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?
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.