PressBooks: self-publishing via WP

Yesterday I discovered an interesting new self-publishing platform called PressBooks. What caught my attention was that this is built upon the popular WordPress blogging platform. As authors generally already run their own WP Blog, this should make it a very familiar and easy to use system for most people.

Although it is possible to import a previously made ebook (EPUB) the core premise of the platform is that you write your book on PressBooks.com itself. You get all the same styling and formatting tools found in WordPress, along with the WP auto-save and versioning support, and as all web browsers come with a built dictionary, you also get your spellcheck for free.

Each book section (chapter/part/introduction/etc.) is written as a separate post, which may make editing somewhat difficult, but after a few minutes of playing it does all seem very straightforward. [Read more...]

Drablr: A new self-publishing platform

We live in a connected world; emails, social networks, endless Twitter updates, all of which like nothing better than to soak up our precious time. For years there’s been articles and studies stating that we’ve all forgotten how to read long form text*. So, if we have neither the time nor motivation to sit and read novels and other long works, how are we to get our fiction fix?

Perhaps sir and madame would like to try our Drabble menu?

Noun
drabble (plural drabbles)

  • A fictional story that is exactly 100 words long.

The purpose of a drabble is brevity, testing the author’s ability to express interesting and meaningful ideas in an extremely confined space.

Earlier this year I discovered the world of the Drabble while reading the newsletters from the Elite:Dangerous Kickstarter campaign, which included many 100-word stories written by Michael Brookes and various other authors. In fact, I enjoyed them so much I went and built Drablr.com; a website dedicated to the Drabble.

Drablr is a self-publishing social network for authors who like the challenges of 100-word (micro) fiction, and is similar in functionality to Twitter and Tumblr. It’s still very new and very much in the Beta phase, so for the moment only invited authors can post Drabbles. Still, anyone can sign up, read Drabbles, vote, comment, and follow authors.

There’s plenty of features still to be added but why not come along, sign up, and enjoy some great fiction while they’re still hot.

Sign up for an account here; Drablr.com – streaming Drabbles 100 words at a time.

* Not that I agree with these arguments.

New Countries Supported: UK & AU

Since epubBooks had its first major facelift back in May we’ve received a great deal of positive feedback. However, the one question that’s continually asked was when our ebook search features would be made available to countries other than the U.S.

I’m pleased to announce that epubBooks.com now supports ebook catalogues for two additional countries; United Kingdom and Australia.

Most people will be automatically directed to the appropriate pages but just in case this doesn’t work for you, then you should scroll to the bottom of the homepage, click the “Change region” button and select your country. Visitors from Great Britain will now have all the prices displayed in GBP, and like-wise Australia will have AUD.
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Reading Free EPUB books on the Nook

A few weeks back Barnes & Noble released their hugely successful Nook eReader in the UK. To help them promote their reader to the Brits they’ve partnered with a large number of existing retailers, which will mean you’ll be able to buy the Nook from over 2,500 locations throughout the UK including; Argos, Asda, Blackwell’s, Dixon’s, Foyles and Sainsbury’s.

One of the big advantages with the Nook, as with Amazon’s Kindle, is that you can buy books directly from the device itself. However, and unfortunately for us, B&N charge for many of their classics (as much as 3.99!), but not to fear. Here on epubBooks.com we have all the most popular classics and all of which are free to download and read. [Read more...]

Maps and More: Visual Annotation of EPUB books

My recent reading list included several books which shared the same feature: there was a lot of historical geography inside. Not that the historical geography was the subject of any of them, but the series of unfamiliar and half-familiar place-names were long enough to get lost in. Still, though all of them were in this or that electronic format, the situation was no better than with paper books: either there were a few pictures with maps inserted as usual illustrations or, in worse cases, there were no maps at all. So, I want to talk about that a bit.

I will not discuss here the cases where a big and complex and detailed map is needed, such as in J.R.R.Tolkien’s books; It’s a serious matter as well, but it’s a different matter.

Maybe sooner or later a dedicated solution will appear in EPUB for custom maps. Sure, maps can be tolerably implemented using images, especially vector images; but so can formulas, and still we have MathML; history books (which need custom maps more often then not) are no worse then maths books after all. [Read more...]

New epubBooks Now Live!

Many long-standing visitors to epubBooks will certainly have noticed that I’d released an update to the site a few months back which added plenty of new functionality, along with a nice update to the styling. Although a new design, it was only a Beta and so was released with little fanfare.

Today’s update has fixed a large number of bugs from that release, added some more design tweaks, and a whole bunch of improvements to the search algorithms.

The original epubBooks.com (live since 2008) was merely a simple catalog for browsing the free EPUB Classics that were (and still are) available for download. It served its purpose well, but demand for more modern titles and better search features led me to re-think not only the design, but the core purpose of the site. Limited time and resources have made it difficult to achieve all that I’d like but I think the site now has some interesting features. [Read more...]

Formatting a Tail for EPUB: Concrete Poetry and Varying Screen Width

Let us format a mouse’s tail.

There’s a good reason for it: Wikipedia says, and I see no reason to disbelieve, that exactly 150 years ago (July 4th, 1862) Lewis Carroll told the daughters of his colleague the first version of the story which we now know, in written form, as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. And this is, obviously, a good occasion for some formatting. There is an especially attractive piece in the named book: The Mouse’s Tale, shaped like a mouse’s tail. In my earlier article on formatting poetry for small screens, I mentioned this as an example of a poem too specific to be discussed in a general-purpose tutorial. Let me now repent and discuss it. Maybe the solution presented here will inspire some good ideas for other cases; or maybe it will just entertain someone, which isn’t so bad either.

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Formatting a Bilingual Poetry Collection in EPUB

One EPUB formatting question which I recently got interested in was: how to create a bilingual poetry book? That is, if you want to have a book of poetry in one language with line-by-line translation to another language (to aid a reader who knows the language of the original not too well), how do you do that? In a paper book, a good and well-tried solution is to have the texts in two languages placed on the left and the right page, facing each other. For an e-book, unfortunately, that approach cannot be reused; in particular because with an e-book you usually have only one page visible at a time. Splitting the page into two columns may be acceptable for short citations, but to format a whole poetic collection in this way would be inconvenient, for the columns are somewhat too narrow in this case even on bigger devices.

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EPUB3 Books & eReaders

Even though the specification for EPUB v3.0 was finalised last October, we’ve yet to see any production ready EPUB3 books out in the wild. The likely reason for this is that EPUB3 compatible eReaders have only come on the scene recently and without an eReader, there’s no way to test how the ebooks look – a bit of a catch-22.

Version 3.0 ebooks may seem non-existent at the moment but this will no doubt change before the end of the year, so now is a really good time to look at how we’re going to transform our Masters to EPUB3 – you do have your books in a master format right?

This last week I decided to convert one of the titles from epubBooks.com to EPUB3 and set to work on Gulliver’s Travels (download link below). I’ve only found two ways to view my newly generated EPUB3 ebook; Azardi and iBooks. [Read more...]

Formatting Poetry for EPUB and Small Devices

What we are going to discuss here is how to format poetry in XHTML format (which underlies EPUB) so that it looks nice on smartphone screens – that is, when many or even all of the lines do not fit the screen width. In other words, our concern is how to break poetry lines nicely.

We do not discuss the poems which use non-standard formatting (Lewis Carrol’s Fury said to a mouse, shaped like a twisting tail, is a good example of what we are not talking about here); each poem of this sort is a separate formatting problem of artistic rather then technical nature. What we are going to consider are poetry pieces which use some sort of conventional formatting. The examples used further in this tutorial are from Shakespeare, from Horace, and, for a more specific formatting convention, from Beowulf.

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