How are e-books created?

News, trends, and the future of publishing
Post Reply
Sommer Leigh
Moderator
Posts: 1624
Joined: April 2nd, 2010, 11:07 pm
Location: Omaha, NE
Contact:

How are e-books created?

Post by Sommer Leigh » February 22nd, 2011, 11:03 am

So last week I finished reading a pretty good YA dystopian novel on my Kindle. The book was great, but I was shocked by how many typos and formatting errors (mostly formatting errors) there were in the digital version. Usually typos don't bother me too much and they never pull me out of a story, but this time the errors were exceptional. Aside from spelling errors, dialogue was missing one of its quotation marks, lines/paragraphs that should have been obviously separated by a return formed long sentences instead, and various missing punctuation marks plagued this book. On further investigation, I discovered that the print version does not contain this mistakes.

So my question to people who are way smarter than me: does anyone know the process by which e-books are created? How is the actual document itself made separate from its print version? Are some of these formatting problems a result of technology acting strangely? (The way technology sometimes can do. I often throw down with Microsoft Word over ridiculous formatting problems). Is there someone whose job it is to format the e-book? What's their job title? How does this mysterious, magical process work?

And has anyone else noticed their e-books have more errors than their print version? Is this book I read just a fluke?

Help, please, and thank you!
May the word counts be ever in your favor. http://www.sommerleigh.com
Be nice, or I get out the Tesla cannon.

User avatar
Cookie
Posts: 540
Joined: September 20th, 2010, 11:18 am
Location: Berkshires
Contact:

Re: How are e-books created?

Post by Cookie » February 23rd, 2011, 4:54 pm

I don't know how they are created, but I've seen formatting errors and typos on my kindle versions too.

longknife

Re: How are e-books created?

Post by longknife » February 23rd, 2011, 8:11 pm

The author writes the story on a word processor and uploads it to the epublisher like Kindle or Nook.
There are lengthy formatting guides but the main thing is preparing the original document properly.
All Kindle or Nook does is take what the author presents and converts it to their format - errors and all.
Example - they don't like indents so the writer has to do a para, para. If not, it'll come up with a ? as it doesn't understand what the writer did.

AND, if the writer doesn't carefully review and edit, all the little stuff s/he missed is there for all the world to see.

This is why some [probably including Nathan] feel it's so important to get an agent and/or editor to ensure the darned things is presentable to the public.

Margo
Posts: 1712
Joined: April 5th, 2010, 11:21 am
Contact:

Re: How are e-books created?

Post by Margo » February 23rd, 2011, 8:26 pm

lvcabbie wrote:Example - they don't like indents so the writer has to do a para, para. If not, it'll come up with a ? as it doesn't understand what the writer did.
Forgive my ignorance, but I have no experience with MOBI formatting (that's the Kindle one, isn't it?) or the one Nook uses. What do you mean by "para, para"? Do you mean hitting the tab to indent twice instead of once?
Urban fantasy, epic fantasy, and hot Norse elves. http://margolerwill.blogspot.com/

Guardian
Posts: 563
Joined: September 29th, 2010, 4:36 pm
Location: Somewhere between two realms
Contact:

Re: How are e-books created?

Post by Guardian » February 23rd, 2011, 10:50 pm

I don't know how e-books are working as I've worked only with published printable stuffs in Adobe Indesign. But here is how the basics are working and in this there should be no true difference between printable or digital versions. First, you must decide what format you'd like to make. You must know and set the basic parameters, layout size, margins, even print DPI if you're willing to add pictures, such as the cover (150-300DPI is the acceptable version. Sometimes 600DPI, but that's used to be rare.). Then you must create the right format, a template, set the facing pages... so everything what you must do when you create a DOC, DOCX, a standard PDF, or an editorial printable version in Adobe Indesign. Now E-Books has different formats (But Nathan surely can tell you much more about this.). Some are using special formats, that are requiring special conversion tools and programs, others are accepting standard PDFs, DOCs and other well known source files before the conversion.

Whichever version you prefer (PDF is usually the best option), that can be converted to any other formats and usually the format stays as you determined in the beginning. But as I said, this is just a theory as I never worked with e-books, just with printable editions in Adobe Indesign... which is also digital editing for a printable format and theoretically it's the very same, just the output file extension is different. In Indesign we always used PDFs, but as I recall there is an "export to Digital Editions" option, which is presumably formatting the actual document to the desired file format, presumably to epub format which is an XHTML based content. Honestly I never tried this option. But this is the reason why I said; presumably this is how it works with ebooks as the core process should be the very same. Presumably only the layout dimension and the output file extension is different. But the content is never going to change because you export it to a different format. If there is a mistake in the final e-book format, that mistake is also existed in the editing. A format change may create dimension change, may ruin paragraphs here and there, but it won't create surplus mistakes, such as typos in a document.

Here is a blog which describes the basics Kindle conversion;
http://jwordsmith.wordpress.com/2009/02 ... le-ebooks/

Here is the mentioned free program;
http://www.mobipocket.com/en/DownloadSo ... reator.asp

So you can make some experiments on your own. I hope it helps.

Sommer Leigh
Moderator
Posts: 1624
Joined: April 2nd, 2010, 11:07 pm
Location: Omaha, NE
Contact:

Re: How are e-books created?

Post by Sommer Leigh » February 23rd, 2011, 11:16 pm

Sorry, I should have been more clear in my question. I don't mean self-publishing. I meant through a publisher. The book in question that I was reading was published by Speak, for example, but it isn't the first book that I've noticed has serious formatting and typos while the printed version of the SAME book does not have these problems. I was more interested in what happens to the document after it leaves the author.
May the word counts be ever in your favor. http://www.sommerleigh.com
Be nice, or I get out the Tesla cannon.

Guardian
Posts: 563
Joined: September 29th, 2010, 4:36 pm
Location: Somewhere between two realms
Contact:

Re: How are e-books created?

Post by Guardian » February 23rd, 2011, 11:22 pm

If I should guess, there were two different versions. One, what the author or the publisher sent to print, and another one what they've sent to the e-book editors and publishers. Presumably the two files were two different editions and / or both had two different editors who worked on the same content and / or on the two different versions in the very same time. Or another possibility, they've accidentally sent a wrong file, an earlier edition to the e-book publisher what they never noticed, just when the work was released.

If they would use the same version, the same edition, the published and the digital version should be the very same. As I written; a simple file conversion is not going to create surplus typos and never existed mistakes.

Doug Pardee
Posts: 146
Joined: February 18th, 2011, 6:56 pm
Contact:

Re: How are e-books created?

Post by Doug Pardee » February 25th, 2011, 1:24 pm

The answer is (shock!): "It depends".

For the very latest releases, e-books are usually made from the digital file containing the book contents. Those tend to come out pretty clean. Bear in mind, however, that the printed version undergoes additional screening during the typesetting process, when words are hyphenated to let them cross multiple lines, or to break rivers and such, and I don't know what-all.

For most commercially-published books over a few years old, a paper book is scanned and the scan is run through Optical Character Recognition to turn it back into text. Then the OCR'ed text is proofed and corrected. This is a messy process -- at Project Gutenberg, each title typically goes through three passes of proofreading to assure that the text file matches the text in the original book, then the text undergoes formatting (re-inserting markup for bold, italics, superscripts, subscripts, footnotes, etc.) and another pass to check the formatting. Finally, the formatted text goes to post-processors who render the formatted text into various e-book formats (EPUB, MOBI, PDF, etc.). Personally, I doubt that most commercial publishers can afford to put this much effort (and time) into each e-book conversion. Some of them clearly aren't doing it.

In a few cases, the book is available in PDF format and the PDF is converted into e-book form. This has its own challenges, because a PDF contains lines of typeset characters, not words organized into sentences and paragraphs, and out-of-line text like headers, footers, sidebars, etc. are lines of text just like the original. Line breaks and page breaks can end up in the strangest places, words that were hyphenated across two lines end up with a hyphen in the middle, headers and footers get mixed in, and who knows what all. The text formatting in PDF isn't done by markup but by choice of typeface, so there has to be a translation from "font=...-italic" or whatever to an "italic" markup; that process is complicated by the absence of naming conventions for fonts. PDFs are often typset with ligatures, so an "" ligature needs to be re-rendered as an "f" and an "l" in the e-book.

For anything except the latest releases, conversion to e-book is non-trivial. The publishers do want to get their back-lists converted as quickly as possible, but cost is a concern. If a publisher has a back-list title that sold 10,000 print copies in 1993, how many e-copies is it likely to sell in the next year or two? For new releases, the publishers are saying they're getting up to 10% of their sales in e-book. So let's say the publisher optimistically estimates selling 1,000 e-book copies, and wants to price the e-book at $7.99 because the book is still available in used paperback for $5.99. For an Agency Model publisher, the publisher's cut of that $8 is $5.60. Times a thousand copies is $5600 in near-term revenue. Just how much money do you think the publisher wants to spend, then, to convert that title to e-book form?

Natasha Fondren
Posts: 1
Joined: January 14th, 2010, 5:35 pm
Contact:

Re: How are e-books created?

Post by Natasha Fondren » March 4th, 2011, 1:49 pm

Times a thousand copies is $5600 in near-term revenue. Just how much money do you think the publisher wants to spend, then, to convert that title to e-book form?
When people throw figures like this around, I don't understand. On average, particularly with bulk pricing, taking a digital file and doing quality formatting on it is only $100-150 for an .epub and .mobi file. It seems a trivial expense to me.

I hear many books are done with Adobe InDesign, which lays out the print book. The latest version of InDesign has the ability to output the file as an .epub and .mobi. Since I'm seeing so many of the latest books with random "26 highlights" in a single sentence and other sloppy formatting errors, I'm guessing that the issue is with the automatic conversion.

If you take out the automation and work directly with the .html that makes the .mobi and the .xhtml that makes the .epub, you can hire any number of ebook developers/formatters/designers (including me!) to do a perfect job with no errors for around $125-150 for most novels. I don't understand why this is an extraordinary expense for publishers when they're saying it costs thousands to produce an ebook, and thus can only pay authors 25% royalties on digital sales.

I can almost forgive the backlist if it's deeply discounted, but I don't understand why they can't do an error-free job on their current releases. An ebook should be the same quality as a print book, especially since they often want to charge the same price or sometimes more.

Sommer Leigh
Moderator
Posts: 1624
Joined: April 2nd, 2010, 11:07 pm
Location: Omaha, NE
Contact:

Re: How are e-books created?

Post by Sommer Leigh » March 4th, 2011, 1:55 pm

Natasha Fondren wrote:I hear many books are done with Adobe InDesign, which lays out the print book. The latest version of InDesign has the ability to output the file as an .epub and .mobi. Since I'm seeing so many of the latest books with random "26 highlights" in a single sentence and other sloppy formatting errors, I'm guessing that the issue is with the automatic conversion.
We might be thinking of two different things here, but the "26 highlights" isn't a formatting error. On Kindle it means that's how many people have highlighted that sentence or paragraph. You can turn it off in the options to stop showing that.
May the word counts be ever in your favor. http://www.sommerleigh.com
Be nice, or I get out the Tesla cannon.

Margo
Posts: 1712
Joined: April 5th, 2010, 11:21 am
Contact:

Re: How are e-books created?

Post by Margo » March 4th, 2011, 2:33 pm

Sommer Leigh wrote:We might be thinking of two different things here, but the "26 highlights" isn't a formatting error. On Kindle it means that's how many people have highlighted that sentence or paragraph. You can turn it off in the options to stop showing that.

This is handy to know since I kinda, you know...bought one. [facepalm]
Urban fantasy, epic fantasy, and hot Norse elves. http://margolerwill.blogspot.com/

Sommer Leigh
Moderator
Posts: 1624
Joined: April 2nd, 2010, 11:07 pm
Location: Omaha, NE
Contact:

Re: How are e-books created?

Post by Sommer Leigh » March 4th, 2011, 2:59 pm

Margo wrote:
Sommer Leigh wrote:We might be thinking of two different things here, but the "26 highlights" isn't a formatting error. On Kindle it means that's how many people have highlighted that sentence or paragraph. You can turn it off in the options to stop showing that.

This is handy to know since I kinda, you know...bought one. [facepalm]
Congratulations on the new member of your household!

I'm doing a review of my experience with the Kindle so far. I think I scheduled it for next tuesday. I hope you enjoy it. I love mine.

I actually really like the little highlights tracker, it is interesting to see what most people find important to remember for later. I think it only shows up after so many people have highlighted it though, so it doesn't show up very often.
May the word counts be ever in your favor. http://www.sommerleigh.com
Be nice, or I get out the Tesla cannon.

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 5 guests