eBooks and the Author

by Hugh Ashton

I’m considering all the new options by which we can now read books (i.e. the ebook reader market, which appears to be coming of age - sort of), and it seems to me that there are both technical and business issues here.

The software to convert existing material to ebooks does not seem to work at all well. For example, although Adobe claims that InDesign CS4 produces ebooks, it doesn’t - these are simply strings of text, rather than organized and formatted books).

Though there is obviously some technological skill required to produce an ebook, many producers of ebooks will be the authors, with sub-optimal technical skills, and the situation, with its different standards (Kindle, Stanza, nook, PDF, etc. etc.) seems to be much worse than, say, the start of the Web, where we were all learning what these strange “tags” and weird angle brackets meant.

Although there is an easy-to-use conversion service provided by Feedbooks, it comes with a very large string attached - the demand that the material enter the public domain, which to me seems an unfair restriction to put on an author who has something original and worthwhile to say, and who has taken the time and trouble to say it.

So… Any ideas on how ebook publishing should proceed? I have a little more to say about this and ebooks at my own site.