What, I hear some of you say, is an eBook? Some people have very specific ideas and swear allegiance to one "flavour" ar another however I take a broader view by saying that ePublishing covers the electronic publishing of virtually any written works on the internet. What do they look like? What can you do with them that you can't do with a Newsgroup, forum post or blog? Why, in other words, should an author go to the bother of publishing his work as an eBook at all? There is no shortage of general commentary on the advantages - and disadvantages - of ebooks on the internet. There are specific cost benefits, author incentives, and the big debate at the moment is (to oversimplify) whether the retail price of eBooks should be artificially inflated to be the same as the hard copy or not - they are definitely more environmentally friendly!
How does all this affect the fan fiction community? Cost considerations
mean nothing to us because we can't profit on any Star Trek works. What
we can take from this is that eBooks are coming of age! They are no longer an
immature technology, replete with a half-dozen different formats
competing on hardware exclusive platforms - reminiscent of the wars
between Apple and Microsoft or VHS and Beta. Today we have a technology
that has become accepted not only by the great unwashed but the chic,
the rich-and-famous and the tech-savvy. People are now looking with envy
over the shoulders of those who are flicking through their iPad as
against the "what-a-geek" sneers I used to get when I read stuff on my
iPaq years ago.
What we have is a whole new frontier to explore, a new readerbase.
Specifically, this wide acceptance of eBooks means that fan fiction
writers can now list their books right alongside those of professional
writers! Maybe not on the same websites, you'll not get your fanfic
listed on Barnes & Noble or Amazon, but there is no reason why we
can't have them listed on similar amateur fiction sites. Production-wise
we are on pretty much an even playing field, unlike the traditional
printing industry, where making a book requires printing and and binding
equipment that is beyond the grasp of the amateur (or is it?). With
care and attention, you can create an eBook that looks exactly the same
as the eBooks made by professionals!
How do they compare to the pdf books that we published in 2008? I'll be
honest with you and say that eBooks are not as pretty. The
'page-turning' reading applications like Issuu are to my mind, the
closest thing you can get to the experience of reading a book on a
Have a look at "The Black Gate", a book by Richard Merk, part of his Banshee Squadron
fan fiction series. Richard has whole-heartedly thrown himself into
making eBooks and it is only fitting that we use one of his books as an
example of what we are doing.
The heart of your eBook library is, like any library, the way that it is
organised. Think about what a public library has to do. They get all
sorts of new media in, they prepare it for distribution, catalogue it
then lend it out to the general public. Your eBook library needs to do
exactly the same thing and, although I will be the first to point out
that there are other good options out there, I use Calibre
to do it. Calibre is a freeware, open source software program that acts
as an eBook organiser and reader. It is available for free download
from the creator's website and, once installed, you are led to the heart
of the system which, as user interfaces go, is pretty much self
Firstly you add books to it. These can be of any one of a dozen
different formats ranging from plain text (txt) through rtf , html and
pdf, to a couple of the larger eBook platforms, such as the Mobipocket
file formats, and what is fast becoming the defacto standard, ePub. Once
they have been 'registered' and 'catalogued' on the system, they appear
on the main screen as a list in the central screen with the
"metadetails" shown in the right hand screen. When it is on the system
there are a number of cool things you can do with your books but, to
keep things simple, let's just look at the main purpose you are going to
be putting this to - reading your books. It couldn't be simpler! Point
and double-click on the entry on the listing or click the listing and
then "view" (the magnifying glass) on the toolbar. This will open a
viewer to suit whatever format the book is in.
Would I be generalising if I said that pdf is pretty but not flexible and eBooks are practical but not as pretty? What has been your experience?