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Beyond eBooks

Posted on 2012-Dec-29

by BB eBooks Staff

General Overview


The current trend of transforming traditional page-flipping familiarity into digital finger-scrolling gestures has led fiction and non-fiction books to fall into two categories: 1) fixed layout and 2) reflowable presentation. Whether the new form of presentation can fit nicely on your screen depends on the file format you work with. Despite the major differences between the two digital presentations, virtual data make it much easier for readers to carry a library full of knowledge and entertainment in their pocket whether they are docked to their workstation in office or on the go during business trips. Unlike the tangible counterparts, eBooks flexibility allows you to interconnect your data from any synchronized devices. The convenience of high-speed mobile data access makes it much easier for readers to buy new eBooks at anytime from anywhere. Before exploring how eBook potentials can become your new marketplace of turning your expertise data into successful distribution, please take a look at how the eBook has two different layouts for two mindsets: reproduction of print settings or reflowable content befitting any viewport (be it desktop, tablet, or smartphone).

PDF Fixed Layout Popularity and Limitation


There are new challenges when you have to choose the right digital format to produce your content. Some eBook formats are not compatible on certain devices. For instance, Amazon’s Kindles do not support EPUB without first being converted whereas Apple’s iPad does not directly welcome Amazon’s proprietary format, AZW/MOBI/KF8. When it all boils down to the popular format that all readers are familiar with, the long-standing PDF format has long been the quick and perfect solution especially for those who prefer fixed layout. Having been invented in 1991 by Adobe, the Portable Document Format (PDF) still proves to be the widely known format for professional and personal use. Apart from mimicking the print, PDF can contain clickable links, buttons, form fields, video, and audio. Please read more in the product page. Scrolling on PDF is like a breeze to get the same impression when you read a print book or document. Zooming in and out is so easy that anybody can do it in a jiffy. The format is also best appropriate for newspaper and magazines that use nicely designed text layout. However, in order to read PDF more comfortably, a big screen remains the perfect way to read text more effectively. The problem is we do not always read on big screens anymore. Since our smartphones and tablets have become widely used, readers might find it time-consuming to read the text in PDF clearly on these devices with their smaller viewports. Instead of zooming in on the text in particular, readers enlarge the entire page unnecessarily. Imagine having the magnifying glass move all over the page just to read small portion of texts? It is rather annoying.

In order to read the entire page on a small screen, you might have to keep zooming in and out to comprehensively understand the whole story for one page. Only the room on widescreen monitor or LCD TV can perfectly display the entire height and width as determined by the publisher for readers to read comfortably. Read this article to understand the frustration behind the actual experience reading PDF on devices of various screen sizes.

EPUB Reflowable Game-Changers


Another lesser known format is open-source and free EPUB that brings the best out of publication with reflowable content. Content is best optimized to work on mobile devices whether they be smartphones, eReaders, or tablets. Unlike PDF, texts appearing on EPUB can be freely adjustable since the code is structured to fit the screen of any size. Although reflowable content has long been known in website presentation, EPUB takes the eBook reading experience to the next level. With text-centric books like fiction, adjusting fonts merely enlarges or reduces texts rather than affecting the entire page. Whether you read the text in portrait or landscape mode, there is no need to scroll left and right since the format is trained to fit the screen width so naturally. However, two disadvantages that prevent the user from mainstreaming it are the complication of file conversion and the lesser support for general users. Admittedly, Adobe Acrobat Reader has been in the headlines for two decades and the creation process is supported well in every word processing software or internet browser. No wonder most traditional publishers ignore the revolutionary EPUB platform for ultimate reading pleasure.

Under the umbrella of EPUB, there are several other geeky filenames that might be worth converting your license-restricted DOC or publisher-restricted PDF to these formats for your on-the-go audience.

  • MOBI had a long history in France since 2000 before being relocated to Amazon’s newfound home in 2005. The file format became the sought-after treasure when Amazon applied a Midas Touch to make sure that this will be the standard for their Kindle line of products. The format itself is rapidly aging in the backdrop of transitional period in book industry that needs versatile tools to present the best experiment with audio-visual presentation, graphic management, and hyperlink management.
  • KF8 is the latest evolution of Amazon’s attempt to satiate readers with enhanced eBooks. The name can be directly related to Kindle Fire tablets, as well as newer eReading devices like Kindle 4, Kindle Touch, and Kindle Paperwhite, that incorporate the better support of CSS3.

Why Are There So Many eBook Formats?


Do not be overwhelmed by the comparison of 27 eBook formats. The introduction to the various formats paves ways for us to see how those differences lead to one solution; that is, eBook creation. In reality, consumers pick only a few selections for their popular devices. Regardless of the three-letter extension filename will suggest, the main benefit of digital convergence is convenience. Users can transfer their reading materials from one device to a host of other devices, take the files with them no matter where they go, and access the searchable information instantly. As long as the soft copy is stored securely in the device or the cloud-based server, printing might not be the number one option any longer. If prints are crucially needed, a rough calculation based on print-on-demand (POD) costs can save you top dollar to obtain a book.

Why is an eBook so significant? Imagine the future world when deforestation worsens the global warming, paperless solution is one handy strategy that we can start policing our own initiative towards such environmental-friendly goals. In eBook platforms, we read and exchange ideas on the cloud without paper being involved if not needed. Every year, paperwork from bureaucracy gets piled up in the storage room in every organization, particularly in Thailand. To worsen the matter, dispensable notepapers like Post-it® notes are only good for a few scribbles; in hotel room guests read numerous regulations that have been cramped together on plastic sealed paper; companies print their corporate training or policy manuals to collect dust on the shelf when flipping through a page is a privileged boredom one could fathom. What if you can save giga-sized cabinet space to afford a virtual library full of corporate eBooks on the server where everyone can access the updated information in real time?

Up until now, you might have argued that the advent of Word processing software did the fantastic job in saving up papers. Yes and I have realized the fast and reliant typewriting and editing software that empowers a computer user to become a digital content provider. The MS-Word innovation has inspired people to write and voice their thoughts more professionally and effectively. Unfortunately, if you pay close attention to what the publication industry is all about, you are fully aware that eReaders do not support any Microsoft’s closed systems that requires a hefty investment in buying their license. Formerly, universal popularity of Microsoft Office became an undeniable force that every computer needed to buy the license. Nonetheless, open-source challenges such phenomenon by removing the restriction and offers availability and affordability to any curious user who might want to experiment with the revolutionary reading experience and save their budget.

More Affordable eReading Devices


Due to the decreasing prices of eReaders, the possibility that their manufacturers can make use of its non-glaring display, front-lit screen, and long-lasting battery to replace paper usage can create thousands of jobs for new developers and change the repetitive usage of wasting paper. Tablets that bear the Google operating system Android with their LCD glass screen can provide rich infotainment experience in addition to reading. Instead of sorting through the hotel’s announcement printed flyers and bibles, guests might log in to the hotel’s server to retrieve guides and instructions for guest’s reference to best practices, general rules and prohibitions, fees, etc. while staying. Instead of being stuck with reading a Gideon's bible, they might be able to read the pre-loaded bible in several other languages on the reading devices of their choice. Seen in this way, the hospitality and F&B industry can benefit so much more from eBooks to provide guests with interactive information rather than dormant prints.

Corporate Scenario


For corporate use, the HR department can simultaneously publish the corporate training eBooks for all employees to download the entire document and read them on their personal devices with an EPUB reader. No more leaving prints being abandoned inside the stone-heavy cabinets. One of the greatest benefits about eBook production is that you can update your content in real time. Necessary training updates might suit the sales department’s needs whose staff spends more time working outside the office. The conveniently accessible data follows them wherever they go and whenever they need help. For general progress reports, news, or activities, the PR department can compile this data in a downloadable eBook to attract investors and media agencies. Why just rely on boring old PDF that will be unreadable on a smartphone or tablet? We have seen those reports converted to PDF numerous times before, why don’t companies offer some unique reading experience for new mobile generation that encourages the use of reflowable content?

Taking this book about Organizational Strategy for an example, the competitive prices between Paperback and Kindle Edition might not be so different any longer but Amazon Best Sellers Rank in Product Details section tells a different story. While the print is ranked as #734,556 in Books, the Kindle Edition scores a much higher position at #252,041 in Kindle Store. If you look closer at the difference between the Top 10 Best Sellers in both stores, you can see that the competition with non-fictions is not so strong in Kindle Store. Perhaps, Kindle customers do not generally like corporate-type material. Maybe, they prefer to daydream their fantasy on their eReader. The truth is the sky is the limit for you to take your business skill into the marketplace. Who knows? You might want to combine some exciting elements of fiction to tell a story about how to be a good leader. Essentially, readers need motivational or convincing direction to become a better person whether from fiction and non-fiction. There's also no reason to sell corporate-based material through the Kindle store, and your company could set up your own way to distribute EPUBs.

Instantly Accessible Education = eTextbook


Another industry that befits the eBook business model very well is education where students became the great customers of the digital products. eTextboooks have been around for some time so why corporate training eBooks cannot live in the limelight of the previously described functionality? The reason why the digital textbook became so popular is how Kindle eTextbook has been integrated in Amazon ecosystem. The digital textbook can be read across platforms as long as the user’s tablets and smartphones has the Kindle application (featured in Apple App Store and Android Play Store) installed on their reading devices. Amazon’s Textbook Store shows how the Kindle Price is very competitive compared to the physical book. Barnes and Noble also offers similar details but clearly shows price differences between print textbook, print book rental, and digital book rental. If you have a Nook account, you can even download the trial version wherein you can look inside any book at Amazon. PC World previously wrote an article why different publishers are going the digital route. Nonetheless, eTextbooks still have flaws when it comes to license expiration. Due to its massive database, Charlotte P. Lee, Washington University professor, doubts whether the content itself requires a special device to handle the sophisticated structure of textbook. Yet, she is confident that eTextbook will “eventually be the norm.” According to the survey of the National Association of College Stores, 39% of students had used eReaders. Their student’s use of dedicated reading devices has soared up 19% from 5% in several months as of 2011. A brick-and-mortar bookstore owner at Pennsylvania State University estimated that he would sell fewer books since students do not need middleman to access their learning materials.

Interactivity to Reflowable Flexibility


In order to understand why readers are rapidly attracted to eBooks in the fiction market, reflowable content might play the leading role in providing them with the interactive choice to choose the best font size for their devices. In typical print standards, fixed layout has promised the optimal presentation by locking the position of images, texts, and page width and height. Print books come in a single size and even remain unchanged on digital device through PDF or InDesign rebirths. The problem is newer reading devices have different screen sizes and viewing angles. Some readers might choose to read on their smartphones while others want to carry the heavier weight for a wider screen on tablets. Avid readers can be addicted to eReader’s eye-pleasing screen quality and its light weight. Unfortunately, reading fixed-layout books on smaller screens can be annoying especially because readers have to zoom in certain parts of text for clarification. Readers end up spending a lot of time zooming in and out unstoppably just to read one page. Amazon provides comprehensive differences between fixed layout and reflowable content. If you are an active web user, you will immediately familiarize yourself with eReader’s display. Web browser’s zooming functionality is practically ported onto eReader and enable the text to display independently. Regardless of the eReader’s screen, the nature of reflowable content will fit the width and height automatically without sacrificing the clarity. Texts remain crisp and crystal clear no matter how close you zoom in. Therefore, readers can always enjoy reading their content with this fit to-screen function.

Immediate + Reflowable = Evolution


While the standards of eBook formats are constantly upgrading to finer forms and figures, it is worth considering that all the possibilities will be greatly improved with the latest specification. EPUB3 information is officially released on IPDF website to determine the higher standard of eBook. Although the latest format has been around since last year, major vendors have been slow to adopt it. The format itself garners wider attention from Apple and Kobo. The latter publisher seems to fall head to toe with the new format as they announce the full support in 2013. Although Amazon has remained resistant about fully supporting EPUB, there are different ways readers can work around the issues. To see the possibilities what EPUB3 can take us in visual presentation, these slides might give you some ideas what it is all about. Nonetheless, you might want to explore the debate between Publishing Technology Engineer of O’Reilly, Sanders Kleinfield, and IDPF’s Executive Director, Bill McCoy, how the format needs software development to take advantage of the full features of the EPUB3. Aptara, one of the leading content solutions providers, recently revealed a healthy 30% increase of eBook production and listed Amazon as one of the most profitable channel to for your distribution (no surprises there). Aptara’s President and CEO, Dev Ganesan, said that publishers needed to “better optimize digital production to fully capitalize on eBook revenues.” Regardless of what the future will hold for EPUB, it is the developer’s responsibility like BB eBooks to provide our clients with professionally designed eBook to be sold on leading online retailers.

Technical Expertise plus Future-proof Customer Service


All in all, the eBook industry as a whole has room to grow beyond just novels and foster so much potential for developer and authors to turn quality content into reflowable standard. For your specific commercial purpose, it is now or never that you will have to consider providing your clients with the eBook option for the massively growing number of eReaders, smartphones, and tablets owners. In theory, different devices can pose different challenges whether your eBook format can be optimized for their gadget; in practice, typical consumers do not own a single gadget to meet the hectic work life. Putting desktop or laptop aside, mobile phones suit the cellular communication; tablets serve the all-around purpose from edutainment to professional work editing; eReaders fit in the more intensive reading with long-stamina battery longevity and decent display response. It might be best for you to think about your potential clients before releasing your materials into various eBook formats because each one has its own limitation. In the light of their differences, we are happy to closely assist you to publish error-free eBooks. One of our commitments in this fast-growing business is we would like to combine our technical expertise with customer service to make sure that our clients will ultimately have the “future-proof” product to succeed. BB eBooks is proud to accompany your professional journey and witness your success story first-hand.

Label: Technical and Design

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