The Future of the Book

The Future of the Book. from IDEO on Vimeo.

The reading experience and the delivery of text can be very different in the brave new digital world as this video demonstrates.  The section on Alice and the talk of parallel chapters and unlocking content is loaded with potential.

But is it the chance to add content, or to knock people out of the narrative?

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E-book conversion houses

Like a lot of prose writers, I have a few projects on my hard drive that I thought could stand to see the light of day. The readers out there might have a different take than the agents and editors who had passed on the projects for whatever reason. These books have been out there in a half-considered e-book form and I thought they could use a little tweak and a new coat of paint. That put me up against the bottleneck in the path to the wonderfulness that is the Kindle Store.

Thanks to trailblazers like Joe Konrath, there is a flood of material headed to the e-book conversion houses. I had two projects that had lived on WOWIO‘s server for a year or two and rough versions of the books were on the Kindle Store. Making more polished versions of the existing books for the more competitive marketplace seemed like a good idea. I’d hate to have a bad conversion job make a reader feel cheated.

These three conversions were done to test the listed services and here are the results of that work. The projects all looked fine and marketable when completed with a slight edge going to the work done on TOKYO BOUND. Completion time is calculated from the time the book is sent and its receipt acknowledged by the production house and not from first contact. The conversion houses were sent rtf files and not existing digitized content.


I’ve made a distribution deal with the nice people at KOBO which used to be called Shortcovers. This Canadian company is in business with Borders and they manufacture their own e-reader. In dealing with their production people, I informed them of the time delay I’d be suffering before being able to send over the completed digital files. I was having a hard time finding someone to do the conversions quickly as most services are on a delay that can run up to two months. The nice people at Kobo informed me that they deal with a Canadian production house and that their service has good rates and does good work. They offered to run it past their people for a quote on the digital conversion. So I sent them TOKYO BOUND, that reworking of a short story collection and waited.

There might have been a few days lost from the time I loaded the book to their server, but it was not many. They sent me a pile of docs and I had to fax them permission to charge a credit card of mine. It felt like I was going back in time like the next notes would be sent by Telex II, but I was just doing business in Canada. I should not make fun of them because they converted a 90,000 word manuscript into a Kindle friendly format in record time and at a fraction of the cost of their competitors.

After further study… CANADA ROCKS

If you can convince Kobo to sign a distribution contract with you, they are easily the best option.

Cost $31.05

Completion Time 21 days

eBook Architects

This Austin- based service was recommended by fellow Austin author Alan J. Porter. As a part of a marketing approach favored by ice-cream shops and crack dealers, I wrote a short promotional set of stories titled YOUNG & FOOLISH. These three stories feature my Arthur Quinn character and are meant to be given away in the attempt to lure readers into purchasing an e-book like the Quinn short story collection TOKYO BOUND or the upcoming Quinn novel THE MILK RUN.

I hit the webpage and followed the dance steps that led me to a nice guy named Joshua Tallent who is the founder of the company. I told him my story and due to the clipped length of the project, he was able to move me up in the line. When I contacted him, the stated turnaround time was 5-6 weeks and according to his cost structure only $100.00. There is a bright dividing line based on a word count of 17,500. Anything over the line has a base cost of $150 and my promotional book was under that line at 12,000 words. Graphics are extra and they offer additional services such as scanning existing books in print to make digital files. Remember, any extra services typically cost more and add to the completion time.

The turnaround time was a flat two weeks. I had the feeling that this was a courtesy or a first time customer deal. I was informed that other books would face the standard completion time.

Cost $100.00

Completion Time 14 days

52 Novels

Joe Konrath is an inspiration to independent writers. There just has to be a generation of frustrated writers that are emulating him and hoping for a fraction of his success. Along those lines, I contacted the guy that Joe uses to format his flood of e-books.

The project I sent to him is titled THE CLOCKWORK BRIDE which is a collection of sword & sorcery meet urban fantasy stories. Its high concept and its fun and it mostly works. But there is clip art in a few places which makes the formatting chore more complicated. His turnaround time varies by the amount of books in the queue. The time to completion was more or less when promised, but there was a note apologizing for not having the work done sooner. This was such a backburner project that I had not been worried about it. To be fair, there were a few images in the book, so maybe there are a few extra dance steps involved in the process.

Cost $175.00

Completion Time 53 days

There was a Peanuts cartoon that was a favorite of mine where one dog was complaining to Snoopy about the big dogs eating all of the food. Snoopy described it as “Survival of the Fattest”. In a lot of business, the big dogs get first shot at the best deals. The same is true with eBook conversions. If you can make a deal with a digital distributor that has what is an essentially in-house production service, that is the way to go. If not, either eBook Architects or an independent like Rob Siders at 52 Novels are respectable choices.

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Walken After Hours

I think I have a new ring tone in there somewhere. And yes, this one was mostly for Mister Parsons.

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