Publishing Your Story – Traditional vs. eBook

I came across and interesting post a few weeks ago on the FamilySearch Blog about traditional publishing vs. eBook publishing and was very interested in James Tanner’s view on this subject with the continued improvements and use of eBooks. You can read the post here.

Publishing Your Genealogy – Traditional vs. eBook

He shared an outline of how books were published in the past that was interesting.

  • Writing
  • Editing
  • Table of Contents and Indexing
  • Inserting Illustrations
  • Formatting for Printing (book layout, fonts)
  • Proof Reading
  • Typesetting
  • Application for ISBN/Copyright
  • Proof Print
  • Printing Pages
  • Binding
  • Distribution and/or Sales

Having only done self-publishing through print on demand I hadn’t ever thought of all these steps in publishing a book. It is wonderful that through modern technology we have other options to print just a few copies of a book or even just one at a very reasonable price. Traditional printing methods were not cost-effective unless you printed a large number of books. And face it, most of the stories we want to share just don’t have that wide of an appeal but that doesn’t make them any less important to us or our family and friends.

James Tanner points out that today all the above steps can now be done by the writer but we can still contract out any of these steps to someone else, including writing the book. I have one issue with his information about print on demand. He wrote:

Today, there are book publishing machines that will publish one book or a hundred. The cost of the first book is very reasonable. The major drawback for those wanting legacy materials is that the binding is limited to softcover perfect (glued) binding.

It might be true that some on-line printers only offer softcover perfect bound books, but I know that Blurb’s softcover books are perfect bound or glued. They also have hardcover books and their website says “our Hardcover books feature library binding.” This got me curious so I dug deeper and found some information to suggest that blurb hardcover books less than 120 pages our stitched from the side but their large hardcover books are glued or perfect bound. This seems to be mostly true. I checked the blurb books that I have here. The 440 page Europe! is not stitched it is glued. While the 9 7×7 books between 40 and 80 pages are all stitched except 1. So that was some interesting research. I’ll have to see if I can find out more.

Here is what James Tanner had to say about eBooks:

With the popularity of eBook readers such as the Kindle and the Apple iPad, publishing a book electronically is more than a fad. If you look at the New York Times Best Sellers List, you may be surprised to find that many of the best selling books are now available only in eBook format. One advantage of publishing a book in eBook format is that it can be updated at any time and distributed in a variety of formats. EBook publishing is exactly like traditional publishing except for the final printing and binding. There is still a need for good writing skills and the book files have to be adapted for a variety of electronic book readers.

Just as with more traditional publishing you can do these steps yourself even to the “printing” on your own computer. One simple option is to publish in a PDF format and distribute that to family and friends. May eReaders can read PDF documents but in my experience their are challenges with the small size of the screen and PDF documents that letter size. The text can be difficult or impossible to read with the entire page on the screen or you have to do lots of scrolling around to read the text.

If the book is just text there are simple enough ways to export it for eBooks using a word processor. But for me the images are at least as important as the words. And I’m not sure how you design for the fluidity of an eReader with images. There is new software that helps with formatting for eBooks so maybe it isn’t as hard as it seems to me. I love the idea of eBooks with embedded media but have yet to see how it works for projects like sharing family stories.

I agree with James Tanners basic assessment:

Whether you publish your book on paper or electronically, you will find that it takes considerable time and effort. Electronic publishing may cut out some of the steps necessary for a paper publication, but the quality and readability of the book has to be adapted for online or eBook reading.

It will be interesting to see how eBooks effect self publishing in the future. I believe that the best way may be to use both mediums so that we reach a broader audience and greater likelihood that our stories will be safe for the future to enjoy. Hopefully there are ways to make this as painless as possible.


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