Ray Bradbury’s classic dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451 has recently been released as an ebook by Simon & Schuster (available online Fahrenheit 451 ebook). The novel is about a future in which most books have been burned in order to keep the public “happy”. A world without books and the resulting lack of readily available knowledge and history is bleak indeed.
Ray Bradbury himself was against ebooks at first, saying that they were too distracting. From this article at The Guardian:
“In the past Bradbury has said that ebooks ‘smell like burned fuel’, telling the New York Times in 2009 that ‘the internet is a big distraction’. In an interview … he told the paper that he had been contacted by Yahoo eight weeks earlier. ‘They wanted to put a book of mine on Yahoo! You know what I told them? To hell with you. To hell with you and to hell with the internet. It’s distracting. It’s meaningless; it’s not real. It’s in the air somewhere.’
But the author has now been convinced otherwise, with his American publisher Simon & Schuster announcing that it was releasing the first ever ebook of Fahrenheit 451, a novel which has sold more than 10m copies since it was first published in 1953 and in which Bradbury predicts a dystopian future where books are burned and reading banned.”
I’m glad that we don’t live in a future like that described in Fahrenheit 451 and I think that digital books and the internet in general will make it very hard, if not impossible, for the government to ever truly ban books or other reading material. When I read this book back in middle school, I visualized police overseeing large piles of burning books in the middle of town squares, while people looked on with blank expressions. I wonder what would happen if anyone ever tried to burn a pile of e-readers. The resulting melted pile of plastic would surely be enough of a mess that the government would have to find some other way to destroy books. Maybe that’s why Bradbury imagined that ebooks smelled like burned fuel?
If you’re completely new to the world of ebooks, this post is for you. There are so many options available now that it can be confusing for newbies. Kindle, Nook, iPad! Which is the best for you? If you’re not at least basically aware of the consequences of your choices, you can end up with a bad experience. But not to worry! This post will give you enough background on ebooks to get started. I’ve broken it into two sections, for those who already own a device that they want to read ebooks on, and for those who want to get a new device for ebook reading.
A. WHEN YOU ALREADY OWN A DEVICE
This is the process I recommend for you if you want to read ebooks on a device that you already own. This might be your smartphone, iPad or other tablet, or an eReader that you acquired in the past.
1. Do Not Buy or Download Any eBooks Yet
eBooks come in different formats, and not every format can be read on every device. Before you spend any money buying eBooks, follow the next few steps. This will save you money, time, and confusion.
2. Learn Which Types of eBooks You Can Use
If you have an eReader (like a BeBook, Cybook, Sony Reader) that’s not tied to a specific bookseller, the best thing to do is to go to the website that sells that device and look in the specifications to find out which ebook formats it supports. Also look for support for “DRM” (digital rights management) because without it, the types of ebooks you can use will be further restricted. Most eReaders can read PDF and ePub files and some can read additional file types like Mobi, txt, and others.
If you have an eReader (like a Kindle, Nook, or Kobo) that is associated with a specific bookseller you won’t have to worry about file types if you only purchase ebooks from that specific store. However, the Nook and Kobo eReaders can also read PDF or ePub files from other sources.
If you want to read ebooks on your iPhone or iPad, you can use iBooks, which is built into Apple’s system. By doing so you can easily get ebooks in the same manner that you download apps. You can also read PDF or ePub if you get an app that can handle those file types. In addition to that, big booksellers like Amazon and B&N have iOS apps that will let you read their ebooks without having to own a Kindle or Nook device.
If you have an Android phone or tablet, you can read Kindle and Nook ebooks with their respective Android apps. You can also read PDF or ePub if you get an app that can handle those file types.
3. Install Software/Apps If Necessary
E-Ink eReaders like the basic Kindle and Nook eReaders don’t need apps. But if you want to read on your iPhone, iPad, or Android device, you’ll need an app for reading ebooks. The best one to use depends on where you’ll buy your ebooks. I have explained this in more detail in previous posts: Best eBook Apps for iPad and iPhone, Best eBook Apps for Android
4. Find Out Where Your Type of eBooks Are Sold
Here are the basics:
If you have a Kindle then you must buy ebooks from Amazon.
If you have a Nook you can buy eBooks from Barnes & Noble or any ebook store that sells PDF or ePub ebooks.
If you have a Kobo you can buy eBooks from Kobo or any ebook store that sells PDF or ePub ebooks.
If you have an iPad or iPhone you can buy eBooks from iBooks, use the iOS app from Amazon/B&N/Kobo, or any ebook store that sells PDF or ePub ebooks (check DRM requirements – you might need a specific app).
If you have an Android phone or tablet you can use the Android app from Amazon/B&N/Kobo, or buy from any ebook store that sells PDF or ePub ebooks (check DRM requirements – you might need a specific app).
If you have another eReader (like a BeBook, Sony Reader, etc) you can buy eBooks from any ebook store that sells PDF or ePub ebooks (check DRM requirements – you might need a specific app).
If you have an off-brand cheaper eReader, you can probably use PDF and ePub ebooks, but you might not be able to use DRM-protected files. It’s vital that you check the specifications for your particular eReader.
5. Get eBooks!
Once you’ve done all of the research and learning above, go forth and buy ebooks from your chosen book store.
B. WHEN YOU DO NOT YET OWN A DEVICE
This is the process that I recommend if you don’t yet own a device for ebook reading, or if you’re not yet sure which device you want to use.
1. Do Not Buy an eReader or Tablet First
Don’t buy anything until you have a basic grasp on the options available.
2. Consider eBook Stores
My recommendation is to first figure out where you want to buy ebooks. This will narrow down your device choices. For example, if you really want to buy most of your ebooks from Amazon, you should get a Kindle. (You can also read Kindle ebooks on an iPad, iPhone, or Android device with the Kindle app). Likewise, if you really want to buy your ebooks from Barnes & Noble, you should get a Nook. (You can also use an iPad, iPhone, or Android device with the Nook app). The same goes for Kobo. If you like buying things from Apple and would like to buy your ebooks through iBooks, you should get an iPad. If you’re the type of person who wants to buy from smaller ebook websites, you can pick and choose from a few different sites like ebooks.com, ebookmall.com, or diesel-ebooks.com, as well as others. They will be able to support a lot of devices with the main exception being the Kindle. However, the process isn’t as streamlined as when you buy a specific type of ebook for a specific type of device, like a Kindle ebook for a Kindle eReader.
3. Based on Your Store Choice, Consider eBook Readers
Let’s say you decided that you’d really like to buy all of your ebooks from Amazon. That makes it pretty easy because you can get any Kindle model that you want. (Note that Kindle is not synonymous with eReader. A Kindle is the type of eReader sold at Amazon.com.) The same goes for Barnes & Noble — just get one of the Nook models. If you would like more variety, you could consider getting and iPad or Android tablet. That’s a great choice because you can use ebooks from a variety of sources, and you’ll also have a fully functional tablet computer that you can use for web browsing, movies, or whatever else.
4. Buy Your Chosen eReader
Once you know where you want to buy your ebooks and what kind of device you want to use for reading, go get your eReader!
5. Install Software/Apps If Necessary
Depending on what kind of device you’ve chosen, you might need to install an app or other software. E-Ink eReaders like the basic Kindle and Nook eReaders don’t need apps. But if you want to read on your iPhone, iPad, or Android device, you’ll need an app for reading ebooks. The best one to use depends on where you’ll buy your ebooks. I have explained this in more detail in previous posts: Best eBook Apps for iPad and iPhone, Best eBook Apps for Android
6. Get eBooks!
Go forth and buy ebooks.
I hope this guide is helpful for ebook newbies. If you have any more tips for someone who is completely new to ebooks, leave them in the comments.
The best Android ebook app for you mostly depends on where you want to buy your ebooks. Each ebook app works for a specific type of ebooks, so you need to match up the type of ebooks you own to the type of app you need. The apps below are the most popular for Android users and cover most main ebook sources that people use today.
The Aldiko Android App is the best alternative to apps from big ebook sources (like Kindle or Nook) because it allows you to read PDF and ePub ebooks from independent ebook sources. It supports Adobe DRM and non-DRM ebooks, so you can read ebooks that you purchased at places like ebookmall.com, ebooks.com, or diesel-ebooks.com. You can also import your own content and create your own ebook catalogs.
Download: You can get a direct download from Aldiko.com or find Aldiko in the Google Play Market.
Android OS Version Supported: Android OS 2.1 or higher
eBooks Supported: The Aldiko Book Reader supports Adobe-DRMed ePub and PDF as well as non-encrypted ePub and PDF formats. Get eBooks anywhere ePub and PDF eBooks are sold or available for free. You can also get ebooks from your public library (where supported).
Amazon Kindle Android App
The Kindle App for Android lets you read all of your Kindle ebooks on an Android device, even if you don’t own a Kindle eBook Reader. If you do have a Kindle, you can read your ebooks on both the Kindle and Android device. Your reading progress will be synced between the devices with Amazon’s “Whispersinc”. You can use the Kindle Android app to borrow ebooks and view free samples.
Download: Go to the Kindle for Android page on Amazon. Or, while on your phone you can search for “Kindle” in the Google Play market.
Android OS Version Supported: Android OS 2.2 or higher
eBooks Supported: Amazon Kindle ebooks in the AZW format that are only sold at Amazon.com/Kindle
Barnes & Noble Nook Android App
The Android Nook App from Barnes & Noble lets you read all of the Nook ebooks on your Android device without having to own a Nook eBook Reader. Nook for Android gives you access to over 2 million books, magazines, and newspapers. You can try newspapers and magazines for free for 14 days and sample lots of Nook ebooks for free. You can also start reading an ebook on one device and continue at the same place on another device.
Download: Get the Android app at B&N’s Nook for Android page by scanning the barcode shown with your phone. Or search for “NOOK” in the Google Play market.
Android OS Version Supported: Android OS 2.1 or higher
eBooks Supported: If you want to read ebooks using the Nook App, then you should get ebooks from Barnes & Noble’s Nook store.
Kobo Android App
With the Kobo Android app, you can buy ebooks from inside the app and download them directly to your phone. Take your entire library with you on the go. You can find all of your favorite titles and authors in Kobo’s large ebook selection of over 2.5 million books. You can also get personalized recommendations.
Download: Go to the Kobo Android App webpage to scan the QR code. Or search Google Play for Kobo.
Android OS Version Supported: Android OS 1.6 or higher
eBooks Supported: If you want to use the Kobo Android app, you should download eBooks from the Kobo eReader store.
The Sony Reader Android app comes pre-loaded with three classic titles and three excerpts from bestselling ebooks. You can sync your reading position, bookmarks, and highlights to Reader Daily Edition (PRS-950SC with firmware 2.0). Like the other apps, you can also read Sony Reader ebooks even if you don’t have a Sony Reader.
Download: Go to the Sony Reader for Android webpage and scan the QR code. Or, search for the app in the Google Play market.
Android OS Version Supported: Android OS 2.2 or higher
eBooks Supported: If you want to read Sony Reader ebooks on your Android device, get them from Sony’s Reader Store.
eBookMall.com re-launched their publishing services sometime last month. Authors and publishers weren’t able to submit ebooks to be sold on their website for a while during the time that they were making big changes to their website. I was curious whether they’d changed their submission rules and whether they were in line with the current industry standards, so I signed up as an author to find out more about their system. All in all, their requirements and payments seem to be pretty comparable to most other indie services. The way you submit ebooks is a little different but pretty straightforward once you actually get into it. I’ll go over what I thought were the most important aspects below.
Here is the basic overall process for submitting ebooks to eBookMall.com:
- Create an account on their website.
- Email them at ‘submissions (at) ebookmall.com’ to let them know you’re interested in selling your ebooks on their website.
- They send you a package of PDF documents. This includes the official Terms of Service, a guide to submitting ebooks, a guide to having your manuscript converted into ebook format, a guide to sending in author bios and photos, a spreadsheet that you use to organize your ebook data, and a PDF of codes so you can specify things like the category placement that you want.
- You prepare your ebook files and email them in.
- They add your ebooks to eBookMall.com
I thought that these PDF guides were very professionally formatted and easy to use. It is a lot of information to go over, but it’s pretty simple once you just start looking through it. It’s pretty much the same information that you’d get from other websites.
DRM is something that you’ll want to consider. If you submit your ebooks to eBookMall directly through this program, your ebooks will not have DRM. If you have your heart set on having DRM on your ebook downloads, you can still sell your ebooks at eBookMall but you have to do it through a third party: Ingram’s ‘Lightning Source’ ebook distribution (www.lightningsource.com). As far as I know, Lightning Source only accepts publishers, not individual authors, but it’s possible that has changed so you can always look into it. If you sell your ebooks through Lightning Source you can have them distributed out to a lot of ebook websites and they apply Adobe’s DRM to the downloads.
eBookMall is only accepting PDF and ePub formats. They also used to sell Microsoft Reader and Mobipocket, but those formats have both gone by the wayside. Kindle ebooks are not accepted because Kindle ebooks are really only sold at Amazon.
There were a couple restrictions that I noticed while reading through their documents:
First, they require that you are the copyright holder of the ebook (or represent the copyright holder) — they don’t accept any books that have expired into the public domain and they don’t accept ebooks that you can buy and then sell again (those ebooks with resell rights that are kind of junk content).
I also got the overall impression that they want your ebooks to look pretty professional. They probably wouldn’t accept ebooks that look sloppy or unfinished. This is good because you can assume that most ebooks you buy on their website will be good quality, but it might make it tougher for authors who don’t know much about how to create their own ebooks.
There are other minor details as well, like they require your cover images to be sent in as JPGs that are only vertically oriented (as most book covers are). Each ebook submitted has to be under 10 MB. Also, you can submit free ebooks but they will have to pass with stricter rules. Basically they just want to make sure that any submitted free ebooks don’t contain spam or very little value.
The way in which you actually submit your ebooks is a little different than on other websites. Instead of filling in a form online, they want you to prepare a spreadsheet. This might sound intimidating at first, but it’s basically all the same data that you’d type into an online form. I guess I see where they’re coming from with this method because you can use your spreadsheet to submit anywhere from 1 to 10,000 ebooks (or whatever their upper limit is – I didn’t see anything about that) and you don’t have to keep filling in the same form over and over. You’ll probably also be able to just copy&paste a lot of stuff.
In a nutshell, you just enter the standard information about your ebooks: title, author name, filenames of the ebook and cover image, price, categories, whether your file is printable or not, ISBN (not required), product description, and territories where you want the ebooks to be sold. You can limit this to specific countries or sell worldwide. Once you have all of this filled out, all you have to do is email them your spreadsheet, ebook files, and cover image files.
Authors will earn 50% of the sale price. This struck me as kind of low at first, but they also explain that they don’t charge any hidden fees. eBookMall pays for all credit card transaction fees, for example, so their half of the money is eaten up by basic business overhead costs. It might still end up being less than other websites, I’m not sure. Either way, my thought is that you can at least use them as another ebook outlet and earn something rather than nothing.
One restriction to consider is that they’re only paying via PayPal, so you’ll need a PayPal account. They provide live sales reporting so you can always login and check on your sales.
Publishing New eBooks
If you have a book manuscript you can get it converted into a PDF or ePub ebook. They provide a separate guide for this in the package of documents that you get. You have to send them your manuscript in a digital format such as Word, RTF, or Open Office Document. They say that this service starts at $69 but can be more, depending on the book. They don’t do any editing so you have to get that done yourself. They don’t have any specific regulations about page sizes, margins, fonts, etc, but request that you basically lay out your manuscript the way you want it to look when published. So this is a pretty basic service, more of a simple manuscript-to-ebook conversion than actual publishing. The same requirements about owning the copyright apply to this service, and they don’t accept public domain works. They only accept manuscripts written in English.
It kind of seems like this whole thing with the lawsuit over price-fixing of ebooks has just been blowing about in the ether lately. I found a small update today, though. From this post at the Guardian:
Apple and five major book publishers have failed to persuade a US judge to throw out a lawsuit by consumers accusing them of conspiring to raise electronic book prices two years ago. …
HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster and Hachette reached settlements, while Apple and two of the publishers, Macmillan and Penguin, said in court last month they want to go to trial to defend themselves against the government charges.
So the only real update I’ve heard so far is that they won’t be throwing the case out. It sounds like HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster and Hachette must have had to pay a fine, while Apple, Macmillan, and Penguin want to go to trial. The end result of that trial will be fairly important for the publishing industry. This article on The Atlantic does a good job of explaining the whole thing: Confused By the eBook Lawsuit? So Is Everyone Else
On one hand, it appears that the publishers who were involved with this alleged price fixing were breaking the law insofar as that you’re not supposed to team up with your competitors to decide on industry-wide prices. On the other hand, they were attempting to prevent Amazon from becoming an ebook monopoly. I’m no lawyer and I don’t really understand all of the technical details of this stuff, but it will certainly be interesting to see what happens in this trial.
I think that if I were running a big publishing company, I would just try to sell my books at the same price at each store, and then let the customer decide which store and ebook platform they wanted to use. That kind of thing shouldn’t be so difficult, and I hope that in the end things will be simpler for the consumer.