Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Mystery of the Missing Amazon Public Notes

Prime Suspect: The New Amazon Upgrade Program
Amazon Public Notes look like they are taking a turn that only a detective can figure out.

I blogged in February about the Great News of Amazon adding a new feature to their eBooks called Public Notes in which readers could share highlights and notes with other readers. In that blog, I detailed some areas I thought were potential high benefit areas.

Public Notes have caught on with Kindle 3 users as more and more readers add their ideas and thoughts. If I follow the instructions, I can add my own notes as well as view other reader’s public notes.

I decided to go investigate the Public Notes process to see if there were any surprises or changes to the initial release. I not only found some surprises but I can see Amazon moving along in a whole new direction. One that I didn’t see coming.

The Process is Very Elementary

For the purposes of this blog, I selected the eBook with the most Public Notes to date. The leader was “THE ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES” with over 200 people adding notes and highlights. Since I share no expense in researching for my blogs, I downloaded the FREE version of the eBook.

Let me share with you the simple process.
1.      After I downloaded the eBook, I went to my “Your Books” section for my account and turned on the settings for: MAKE READING STATUS & RATING PUBLIC and the PUBLIC NOTES: MAKE YOURS PUBLIC for this eBook.

2.      Next I clicked on the “ADVENTURES…” title to view the books summary page. It showed that my status for this eBook, “PUBLIC”, had been unlocked. The page also showed me that 223 Customers had Public Notes for this eBook. To view other reader’s notes, you must setup a connection between yourself and the other reader called ‘Following’.

TIP: I could preview other reader’s posts and highlights on the books summary page but I couldn’t view Public Notes on my Kindle 3 until I ‘followed’ an individual reader to view their notes. Preview is the clue here. Only a portion of a reader’s notes can be viewed from the books summary page.

3.      I clicked on the number ‘223’ and a dropdown list called “Customers with Public Notes for this Book” appeared with the names of readers that had added public notes to this eBook.

4.      I selected one of the reader’s names and their profile appeared. Just under the name was a button named “Follow”. I clicked on the button and I was automatically following this reader. Now their notes for this eBook were going to appear on my Kindle 3. Very elementary.

IDEA: It would have been so much easier to have a ‘SELECT ALL’ button rather than going through all 223 readers to see their notes.
POTENTIAL PROBLEM: it seems there is no control over who follows you and who can view your note.

Back in the day even Watson could keep up with Holmes if he had a Kindle and they could sync their notes. I can visualize Dr. Watson taking notes for Holmes and maybe for once, Watson and Holmes would finally be on the same page.

The Plot Thickens
It was time to check the current Public Notes features against my blog in February 2011. There was indeed Good News. The Kindle 3 and Amazon connection was working great. My notes were present with little tags in the content. I had set my notes to be synced with all my devices so they would appear on my Kindle and in my Kindle for PC app.

Other reader’s public notes and highlights were there. Amazon even had included a note of who had created the annotation.

The eBook’s Popular Highlights for all readers of the eBook were underlined with dots and the number of people that highlighted the passage was noted.

TIP: on your Amazon site under “Manage your Device”, you must have the Whispersync Device Synchronization turned on.
Next I reviewed some of the opportunities I had addressed in my blog in the Educational area. They involved the coordination of Public Notes between a Kindle 3 device and Kindle for PC/Mac Apps.

I had discussed the use of teachers and students sharing notes in their etextbooks along with the authors being able to add additional ideas or updates after the eBook was published.

I had known that Kindle 2’s would not include Public Notes but I did not realize until this research that the Kindle Apps do not include Public Notes either. Maybe in the future?

A Red Herring?
As Sherlock Holmes would say “Watson, I have come across a three pipe problem.” While doing my research I came across what may be a clue for the missing public notes in the apps. Amazon has a new program called the Amazon Upgrade which focuses on the use of Public Notes and I believe the future of eBook viewing. As close as I can tell, the program is designed to help authors and publishers get more revenue from the increased use and popularity of Public Notes.

Evidence of foul play for the Reader
The Upgrade program allows a reader to view an online version of an eBook which is accessed from any Internet-connected computer using a browser.

The reader will be able to read, search and annotate every page online along with highlights, bookmarks, copy text and print pages using the Amazon Online Reader from inside a browser. This is not a Kindle for App. The Amazon Online Reader is the same program used to view the Search Inside! purchasing feature for the samples of an eBook.

You can access directly and the eBook will be stored in your media library. The reader can view public notes of other Amazon Upgrade customers.

Can anyone see where the trail is leading us?

Publishers and Authors have a motive
Let’s investigate deeper into the problem or should I say mystery.
1.     Amazon has created the Upgrade process to generate incremental revenue and increase our    costs.

2.     The content will be kept on the Amazon servers, in a cloud no doubt.

3.     You only have access to books purchased through Amazon.

4.     You can only read the eBook using the Amazon Online Reader not on a Kindle or using Kindle for Apps.

Amazon Upgrade Process

If my evidence is correct, this is a crime of the highest order. Here is how the process works.
1.     First to have access to the Upgrade process, you must buy the physical version of the book. No other vendors or personal uploads can be used.

2.     Next you must pay an additional charge for the online version of the same book.

3.     The book must be a part of the Amazon Upgrade program. Not all are.

4.     Not all publishers and authors will participate. In other words, not all books will be in the Upgrade Program.

So do we have a clue what is going to happen?
1.      The process is simple, elementary for starters.

2.      This is not an eBook only program. The author must have a physical book in inventory and it must have a digital version.

3.      You can view the Upgrade notes online but not on your Kindle.

4.      This has to be a Tablet venture with the use of a browser to view the notes.

5.      The process is controlled by publishers and maybe self-publishers but Amazon controls what eBooks they make available for the Upgrade program.

6.      One good thing is a real name is associated with each public note. At least when ‘the kids’ start playing with the notes, we will know who they are or at least where to find them.

WARNING: I see no gatekeeper here or a way to monitor the notes, so that could be a problem.

So where is Amazon going with this? Are they changing the way we use public notes by connecting them to the purchase of the physical book? Are simple ereaders like the Kindle still in Amazon’s plans or are they moving the eBook to online viewing with the use of tablets? Maybe we need Sherlock around to figure this one out?

View my website: HBSystems Publications
Or EMAIL at:
Or goto my blog: The eBook Author’s Corner
Author: Call Off The Dogs, a rendered eBook
LinkedIn Profile: James Moushon
Related Blog:

Holmes and Watson picture by Sidney Pagnet

Picture Image via Wikipedia

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Ebook Publishing: Are Traditional Publishers Sitting on a Pot of Gold?

The prospects for an explosion in the ebook market are growing every day. Once traditional publishers realize the ebook-only market is a huge opportunity, they will embrace it and they will realize that they had a pot of gold right in front of them all the time.

Current Publishing – Are things panning out with ebooks?

Traditional book publishing is built on speculation and profit predictions. They control the system and the popular authors. They have been sitting at the end of the rainbow for a very long time.

Then along comes this ebook thing with a slick delivery system and their way of life is being threatened. The old guard is holding everything back, trying to protect their investment. They know one way and that way has been successful. Even though no one is admitting it, they have to see the additional income reaching their bottom line.

They realize ebooks do solve some of the traditional book problems. Ebooks have an unlimited shelf life. They are convenient to purchase and to read. There is no physical warehousing or distribution unless you want to count an unmanned server disbursing the ebook and collecting the money. There are no page number or book size limits, etc.

And there is the fading bookstore distribution channel problem which is a major part of their system. They must resolve this to be able to reach out to their customers.

They do have a stable of authors but the authors still have to pass the test of being published in hardcover first. And they are leaving the marketing up to the author unless they are a superstar to cut back on costs.

So how do they Strike gold?

Why do traditional publishers have a golden opportunity? They have most of the good players – you know the well know authors, the cover designers, editors, illustrators, layout staff, story/genre experts, marketing, etc. and there is a huge potential in their backlists inventories.

What do they need to do to dig into this opportunity?

1.      Rejections become products. They have a built-in process of prospecting and evaluating already in place. For example, if they just take the top ten percent of their rejections and move them directly to ebooks, like the movies do with their direct to video releases, the potential is huge.

2.      A big question for them is “Where will the next wave of super authors come from?” They     need to setup a farm system of potential super authors? For a relatively low cost, they can tryout authors and their titles through ebook offerings and then move them up-stream if they are successful.

3.      Establish a new author category in a genre specific area. If the ebook/author becomes successful, move them to paper. Work the traditional system in reverse.

4.      Work with bookstores to become more than just a shelf of books. If the traditionals don’t try to protect this channel, everyone will go on-line to purchase their books. That in turn directs the reader right into the lap of their competition.

5.      Once they get over just producing a digital copy of the original and start looking at rendered and enhanced ebooks, the more profit potential they’ll realize. The reader’s prospective is changing rapidly with color, the tablet market and the software advances like pub3.

6.      They must look at the royalty structure to be competitive with the on-line publishers/retailers.

Looking down stream

So the question is “Do traditional publishers keep damming the river or do they look down stream for the gold?”

The current stream of events should put most of the gold in their pile. They have the experts, the superstars and the inventory of unpublished material. There is indeed a high profit potential for the ebook-only market but they will have to change their ways and adapt.

There are some lessons for the self-publisher in this rainbow. If you create good content and are successful marketing, you have the keys to being recognized by traditional publishers. These publishers must make a move to protect their interests and the ebook author must be ready.

Do you think that traditional publishers will change their system and adopt real ebooks? Will they ever give the self-publishers/ebook authors a chance to break into the system?

View my website: HBSystems Publications
Or EMAIL at:
Author: Call Off The Dogs, a rendered ebook
LinkedIn Profile: James Moushon

Related Blog

Prospector image via Wikipedia

Thursday, June 16, 2011

eBook Self-Publishing: A Simple Guideline and Some Tips on Taking Those First Steps

Baby Steps First

Starting to self-publish your ebook or even thinking about it can be a daunting task. A little help before you start will save you time and help you in publishing your ebook in all the right places.

When I published my first book, I had no idea where to go or what to look for. I thought I would walk you through some of the steps you will need to take to get self-published.

This is a major topic and could easily fill a large book and there are many good books on this topic already out there. I have compiled a simple outline of links and some tips to help you on your way.

My basic assumption for this blog is that you are ‘self-publishing for profit’. I have used MS-Word as my word processor along with various other tools for this example.

Now One Step At A Time

The content and its formatting are major tasks for the self-publisher. Here is a simple checklist to help you in preparing your content for publication.

1.      Write good content and edit it thoroughly or don’t go on this journey. It’s not worth the effort.

TIP: It is best to review and edit each version of your ebook because the conversion software process is not a perfect science.

2.      Study the style books for each style and format for each retailer you are publishing with. The more complex your ebook, the more you need to study the style sheets.

TIP: Do this in advance before finalizing your content for each format. It will save you a lot of time in the long run.

3.      MS-Word file format: use the DOC (.doc) format not the newer version (.docx).

TIP: Don’t use tabs. Use the MS-Word indent formatting function.

TIP: Only use carriage returns at the end of a paragraph not after each line. Multiple carriage returns between paragraphs to insert extra space will be ignored in the creation process.

4.      Render your web address into your ebook at the minimum.

 TIP: I recommend including sales page links to other books you have written at the front of  your ebook or links to sales pages on your web site. Be sure to verify the links.

5.      Create a manual TOC using bookmarks on chapter headings with links from your TOC.

6.      Get an ISBN number from Bowker or another source.

TIP: Only buy one ISBN for your ebook. There is no advantage to having multiple ISBN numbers per format until someone starts accumulating sales stats on ebooks. Most Retailers require the ISBN but they use their own SKU code to sell your ebook on their site.

7.      Apply for your copyright as soon as you can after the ebook is complete and you get your ISBN. You should include the ISBN on the copyright page. You can upload a DOC file copy of your ebook to the U.S.Copyright Office rather than sending them a hard copy. To get you started, click this link.

TIP: Mail yourself a registered copy of a printed version or a CD with a digital version and don’t open the package. This time stamps your work.

Be Prepared to Publish

Here is some pre-publishing information you need before you start to publish your ebook to the retailers. It’s best if you keep this information in a handy word document so you can copy and paste the information into the retailer’s publishing questions.

1.  Prepare a book description in advance.

TIP: Most of the retailers have a size limit so if you want to be long winded, check their site for any character limit.

2.  Get your cover image ready in a JPEG format. This is the prospect’s first impression of your ebook.

Tip: Have a thumbnail cover image available in the correct size and format. You may have to have several versions in different sizes to accommodate all the retailers.

3.  Prepare a good Author Bio. Do some work on this one? Your ebook buying prospect may use this to make the buying decision.

4.  Keep the ISBN number at your fingertips. Each retailer will ask for this at some point.

5.  Have a list of Tags or Labels available that best points your buying prospect to your ebook. You should also have made the decision which category or genre your ebook should be placed.

TIP: If you want someone to find your ebook through an Internet search you should spend some time on this one. Look at your competition for ideas.

6.  You should make the decisions whether you want your ebook to be protected by DRM and what size of a sample you will permit of your works. Both questions will be asked.

7.  Last but the most important pre-publishing decision. What will the PRICE of your ebook be? Again check the competition.
           TIP: If you’re going to self-publish your ebook, don’t price it between $10.00 and $23.00 unless you want to give your royalty to the retailer or you’re trying to protect the price of the hardcover version of your book like traditional publishers.

Like a Pair of Shoes, eBook Formats Come in All Styles

How you have made the basic decisions and you have the additional information ready, your ebook is ready to be published to the world. Not so fast. Each of the major players requires their ebooks in different file formats and you will have to adjust your content.

Amazon Kindle Version - MOBI/AZW Format

       1.    Setup an account with Amazon and then create a free DTP account. (publisher)

2.    Get the information about the Kindle Publishing Program from their website. You can upload your DOC file and let Amazon do the conversion for you, if you wish. This process takes several days. For the Kindle Publishing Guidelines Manual (PDF format), click here.

3.      I am one of those that likes to check what my ebook is going to look like before it is published to the world. So I use some extra tools to check my work. It requires a two-step process. First open the DOC file in Word and save (save as) it as a HTML file. Then use the Kindlegen software tool from Amazon to convert your HTML file to a MOBI ebook. There is other software available to check your work but I prefer Kindlegen.

4.     Next download the Kindle for PC software to check your work. (Mac version also works) Just click on the MOBI file name and you can view your ebook in the Kindle format.

TIP: I don’t know how many times I did this until I got it right but it saved days of waiting to find out from Amazon how good I had done in the creation process.

5.     If you have a Kindle, transfer the MOBI file via a USB cable to the Kindle and gave it a real-time test. I did this several times until I was completely satisfied.

 MAJOR TIP. Don’t leave money on the table. Setup an Amazon Associate Account. Then on your website put a link to your Amazon sales page using the Associate html code for your ebook. Each sale that you get originating from your site will add affiliate income to your revenue. (Some states don’t allow this.)

Barnes and Noble Nook Version - EPUB Format

            1.      Setup a ‘Pubit’ account with Barnes and Noble. To create a new account, click here.

2.      Read their formatting guideline. There are several formatting guides online by various third parties but you need to be techie to use them. I recommend Barnes and Noble’s own on-line information.

3.      BN like Amazon has an ‘Add a Title’ process. They will convert your DOC file to the EPUB format free. Like the Kindle version, I wanted to check my work before my ebook is published. My DOC file had to be changed slightly but the corrections I made for MOBI version were about 99% golden.

4.      I needed to convert my ebook to an EPUB format to check my work so I selected the Calibre software package. It does a good job of converting MOBI files directly to the EPUB file format. Again BN will do this for you but using them is a time consuming process. Calibre gives you instant feedback on the formatting.

5.      Check the ebook on the Nook for PC software or better yet copy the ebook to a Nook for review. After some minor adjustment you should be ready to publish your ebook to Barnes and Noble.

Smashwords – All Formats

Smashwords is another retailer you should consider. They publish to almost all retailers and in a variety of formats. I choose to publish separately to Amazon and BN to be able to control the process more effectively.

1.       Setup an account with Smashwords.

2.       Read their Style Guide and Instructions.

              TIP: The only major change to your content here is to follow their specific example for the copyright page. It must conform exactly to the Smashwords Publishing Guide or they will not publish your ebook.

Then SW runs your DOC file through their Meatgrinder software (not a mistake on the name) which produces a variety of formats for distribution.

The Smashwords Marketing Guide is a must read. Mark Coker has done a great job with this tool.

TIP: You need to be published in their Premium catalog which reaches most major retailers. They have other levels of catalogs but the Premium is the way to go. You can deselect a retailer like Amazon or Barnes and Noble if you have already published your ebook with them.

Your ebook will reach the Apple, Sony, Kobo and Diesel retailers among others. They are also starting to distribute ebooks as single-book apps for the mobile app market.

TIP: Make sure you check the Smashword’s file size limit. I know they are increasing this but if you have a lot of images in your ebook, you could exceed their file size limit.

Google Books Partner Program – PDF Format
Last. A new opportunity. This is not a sales opportunity but a marketing and Internet opportunity. Post your ebook in a PDF format (save your DOC file as a PDF file) through their Partner program and your ebook text will become a part of their Internet search database.

For example, if your ebook is about large spruce trees in the Midwest, Internet surfers can locate your ebook through the Google search engine because every word of your content is in their database not just some pre-selected keywords.

1.      Setup an account with Google.

2.      Access the Partner Program page and login to your account.

3.      Click ‘Add Book’, fill out the information and upload your PDF file. This process takes a while.

            TIP: You should remove any in-book links from your PDF copy before unloading. The links don’t work and could throw off search engines.

Google does have a bookstore which is not covered in this blog.

Let’s Lace Up Our Shoes and Get Started

At the end of the day, you could possible end up with 4 different version of your DOC file plus an EPUB file, a MOBI file and a PDF file.

TIP: Use separate file directories for each publisher with a separate copy of your DOC file in each. If you keep changing the original, you are stuck with the latest version.

I hope this information will help. At least it can be a startup guideline of where to go first. If the tasks seem to be overwhelming get some help from professionals. There are many good sources. Here is a short list of a few that I am familiar with.

Author’s Source: Indie Author - April L. Hamilton
Book Design and Covers: The Book Designer - Joel Friedlander
Marketing: Marketing Tips For Authors - Tony Eldridge
Publishing: A Book Inside - How to Write and Publish a Book - Carol Denbow
Publishing: Self-Publishing Resources – Sue Collier

Related Blog:
Ebook Authors: 17 Great Information Sources

Let’s build a list of good sources to help ebook authors on their self-publishing venture. Let me know what you think? Like I said up front, you could write a large book on this topic.

View my website: HBSystems Publications
Or EMAIL at:
Or goto my blog: The eBook Author’s Corner
Author: Call Off The Dogs, a rendered ebook
LinkedIn Profile: James Moushon

Thursday, June 2, 2011

eBook Authors: Render Thy eBook or Miss The Boat

I am a non-fiction and technical book reader at heart. Lately I have become addicted to ebooks. I like the ability to get the ebook anytime and anywhere and read it anytime I want. Recently a historical fiction hardcover book was passed to me. A book about Elizabeth 1 of England and the period in history called the Tudor dynasty.

Sometimes I like to read a good historical fiction novel and this turned out to be a good one. After I was about half way through the novel, the analytical part of me took over. This hardcover book was the ideal candidate for an ebook.

It was large and heavy. It was over 670 pages and weighed in at almost two and a half pounds.

I put down the book. I needed to see how this book appeared as an ebook. Online I went and seconds later the same book was on my Kindle. No expense spared for my blogs.

As a side note the Kindle version was $14.99. Ouch!

I started a comparison of the hardcover and the ebook. I wanted to find out what the publisher had done in the way of creating the ebook. They had made it digital okay. They did add a linked table of contents and they did put a link to their website. That was it.

The potential for so much more was there. What could they have done to make this a real ebook not just a copy of a hardcover book?

Right up front they missed the opportunity when they listed the author’s credits. They listed several of the author’s books with no links to a buy page. I guess they wanted me to go to the Internet and search for the other books, if I was interested. There I had the purchasing device in my hands and they missed the opportunity.

Next there was no mention of a website for the author or even better a link to that site to get the reader hooked on the author’s books. Now mind you this was not an older book that the publisher was just getting around to digitizing. This was a brand new release. I went back to the hardcover and that information was missing there also. Finally they got it right on the dust cover. There it was. A web address for the author.

The cover was not included in the ebook, just a title page. I don’t understand that one.

There were many historical characters referenced whose names I recognized like Sir Walter Raleigh, Sir Francis Drake and Shakespeare. Some I had never heard of like Robert Dudley, one of the main characters in the story and in English history. This was a great opportunity to have some information in the appendix about him and many of the other fringe characters. Not done.

I am one of those readers that always is looking back in the book to try to keep up with the story. In-book links added in the rendering process can help the reader with this problem especially with a book of this size. Sorry no effort here.

How about a family tree of the Tudor dynasty? Or some background on the Spanish Armanda? Or some pictures of some of the characters? Wikipedia has some great pictures of Elizabeth and her followers. I can think of lots of things I could do to make this a real ebook.

This book is a great read but there is little or no effort made to make it a real good ebook. If you’re going to read this book while you are traveling, you definitely want the ebook version. It is not a book that you want to read on your cell phone or blackberry. So why not go further than just a copy?

By the way for you ebook reading buffs, I am 54% done with the hardcover version. eBook Authors, you are taking notes aren’t you?

Good Examples of Rendering

First I would like to highlight a good example of how an author can use the power of in-book links during the rendering process. Bloody Omaha by biographer Garry M. Graves is a rendered ebook. His ebook had 39 pictures and illustrations in which he needed to give credit to the sources. Instead of interrupting the reading process, he linked the picture’s titles to a credit note in the appendix of the ebook. If the reader wanted to know the source of the picture, the information was just a click away.

Another example is my novel, Call Off the Dogs, a story about the Assassination of President Kennedy. This is a rendered ebook with in-book links to various terms, location descriptions and color pictures to assist the reader in enjoying and understanding the content. That additional information is also held in the appendix of the ebook so it doesn’t interrupt the reading flow.

Another example of rendering to improve the ebook experience is the use of links in Travel Guide ebooks. So many times the ebook Guides don’t have quality links to important information. Again most of the Guides I have read are just copies of the hardcover version.

Missing the Boat

I think we are missing the boat here. Not only traditional publishers but self-publishers are falling into the same trap. Let’s get the printed version out there and follow up with a copy in an ebook format. No wonder the indie authors/publishers are getting a bad rap. And the traditional publishers must feel like that with little or no effort they can add to their bottom line.

We need to do something here. What are your ideas? Do you think new ebook author can take advantage of the ebook technology? Is a copy of the original hardcover version good enough?

Related blogs:
View my website: HBSystems Publications
Or EMAIL at:
Or goto my blog: The eBook Author Corner
Author: Call Off The Dogs, a rendered ebook
LinkedIn Profile: James Moushon