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 eBook Authoring  
Finding a common, older book is very easy on the Internet however, what happens when you want to make your own stories into eBooks? Or perhaps you want to start helping out sites like Memoware by taking older texts you find and making them into eBooks. Or perhaps you want to mass distribute a report to a company that primarily uses handhelds. If any of these are the case then you will need to learn how to author and eBook. The process can be, admittedly, intimidating. What format do you create book in? What software do you need? How can you make sure that my eBook won't be digitally pirated? How much will it cost? This chapter should guide you through the basics. One word of warning before we begin, this chapter will not be focusing on "how do I convert X into X.xxx" since that in itself could fill a guide, instead, this chapter will guide you through some of the more basic concepts.

 

First you will need to determine what format you want to create the document in. For this process you have several choices, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Below is a list of some of the more commonly used formats with some of their advantages and disadvantages.

Microsoft Reader

 
This format is very secure and allows for a great degree of customization. It is probably the most professional looking finished product, even if you do very little to customize it.

This format however, is plagued by being very closed. You cannot use this format on a Palm powered device, on an older Windows CE 1.0-2.1 device or on a Linux computer. This can be severely limiting if your organization uses a multitude of platforms or is not uniformly using a Pocket PC powered device.

Adobe Acrobat

Adobe Acrobat is probably the best-known format for transmitting documents in a relatively secure medium. It can be viewed on nearly all platforms including (but not limited to) Linux, Windows, Macintosh, Palm and Pocket PC devices. It is only limitation in regards to platform availability is that it does not support older Windows CE devices.

The problem that plagues the Acrobat format is twofold. File sizes are increased significantly. If you will be transferring these documents wirelessly through infrared or through serial connections you will find the wait a very long one indeed. The second problem with Adobe's format is that the cost is quite prohibitive for the software. To form an Acrobat file you require Adobe Acrobat, which can cost $400 USD or more. This can be very limiting to an individual or business that does not have a lot of money.

Palm DOC Format

This format is becoming increasingly popular. While it does not offer the security of MS Reader, or the widespread usage of Adobe's Acrobat format, the cost is very low and the file sizes are kept to a minimum. It can be read across nearly any platform (with the one exclusion being Linux on handhelds) and it has a very professional feeling.

The downside to the Palm format is that it is relatively unknown. It is gaining popularity but the average person who receives a .pdb file, probably won't know what to do with it.

There of course are only a fraction of the available formats that you can investigate for your purposes. You may wish to go the 'proprietary software' way and use a format such as iSilo or TomeRaider. Including all of these formats would be beyond the scope of this guide but a good starting point is the respective company web site.

The cost of production is completely format dependent. If you decide to use Adobe Acrobat (view figure 5.1) you could very easily spend several hundred dollars. If you wish to use Palm's DOC format you might be looking at only $50-100 for a professional suite or nothing for some of the free conversion utilities. Microsoft Reader currently has two main options. Word 2000 offers the ability to convert text file into Reader files, this option is free but does not allow the same customization that Overdrive's Readerworks (See figure 5.2) does (a software suite that is very complete and will run you up to $119 USD).

Figure 5.1

(Adobe Reader for Palm OS)

Figure 5.2

(Overdrive's Readerworks)

Generally, these authoring tools will take your formatted .txt, .doc, .html, .jpg and .rtf files and convert them into a reader format. As an example, in Readerworks, you would take your eBook.txt file and load it as a source file. You would then click on compile and much like a compiler for a programming language, it will take the document and convert it into something that the reader will understand. This process will often involve filling the text file with tags to denote specific formatting.

Depending upon the program used, you may have to include the title page in the document or you may be able to add it through a completely separate process. It is best in any case to stick to something simple and not too large. For the majority these eBooks will be displayed on small screens with limited memory and anything that isn't displayed properly will turn a person off. As a rule of thumb, if you can, without side-scrolling, the text file that is your book, it will be displayed properly. It is also wise to spell check your document and reread it before committing to a compile.

 

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