An of the cuff remark to Mary Elgar from the Bridgetown Historical Society began a trip down the rabbit hole of digital books.
I was having a latte with Mary after buying copies of her fantastic book A Mere Country Village when she mentioned eBooks. With my usual assuredness, I said it can’t be that difficult to convert a manuscript already in PDF or Word into an eBook to read on an iPad, Mac or another device.
After many months of research and head-scratching, browsing numerous websites produced by graphic designers, publishers, self-published authors, big players like Amazon and IngramSpark, I have concluded that eBook conversion is a minefield that takes a lot of navigating to work your way through.
There are literally thousands of eBook conversion services available on the web. Many are entirely automated where you pay by the page. These services have a mixed reputation at best, and I’d stay clear of them.
Then there are the small publishers with IT specialists and graphic designers that will lovely and expertly produce beautiful ebooks. If I wrote a graphic novel or an illustrated children’s book, I'd use this type of service. It’s worth the expense.
Big online publishers such as IngramSpark offer the service merely so that you are obligated to sell through them. Your PDF or Word document has to be immaculately formatted or their automated converters will reject it. Its complex and frustrating. The royalties are steep.
Amazon Kindle offers a neat eBook converter but again, you have to sell through their Kindle Store. Any book over 50MB can't be downloaded from an email or file folder and exported to a Kindle app. Royalties are also steep.
If you’ve downloaded an eBook from Amazon or Apple or borrowed one from your local library’s Libby or BorrowBox services, the type of ebook you will be reading is called reflowable. You can alter the font type and size and the text "reflows" or adjusts accordingly.
Reflowable is adequate for novels or books that don’t have much format complexity. The books I sell, however, are thick with images, interviews and quotations, footnotes, bibliographies and indexes. Every page looks different, and the author has gone to a lot of trouble placing images and text into position on the page. The narrative relies on all the elements on the page working symbiotically.
That’s where fixed-layout conversion comes into play. Fixed layout keeps all the elements of the page together. It's like a secure PDF that is readable through iBooks, Google Book Play, Kindle and so on.
We’ve decided that the eBooks we convert and sell will be in the fixed-layout format. They maintain the look of the hardcopy page but have the bonus of full-text searching and zooming in/out. Copying images and text is difficult and so enforces copyright.
Thanks to Mary Elgar and the Bridgetown Historical Society for producing such an excellent book for us to do our first eBook conversion.
You’ll find A Mere Country Town eBook details here.
You’ll find a quick guide to downloading our eBooks here.
Want to turn your book, research paper or presentation into an eBook? Contact us
Honest History is a website and newsletter that contests and challenges the misuse of Australian history for political agendas. It offers evidence-based interpretations to students, teachers, universities, journalists and the public.
Up until February 2019, its Board included noted Australian academics and commentators Professor Frank Bongiorno, Professor Peter Stanley and Dr Alison Broinowski. I don’t know the reasons why it became unincorporated, but the website and newsletter continue under Dr David Stephens as Editor.
It's worth reading their Editorial and Moderation Policy before plunging into the many hotly debated themes of Australian history discussed. This website is not for the faint-hearted that holds dear the myths perpetuated about Australian historical events. “There is much more to Australian history than the Anzac tradition; there is much more to our war history than nostalgia and tales of heroism.” (Honest History)