East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Ebook file formats


Ok, let’s do a request.

Friend allsho wrote

Maybe in one of your next posts you might tell us why you keep your options open about mobi and epub and how you choose from time to time between them.

Nice question.

I’ll begin by saying that, as a writer, my purpose is reaching the widest audience possible among those parties that might be interested in what I write.
The last bit is – to me – essential, as I do not believe in bombing the whole world with my ebooks, as I know the whole world is not interested in what I do.
I prefer to focus my energies and meagre resources on “my readers”, while keeping my options open.

So far, it seems to work.
My ebooks have a good enough ciurculation – being in Italian and all that, I can claim a few thousand copies for a total of eight titles, four non fiction and four fiction.
Circulation depends on publicity, platform and – especially for small acts like mine – file format.

So, let’s talk formats.

Writer2Epub-200x120.thumbnailAs I said, I normally write the first draft in Gedit or Gnote and then rewrite, edit and format my text in LibreOffice.
If I’m submitting my work to a magazine, or a publisher, or I’m running in a contest, that’s it – publishers and others usually want a rtf, doc or odt file.
For my self-productions, on the other hand, Libreoffice offers the option of saving as both PDF and – through a useful plugin – as ePub.

Now, ePub is my format of choice for anything over 25 pages*.
The files are lighweight, sopport formatting and indexing, are easily readable on a number of ereaders.
The option of having a decent ePub file, at the clicking of a button, from within my word procesor, is great.
For longer stuff – with chapters, pictures and what else, I save in epub in LibreOffice, and then re-edit the file in Sigil, to clean up the code and take care of details.

Now, epubs should be enough.
If my epub does not fit your ereader, you can convert it by yourself, right?
I care for my readers, I provide the widest choice possible.

It’s a fact a lot of readers are still using PDFs.
Which is not an ebook format, actually, but anyway, if it works for them…
So I’ve often been requested a PDF version of the books I was distributing as ePubs.
The request for PDFs, actually, exceeds the number of requests for paper versions – and by my data, I can get up to four PDF downloads for each epub download on the day I launch a new title.

Therefore, having done the ePub, my next step is usually do some minor edit and do a PDF, once again using the excellent LibreOffice option.

In some cases, I go straight for the PDF…
. for quick and dirty freebies – stories under 25 pages, fun stuff, etc.
. for heavily graphic stuff – like my PowerPoint handbook (which I formatted for desktop reading)
. for roleplaying games material – PDF being the standard in roleplaying publishing anyway.

Finally, Mobi.
I started doing Mobi versions of my ebooks when I bought myself a Kindle machine.
Talk about being biased.
I’m still experimenting with Mobi – converting my files with Calibre seems to work, but sometimes still causes some formatting glitches.
But I’m trying other options – including moving to Amazon and using their file-conversion services and platform.

In 2013, I hope to put at least one title for sale on Amazon – and we’ll see what happens.

* the 25 pages thing is my rule of thumb – I find hard reading anything over 25 pages on my desktop screen. So, anything over 25 pages, to me, is ereader territory.

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

4 thoughts on “Ebook file formats

  1. I’m playing with the tools given by Amazon to generate and try mobi/AZW files. Not bad at all, maybe the best way to avoid using HTML. Only one problem by now, the TOC section of the document. I’ve started with Open Office for the basic with a very simple structure and a number of low-res images embedded in the text. The Open Office plug-in that generates epub file works great for metadata and to add a cover, if I find an easy way to fix to TOC problem I will try as soon as possible to start on Amazon.


  2. Pingback: Paperback vs ebook « Under a poplar

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