You, too, can be an ebook publisher

Like the New York-centric consumer magazine industry, commercial book publishers and, frankly, most everyone, think of books found in bookstores and libraries when they consider what book publishing is. Perhaps they’ll concede there are some independent book publishers out there somewhere, and perhaps lots of books that are published by “the academic press,” but that’s about it. Oh, except for those “vanity press” things people publish, (that, in their minds no one reads). And text books, yes, there are those, also. And, come to the think of it, there are lots of reference books that are in bookstores and libraries also, but they would never show up in any review of books. And then, there are all those manuals that come with every product you purchase — I guess those are books, also. So there are many types of documents formated as books that are not listed in the New York Times best selling lists each week.

Our understanding of “vanity press” and self-publishing is evolving rapidly — even if the traditional publishing powers-that-be have refused to acknowledge it (with some notable exceptions.) However, with progressive authors like Seth Goden leading the way, and, the proliferation of a wide-array of technology (like on-demand printing and eBooks) and enticing business models (like Amazon’s 70-30 split of eBook revenues), the term “vanity publishing” will soon be placed in the trash heap of pejoratives.

Last week, a small, but perhaps significant step was made in this inevitable march towards the day when an organization or author who wishes to sell a book will finally finish off the disintermediation of what we currently think of as Book (with a capital “B”) Publishing: Apple announced that an update to its desktop document software Pages includes the ability to save a document as an ePub file is included.

While some observers have cast this as an Amazon vs. Apple move, such characterization makes little sense to me now that the Amazon’s Digital Text Platform (how one publishes an eBook to be sold via the Kindle Store) now supports the ePub format. I’m not a student of this particular skirmish of the technology wars, but it seems more of a slam at Adobe’s PDF format than a swipe at Amazon. (Adobe is also the company behind Flash, the video format that doesn’t work on the iPhone or iPad.)

So, here’s the deal: If you have a Mac and iWorks and you want to self-publish an eBook and sell it via Amazon.com or Apple’s iBookstore, you now have all the technology you need. (Of course, there are ways to do this using Microsoft Word and some hacking, but I’m talking about the easy way, not the Word way.)

(I feel the need to add a sidebar comment at this point: If you’ve never tried to sell a self-published book, you’re better off not trying it the DIY way first time out of the gate — or maybe, never. If it’s a book you actually want to sell, I suggest you enlist the assistance of what Apple calls “iBookstore Aggregators.”)

The professional designers who work with me have professional tools that export beautifully designed documents to more formats than I knew existed. However, I predict that for those who are comfortable in Keynote (the software, Pages, works exactly like Keynote, without the “effects”), this “save as ePub” feature could be a very significant step in the journey towards you becoming a book publisher.

Also, while this post pertains to “digital” eBooks, the process and “aggregators” also can be used with Print-on-Demand, as well.

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