as the book was, in their terms already printed. They also refused to catalogue the book from the electronic version, they insisted on a printed copy. Because of a problem with the POD process I had no book to give them (I tried giving them a proof copy, with no response).

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Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Problems with Print on Demand Books

I am planning to launch my book "Green Technology Strategies: Using computers and telecommunications to reduce carbon emissions" at "Realising Our Broadband Future" in Sydney next week. But I have had some problems making the book available.

The book was available on the LuLu.com print on demand catalogue (Paperback and e-Book) and some had been sold. But then I requested LuLu add the "GlobalReach", which distributes the book via Amazon.com and conventional bookstores. Instead of the book being more widely available, it disappeared from the LuLu catalog. After getting no response to LuLu support I decided to try and fix it myself.

I "revised" the book, going back to the first step in the online publication process in the hope this would un-stick it. I then went through each step. When I got to the design of the cover artwork I noted an error message warning that the text would not fit on the cover. I reduced the font size and was then able to publish the book on the web site.

My dilemma now is: dare I request "GlobalReach" again, before the launch in Sydney next week? It may well be the problem had nothing to do with this and all will be well. But it may be that if I press "approve" the book will not be available, just as it is being officially launched.

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Monday, November 30, 2009

Is Lulu still in busness?

I am a little worried that my book "Green Technology Strategies" does not seem to be available via Lulu.com. Something seems to have gone wrong when I requested the extra option of distribution through Amazon.com and book stores. Instead what seems to have happened that no one can order it, even via Lulu.

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Friday, November 13, 2009

Problems with LuLu Publishing system

My book "Green Technology Strategies: Using computers and telecommunications to reduce carbon emissions" is available printed on demand by LuLu.com, or so I thought. LuLu will distribute books via conventional book stores for an additional fee. Part of the process is to purchase a copy of the book yourself to check before distribution. The LuLu system sent me a message saying the book had been dispatched, but a week later the book has not arrived and I have a curious error message. On the face of it this seems to say that LuLu's system has run out od disk space:
From: "support...
Subject: Problem with Lulu content item ...

Dear Lulu Customer,

We regret to inform you that there has been a problem fulfilling an order for http://www.lulu.com/content/7798786. Our printer has delivered us the following error:

190: CID 7798786 Error - Failed to download resource "https://partner.lulu.com/volume.../print/7798786_cover.pdf" to local file "C:\lulu_testing\job_repository\...\7798786\7798786_cover.pdf", error was: There is not enough space on the disk

Lulu Support...

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Friday, October 09, 2009

Amazon not supporting Australian Authors

I have prepared an electronic edition of my "Green ICT" book for Amazon.com's Kindle e-Book device. Amazon.com are now offering an international version of the Kindle for use in Australia. So it seemed a good time to publish. But after carefully formatting the book and uploading to Amazon's Digital Text Platform web site, I found I was not able to publish without a US bank account and US tax information. I am already registered as an Amazon Associate and receive cheques from Amazon. But the Australian address and Australian tax details which are acceptable for Amazon Associates appear not to be acceptable for Kindle. The result would seem to be that only US based publisher will be permitted to publish with the Kindle. This is unfortunate as it makes the device unsuitable for educational use. I attempted to get around this by seeing if LuLu.com had an arrangement to publish on Kindle, but they don't.

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Publishing on Amazon's Kindle e-Book

I noticed that my "Green ICT" book was available from Amazon.com via a reseller. In the processing of adding some more detail about the book, I noticed that Amazon was offering to publish an e-book version on their Kindle device. So I registered with Amazon's Digital Text Platform, and started the process of submitting the book for distribution. This consisted mostly of copying the book details from where it is distributed on Lulu.Com.

However, I got stuck at the point of uploading the text. I had assumed Kindle would use PDF, so I uploaded the PDF of the electronic version I created for LuLu to distribute. To my surprise, Amazon's system then proceeded to convert this to poor quality HTML. That the HTML generated from PDF was of poor quality is not a surprise: it is difficult to put back the information lost in the conversion to PDF.

So I decided to stop at that point and see if I could create a good quality HTML document in the format Amazon requires. The book was originally converted from HTML created by Moodle's Book module, which creates good quality XHTML (and SCORM Learning Object), so it should be possible to produce something much better than the PDF easily.

However, it is not simple a matter of taking the Moodle file and uploading it, as the book has some subtle difference from the e-leaning module version of the material (as an example, they have difference ISBNs). So I may have to take the Open Office XML file I created from the HTML and convert that back to HTML.

Amazon.com provide Formatting Guides, to help convert to HTML, with:
  1. Introductory HTML Formatting
  2. Advanced HTML Formatting
  3. Samples

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Offline guides to teaching online

Teaching Online: A Practical Guide, by Susan Ko and Steve Rossen (Routledge, 2008 paperback 339 pages, ISBN: 978-0415996907) provides a useful guide for those new, and not so new to Internet based education. About half the book is devoted to the technicalities of getting courses online and the other to the educational and social issues of interacting with students and encouraging them to interact with each other. One problem with such books is that they have to either deal with specific online tools, which not be the ones you have, or deal in generalities. This book takes the latter course, not naming products and giving a general guide. As a result it can be a bit vague on some of the details.

"Tutoring Online" by Tim Brook and Stephen Wall (CIT Solutions), 2001 is a more modest 50 page booklet on the same topic. It gives more specific details for Widows based systems and concentrates on tutoring online, not the production of courses. Unfortunately, the publisher CIT Solutions (the commercial arm of the Canberra Institute of Technology), do not seem to have done much to promote the book. I couldn't find it for sale on Amazon.com or elsewhere online. CIT, or the authors, could use something like Lulu.com for print on demand, as I did with my Green ICT course notes.

Both the books Teaching Online and Tutoring Online suffer from the quality of the print-on-demand process used to produce them. This does not allow colour, or high quality diagrams. One solution would be for the authors to providing a companion web site with supplementary materials. Also to avoid the general nature of the technology descriptions they could use the open source Moodle e-learning system as example. They could also provide examples online using Moodle.

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