I’m happy to be part of the KnitGrrl Guide to Professional Knitwear Design blog tour. For my part in the tour, I decided to talk to author and designer Shannon Okey about ebooks. We had a very long and interesting discussion so I’ve broken into several blog posts. Here’s part 2. There’s still more to come!
DD: What ebook formats are you planning to offer and how did you come to that decision? Do you see any pros and cons that are specific to each format? Do you have any research on what ebook readers your customers and fans are using?
SO: Let’s count PDF as an ebook format in this instance, since many reading devices can natively handle PDFs. Currently we’ve got PDF, .mobi (the format used by the Amazon Kindle) and .epub (the format used by the B&N Nook and many other devices, such as the Apple iPad). I’m working on other ways to offer content on the iPad and iPhone, whether it’s through Apple’s iBookstore or
DD: Where will your ebook be available to purchase? Was this a factor in your decision about what formats to offer?
SO: All are available at cooperativepress.com. I’ve submitted the book to Barnes & Noble for Nook consideration (their process is considerably slower than Amazon’s, and involves sending a hard copy to their small press department, I’m hoping that will change in future). The Kindle edition will be available directly on Amazon soon (more on that below). PDF is available now.
DD: What was the biggest challenge in creating an ebook? Was that challenge different than the challenges you face when creating a traditional paper book?
SO: In a perfect world, direct export from the page design software (InDesign has an export-to-ePub function) would work with a single, magical click. In reality? No. Creating the PDF was as easy as “save as,” although I did go back through the file with Adobe Acrobat and hotlink all the external web links and anchor-link chapters, etc so people could navigate the PDF more easily. Theoretically, creating the ebook reader version of the files should be just as easy, but it isn’t.
Creating a functional table of contents is an exceptional pain, and so I’ve resorted to what could be called “manual labor,” i.e. doing some HTML-hackery myself. It’s easy, but it takes ages. I recently re-read this article and am incorporating some of its tips, too. I’m also fortunate in that my boyfriend Tamas is a tech genius, and recently created a very, very large Kindle-formatted ebook for himself of interviews with one of his favorite comic book creators: he’d already been there, done that on the table of contents pain.
Summed up: it’s no more difficult than laying out the paper book is, but the tools that are out there for creating ebooks are NOWHERE near the level of efficacy of, say, page layout software for print.
DD: How will you be pricing your paper and ebook versions of The KnitGrrl Guide to Professional Knitwear Design? The value of the material, the content, of both books is equal to the reader, but it is true that the production and distribution costs are lower for ebooks because there is no shipping or printing to pay for. This has been quite a hot issue with Amazon.com and the Apple iTunes store over the past few months and I’m guessing it will be a while before we see the situation stabilize.
SO: Well, there are a lot of factors that come into play here. This book is a black/white interior (the few screenshots and other images from the social media chapter have been converted to greyscale for the print edition, but are color in the PDF), which means it’s considerably cheaper to produce than a color interior book. You have to take other things into account with the print copy, such as shipping (we offered free shipping during the preorder period, which ultimately cost us several hundred dollars), including both getting the books from the printer to my office AND shipping out to customers…those rigid mailers aren’t cheap! The print copy costs $22.95 retail, plus $5 domestic shipping, which just covers our postage cost, mailer cost, ink costs (for labels, etc).
There is also a print + PDF package for the same price. My reasoning on that is simple: if you have multiple ways in which you read books — say you like to curl up on the couch with the print copy, but you also like having the PDF around for ease of searchability (“hey, what was the name of that company Shannon recommended for magazine-style printing?”)… why should I say no, you have to pay again for that PDF version? There’s a level of trust here. I expect that the purchasers aren’t going to go forwarding the book around willy-nilly, that they respect my rights as an author enough to have purchased the book from me in the first place, etc.
With the PDF-only, which costs $16.95, I removed the book production costs from the equation and considered what I thought the information was worth. $16.95 is roughly the cost of 3 pattern PDF downloads. If you want the benefit of my years of experience distilled into 254 pages, I don’t think that’s a lot to ask. How many patterns have you bought and added to your to-knit queue that haven’t seen the light of day in two years? How much would it have cost you to go to TNNA twice a year for several years, how much would it cost you to hire a print broker to figure out how to print your patterns cheaply, or what percentage would you give up to an agent to help you write your book proposal once it finally sells… heck, now that I think of it, maybe $16.95 isn’t enough! (I kid, I kid…but seriously, it’s a bargain!)
There’a a reason I teach online classes, too. This book is just the tip of the iceberg, info-wise.
As for the ebook pricing, it’s currently a little less than the PDF, and it may go lower still, if Amazon adheres to their current pricing policy. This was partially to encourage ebook sales for the sake of getting more people interested in ebooks, but also the files are a little more restricted than a PDF is, if you ask me.
DD: Is any of this information about ebook publishing covered in The KnitGrrl Guide to Professional Knitwear Design?
SO: There is some basic information, but not a full-blown how-to. I thought, in light of the rapidly-changing market, not to mention the changing technology, that it might be better to write about ebook publishing separately. I’ve been taking copious notes on my “ok, this worked” and “AAAAAGH” moments so I can distill it down into a how-to that will, hopefully, make life easier for future craft ebook publishers. I plan to offer it as a PDF/ebook in future, and I’m glad I waited, as Apple opened up their iBookstore just as the Knitgrrl Guide… was going to press.
DD: I could go on and on, and I’m sure we could talk about this topic for hours but I think that’s enough to get our discussion started! I look forward to hearing your thoughts and I’m sure there will be a lot of follow up to these questions.
SO: yay! thanks!
And indeed, there were follow-up questions, so check back again tomorrow. And this picture, from Shannon’s blog, has nothing whatsoever to do with ebooks…. but, well, here goes: