Most large newspapers, journals, magazines, establishment reps all have the same view of e-publishing…a giant collective “ewww”. Like you would only do it if you weren’t any good and had no other choice. Of *course*, they sniff, you would go with whatever format your obviously large and more knowledgeable publisher would do for you. I have little time for that stupidity, so often when I see those large establishment-supporters writing, I ignore them. If I want to see what is appropriate for 1975 instead of 2016, sure, maybe I’ll read them. Right after I read the tags on my mattress.
So colour me surprised when the NYTimes feed lists “Picking a Digital Publishing Format” as a headline. Technically, no pun intended, it’s not a full NYTimes article, it’s only on the website, and a Q&A in the “personal tech” area at that, but hey, I’ll take a gander.
The question was pretty straightforward — the reader wanted to know what the “best” publishing method for digital books was in order to ensure they could reach beyond Apple devices.
The answer starts out with a simple recognition that the author should find a format that works best for their book, and I wish they spent more time on that part of the response. I have a 7 year old son, and we have had iBooks and paper books of Sandra Boynton’s kids books. Plus some iBooks of the Berenstain Bears. Some of them ROCKED as iBooks. Some of them were simple digital versions, like a regular ebook. Fine, but a missed opportunity for more interactivity. As much as I like Sandra’s books on paper, Jacob loved them on the iPad. He could swipe, they sang, they danced, it was a party and he was in control. “But Not the Hippopotamus” probably wouldn’t have worked as well digitally but the “Barnyard Dance” was perfect in that format. And honestly, that’s the test — is there any interactivity that is required? If so, iBooks is probably a great format. If it is flat file text, any format will likely do. If it is large graphs and charts, then probably something like a PDF on a tablet or computer screen more so than on a phone or e-reader device.
With that small limitation aside, I like the response overall though for two reasons. First and foremost, the answer has some really good links to other resources (Jane Friedman, iBooks support, PDF instructions, etc.). Secondly, it talks about the PDF doc and the ability to control a fixed layout. Most people think PDF is just so people can’t edit, which in and of itself is false these days, but the real reason is that it lets you “lock” the layout — people can swipe or move around, but not resize fonts or charts, etc. Things stay where you put them. On any device.
The only real failure I think is that the answer missed out on a possible assumption on my part — the person wants to likely sell the doc. As such, no reference whatsoever to Amazon’s own internal proprietary format (AZW), other than they have their own internal system (even though you can format for AZW too), and no reference to the ways in which most companies mainly use e-pub or mobi formats strikes me as far too simplistic an answer for something entitled “Digital formats for books”. Great answer for “docs”, not so much for books.