Thursday, March 11, 2010

Green Technology Strategies from and Barnes & Noble have my book Green Technology Strategies available in paperback (also on the Amazon Kindle electronic Book reader). Last December I pushed the button to have LuLu distribute the book. That was supposed to take six weeks, but has taken about ten weeks. I heard no more from LuLu about it and just happened to notice the book listed on Amazon today. I don't know if it is available via any of the other channels. It is supposed to also be available from Baker & Taylor, from NACSCORP and the Espresso Book Machine (but there appear to be no working book machines in Australia).

While LuLu's online process for publishing via their print on demand service works well, the distribution via other channels has been frustrating.

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Saturday, February 06, 2010

Government reports as ebooks

One response to my talk on "Making e-Books for e-Learning on i-Pads" at BarCamp Canberra 2010 was from Senator KateLundy. She tweeted: "With so much govt information online, Tom's talk makes me wonder about the merit of publishing public info in ebook formats too". This seems an idea worth investigating.

I have long advocated providing government reports as a set of web pages, rather than as one big PDF file, as is typically done. However, government people are reluctant to do this.

One argument against web pages is that they are more difficult to make, but as I show my web design students, if you take an accessible approach to design, then this is not hard. If the document designer concentrates on making a document people can read online, where most will be read, rather than concentrating on producing a pretty printed report (which hardly anyone will see), then web format is a viable option.

Another argument is that web pages are not legal documents, which I explain to my electronic document students, is not true either. There is a commonly held, but incorrect, assumption that government reports must be in PDF format to stop them being edited. It is more difficult to edit a PDF file than a web page, but not impossible. In any case this is irrelevant to the protection of government reports.

But I suspect the real issue is that a set of web pages do not seem as real as a "book" and does not have the needed look of authority a government report demands. Collecting the web pages up into an ebook format may give them the needed gravitas. This could done with a three step process:
  1. Here is the printed report, see it looks like a proper printed document,
  2. Here is the ebook, see it looks like the printed report,
  3. Here is the web page, see it looks like a chapter from the ebook.
As government agencies are already using content management systems, it should be feasible to support commonly used ebook formats with minimal effort by authors and publishers. The CMS would simply collect up a set of web pages and package them in an ebook format (a simpler system would do the reverse, saving the e-book and unpacking it on request to separate web pages, which might better meet archiving requirements).

As discussed in my talk on "Making e-Books for e-Learning on i-Pads", the obvious e-book format to use is EPUB. This is based on XHTML and CCS as used by government web sites. It is also being popularised as a format by support on the Apple iPad. EPUB requires some extra XML files, but these supply information which agencies are required to provide anyway and should already have in their systems.

Convincing agencies to use an ebook format should be a lot easier than convincing them to use accessible web pages. Instead of having to explain why a whole lot of decorative junk is not a good idea and that instead information should be clearly and simply, it will be just a matter of saying "yest, that is a wonderful animated app, but unfortunately the ebook format does not support it".

There will be some inefficiencies, as ebooks are designed to be standalone. Therefore the CSS, logos and "about us" text which can be shared between web pages (and automatically inserted as required by a CMS) will have to be duplicated in each ebook. However, this duplication already occurs with PDF versions of reports, where fonts also contribute to the size of the resulting files.

Ebooks should also make archivists happy as they include their own metadata. In fact ebooks are conceptually similar to the archiving techniques used electronic archiving systems, which wrap up all the associated files of an e-document along with an XML encoded set of metadata.

The public could still read an individual chapter of a report as an ordinary web page. The system could also still provide automatically generated PDF, if anyone wants it. But if the web version is offered first in the list of options online, I suspect most people will be happy to download a few dozen kilobytes of the summary of a report, rather than megabytes of the full report in PDF. I might try out the idea with my students this year and see if the practice then diffuses into the Australian government.

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Paper makes ebooks real

One of my throwaway remarks at BarCamp Canberra 2010 got the attention of the Twitterarty:
  • vinhvanlam Show someone single copy of a "real book" & they'll read and trust the online version says Tom Worthington #bcc2010 moodle to mobi to kindle
  • AndrewBlanda "When you have a real book (just 1 copy), people then begin reading the online version" Tom Worthington #bcc2010
This is something I noticed when helping set up the conference publishing system for the ACS. Holding up a bound copy of conference proceedings impressed many professors more than did a view of the online papers. But having seen one "real" (paper) copy, they were then happy to use the electronic version.

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BarCamp Canberra 2010

Greetings from BarCamp Canberra 2010 at the famous Room N101 at ANU in Canberra. There are about sixty people here so far and the room is filling fast. About one third of the room seems to be from Sydney, boosting the Canberra economy. You can follow the event in Twitter: #bcc2010.

The infrastructure is well set up with video projectors, WiFi, power-boards and Senator Lundy just arrived with duct-tape to hold the cables down.

For this I have prepared "Making e-Books for e-Learning on i-Pads":
Simple web pages and free open source software
to create an accompanying e-book for a university level e-learning
course. Educational materials can be provided for Netbooks, Amazon
Kindle, Google Android, Apple iPhone. This technique should also work
for the recently announced Apple iPad.

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Friday, February 05, 2010

Making e-Books for e-Learning on i-Pads

For the BarCamp Canberra 2010, tomorrow I have prepared "Making e-Books for e-Learning on i-Pads". This is about how I used simple web pages and free open source software to create a university level e-learning course and accompanying e-book. Educational materials can be provided for the Netbooks, Amazon Kindle, Google Android, Apple iPhone. This technique should also work for the recently announced Apple iPad for education.

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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Green Technology Strategies on Amazon Kindle

Green Technology Strategies Book on Amazon KindleAmazon have my e-book "Green Technology Strategies" available on their Kindle electronic Book reader. The PDF, paperback and hardcover editions remain available from LuLu (and the free web version on my web site). Amazon said it would take 48 to 72 hours to approve the book for the Kindle, but took less than a 24.

I specified a list price for the book the same as the LuLu PDF version. Amazon requires that the publisher specify a price no higher than other version, but then they added $2 to the price for delivery to the international version of the Kindle, outside the USA.

One issue with the e-book is the ISBN. I used the same the ISBN I had issued for the LuLu PDF version fo the book for the Kindle e-book version. This was because I could not find any way to enter the different ISBN for the PDF version into the LuLu system: it seems to use the same ISBN as for the printed book. As the ISBN was not used by LuLu, I tought I may as well use it for the Kindle. In retrospect, this was a bad idea, as that ISBN is already registered in library and book cataloging systems around the world. So I have now requested a new ISBN for the Kindle version. That takes up to five days.

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Friday, January 22, 2010

Amazon Kindle e-Book for Australian Publishers

Amazon now allows Australian publishers to publish e-Books on their Kindle electronic Book reader. I was able to register my Australian company address into Amazon's Digital Text Platform. One limitation is that only cheque payments are catered for to Australia, not electronic funds transfer. Due to the high cost of cheque processing, there would have to be significant book sales to make this worthwhile (Google now pay by EFT in Australian dollars, making the process a lot cheaper and easier).

A few weeks ago I attempted to publish an electronic edition of my "Green Technology Strategies" book for's Kindle e-Book device. Using Amazon's DTP web site, I was easily able to convert the book from the web format used by e-learning courses to Kindle's format. But I could not publish the e-book, as Amazon did not cater for Australian publishers with an Australian address and bank account.

Amazon some useful information on how to format your book. I have several version of the book to choose from. The PDF version did not convert well. I could have used the word processing version, but mine is a master document and I was not sure how well that would convert to Microsoft Word, as accepted by Amazon. I tried exporting the OOO version to HTML, but the results were not that good. OOO generated a table of contents with hypertext links, but the links are on the print page numbers, which do not make much sense for an e-Book (as the Kindle has smaller pages than a paper book). I could have used the web version of the book, but would have had to assemble all the chapters, which are separate web pages, into one document.

What worked best was the HTML generated by the Moodle Book module. This produces a good table of contents and creates reasonably clean HTML. I just had to remember to download the CSS file to go with it and zip them for uploading.

One change I made was to move the front matter of the book to after the table of contents. While with a paper book you can quickly flip over the boring stuff at the front, with a e-book this is tedious. It is better to put the table of contents first. Readers will see the front matter if the then scroll through the book, but will quickly learn the can skip this by clicking on the first chapter in the content.

One issue to be resolved are the external hypertext links in the book. In the USA, Amazon provide limited web browsing, but not internationally. The reader can't see the difference between local links in the book and external ones. The reader could get frustrated when the click on links which do not work. I might need to hide the external links for the Kindle version, or at least distinguish them. This is possible with some more CSS.

One catch with Kindle are the high charges by I get only 35% of the recommended retail price of the book. This is more than LuLu charge. Amazon also require that I make the cover price no more than the book is available from other outlets, so I cannot set a higher price for the Kindle version of the book.

In any case I thought it was time to stop theorising and start trying it, so I pressed "publish" and got this message:
Green Technology Strategies Tom Worthington (Author) 01/22/2010 ...

Publishing Green Technology Strategies. Your book is currently under review by the Kindle Operations team as we are trying to improve the Kindle customer experience. Please check back in 48-72 hours to see if your book was published to the store. This will not affect any titles you are currently selling in the store, but uploading updates to existing titles will take longer to process...
It will be interesting to see how long this actually takes for the book to appear on the Kindle catalogue.

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Monday, January 11, 2010

HP Slate Too Big e-Book

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer demonstrated Windows 7 running on a prototype HP Tablet computer (referred to as a "slate") at CES 2009. This was used to show the Amazon Kindle for PC e-Book reader software. What stuck me about the demonstration was how clumsy the device was to use . With a screen of about 10 inches screen, the device is too large to hold comfortably in one had and operate with the other. The unit in Mr. Ballmer's hand is wobbling as he operates it. This is too cumbersome for a usable e-Book. As suggested previously, 6 inches is about the largest size for a standard format screen which can be held comfortably in one hand (perhaps 7 inches for a wide screen device).

A lighter device, such as the Amazon Kindle, can be gripped by the edge with one hand, while operated by the other. However, the classic computer tablet design, where the screen extends to the edge and the device weighs too much to hold by the edge anyway, cannot be operated this way. It has to be propped against the body or placed on a surface.

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Thursday, January 07, 2010

Larger Screen Amazon eBook Reader

Kindle DX Wireless Reading have announced the Amazon Kindle DX International, a larger 9.7 inch screen version of their international eBook Reader. This has a 3G wireless modem, allowing for use around the world. The unit has the same format as the smaller 6 Inch screen unit.

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Monday, October 12, 2009

Replace PDF with Accessible Web Pages

This is for a submission to the AGIMO PDF Accessibility Review. As the Australian Human Rights Commission points out in their DDA Advisory Notes, organisations who distribute content only in PDF format risk complaints for not providing information in an accessible format. While it is theoretically possible to make more accessible PDF files, I suggest that the Australian Government take the simpler course of providing information in alternative formats, specifically as accessible web pages. This would be simpler to do and have benefits for readers generally, not just those requiring to use assistive technology.

Since 2000, when I was asked to give evidence to the Human Rights Commission on the Sydney Olympics Case, I have been looking at how to easily produce accessible electronic documents. Many tools and techniques have been tried by my ANU web design and e-document students since then, including accessible PDF. In the last few years an approach has emerged using structured web design. This is now to the point where it can be used to replace most uses of PDF.

Using now available web standards and tools, it is feasible to create one version of a document which can be read on an ordinary web browser, can be used with assistive technology, can be printed in a similar format to a PDF document and also work with smart phones, netbooks and e-book readers.

The PDF format was created for producing electronic facsimiles of paper documents. This provided a useful transition, from paper to electronic documents. That transition is can now be completed.

Most government material is read online, not on paper. The government should therefore switch its emphasis from creating high quality paper documents, to creating high quality electronic documents. The simplest and most cost effective way to do this is to create government documents as web pages, while ensuring they can be printed in an acceptable format.

As an interim step, I suggest agencies be advised it is acceptable to have a PDF version of a document (which need not be accessible) in addition to the accessible web version. However, the web version should be offered before the PDF (as readers will usually pick the first plausible option on a web page, without reading further). Currently readers waste time and network resources are being wasted with people selecting the full PDF version of multi-megabyte government reports, when all they wanted was an executive summary.

To create good electronic documents will require some training of government staff in e-literacy. Currently staff think in terms of what the document will look like when printed, and how someone will read it on paper. They need to be educated to think about how the document will look on various electronic devices and how people will access this information.

Apart from providing better information to the public, well structured web documents will reduce the server and network resources needed by the government. This will reduce the cost of providing the service and also greenhouse gas emissions from the lower electricity use of the equipment (3).

See also:
  1. The World Wide Web: For Networked Information Systems, notes on for The Australian National University course "Networked Information Systems" (COMP2410), Tom Worthington, 2009.
  2. Metadata and Electronic Data Management, notes for "Information Technology in Electronic Commerce" (COMP3410) at the Australian National University, Tom Worthington, 2009.
  3. Green ICT Strategies (COMP7310), ANU Masters E-learning course, Tom Worthington, 2009

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Thursday, October 08, 2009

International Version of Amazon Kindle e-Book

Kindle electronic Book have announced an international version of their Kindle electronic Book reader. This is designed to work with 3G Wireless mobile phone networks outside the USA, including in Australia. The international version has a 6 inch screen (smaller than the USA 9.7 inch model). While wireless access is free in the USA, it appears that usual data charges will apply in other countries (these charges could be considerable). The device could be useful for e-learning.

Technical Details

Display: 6" diagonal E InkĀ® electronic paper display, 600 x 800 pixel resolution at 167 ppi, 16-level gray scale.

Size (in inches): 8" x 5.3" x 0.36" (203.2mm x 134.6mm x 9.1mm).

Weight: 10.2 ounces (289.2 grams). ...

Storage: 2GB internal (approximately 1.4GB available for user content).

Battery Life: Read on a single charge for up to 4 days with wireless on. Turn wireless off and read for up to two weeks. Battery life will vary based on wireless usage, such as shopping the Kindle Store and downloading content. In low-coverage areas or in EDGE/GPRS-only coverage, wireless usage will consume battery power more quickly.

Charge Time: Fully charges in approximately 4 hours via the included U.S. power adapter. Also supports charging from your computer via the included USB 2.0 cable.

Connectivity: HSDPA modem (3G) with a fallback to EDGE/GPRS ...

USB Port: USB 2.0 (micro-B connector) for connection to the Kindle U.S. power adapter or optionally to connect to a PC or Macintosh computer.

Audio: 3.5mm stereo audio jack, rear-mounted stereo speakers.

Content Formats Supported: Kindle (AZW), TXT, Audible (Audible Enhanced (AA, AAX)), MP3, unprotected MOBI, PRC natively; PDF, HTML, DOC, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP through conversion.

Included Accessories: U.S. power adapter (supports 100V-240V), USB 2.0 cable, rechargeable battery ...

Documentation: Quick Start Guide (included in box) [PDF]; Kindle User's Guide (pre-installed on device) [PDF]. ...

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Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Publishing e-Learning material for Kindle

A few weeks ago I attempted to publish an electronic edition of my "Green ICT" for's Kindle e-Book device. PDF did not work well, as the Kindle uses a version of the Mobipocket format. So I decided to stop at that point and see if I could create a good quality HTML document in the format Amazon requires. It appears that Moodle can generate e-Books suitable for the Kindle which has significant implications for education.

The Green ICT book was originally converted from HTML created by Moodle's Book module. I was able to upload an IMS Content package created by the Moodle Book module to and have this converted to the Kindle format. produced an 80 kByte zip file for the Kindle, slightly smaller than the original 81.5 kByte IMS content package. The Kindle archive appears to have the same folders and files as the IMS original, with an XML manifest, a folder with a CSS file and a folder with a HTML file for each chapter. The only change appears to be that the HTML 4 headers of the IMS content package have been stripped off the HTML documents.

When previewed by the Amazon's Digital Text Platform web site, the book content is displayed in a window of about 50 columns by 16 lines of text, with headings in larger font and hypertext links underlined and highlighted in blue, much like the web page original (current Kindle devices actually have monochrome screens).

Being able to provide educational content via the Kindle essentially unchanged is very attractive, but has some limitations. The Kindle does not appear to display the table of contents for the book. This is displayed in an Learning Management System (such as Moodle) from the XML Manifest. Without the table of contents the e-book is very hard to navigate. This may be a limitation of the way Moodle creates IMS content, or the Kindle online emulator (perhaps the Kindle device creates the contents page dynamically).

The Moodle Book module can also "print" a book. This produces one HTML file containing all chapters (unlike the IMS format which has each chapter in a separate HTML file). I saved this web page from the Firefox web borrower, along with a folder generated containing a CSS file and images. When Zipped, this produced a 73.7 kByte archive file. After conversion by Kindle, a slightly smaller Zip archive (73.5 kBytes) with a similar structure, but slightly simplified HTML resulted.

The converted print file looked very similar to the IMS version when displayed with the Kindle emulator. The table of contents generated by Moodle in the HTML file was displayed.

With a table of contents the e-Book has sufficient for navigation. But I will check the Formatting Guides, before trying to publish.

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

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

E-books for the Australian Army

The Australian Department of Defence has issued a Request for Tender for "Provision of Computer Based E Books for Health Services at Army Logistics Training Centre". These would be used for medical training. An electronic book (e-book or ebook) is an electronic document designed to replace a printed book. The RFT does not make clear if it is for e-books, or e-book readers, the specialised tablet computers used to display the books. E-books are typically formatted in PDF and some type of HTML.

Apart from specialised e-book readers, small notebook computers (such as netbooks), PDAs and smart phones can be used. A good example of this is the OLPC, which has a rugged case, low power transflective screen which can be read in sunlight and which can be folded back over the keyboard to format a tablet computer. The OLPC would make a very useful semi-rugged and low cost e-book readers for the military.

See also, from

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