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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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, September 22, 2008

Printing books on demand missing the point

News reports indicate that Espresso Book Machines (EBM) are being installed in some Australian bookstores and US libraries. The EBM is a Print-On-Demand (PoD) book printing service using a laser printer and binding machine which prints books from PDF files on demand. But it will still take several minutes to print a book and so I am not sure this is a viable service. Also I don't think the future of university librarians is in the book printing business, it is in running the teaching facilities in the learning commons.

For PoD you need a printer which is quick enough to do it in the time people are prepared to wait, but cheap enough to buy and easy enough to run. That is very difficult. Print on demand, deliver next day is much easier.

High speed laser printers cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. To make them pay their way they have to print a lot of material each day and they need trained staff on hand to keep them working.

There are still economies of scale in printing, even for print on demand. If the book is not available within a few seconds, then for many customers they will be happy enough to have the book delivered overnight. With the delievry time changed from minutes to hours, the codered can be consolidated at a larger facility servicing a city (or a country). A large high speed printer can then be used with staff who know how to work it.

But PoD is largely irrelevant to publishing. It is a bit like seeing email to fax interfaces as important to the future of written communications. We spent a lot of time worrying about email to fax interfaces about fifteen years ago. It turned out that worrying about faxes was a waste of time, as email quickly supplanted it. There are still fax machines and email to fax is useful, but not very important.

Being able to print documents, such as "books", is useful, but not very important. The real document is the electronic version and print just an option, useful for some limited purposes.

The ACS has made this transition with its Journal of Research and Practice in Information Technology. For most of its 40 years, this was a traditional printed publication sent out by mail to subscribers. We still produce printed copies for those who want them. But I expect we will be down to about 200 print subscribers out of 15,000 by the end of this year.

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