Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A tentative foray into e-publishing

Regulars may have noticed that the blog went a bit fallow in late April and early March, though Joseph (who is disgustingly hardworking) picked up a great deal of the slack. My time was being diverted into putting together a couple of small books of puzzles from the Thirties and Forties and, sometimes more dauntingly, learning the subtleties of Kindle publishing.

The titles are "Classic Puzzles for the Classroom" and "Classic Word Puzzles for the Classroom." Other than some pagination and layout issues (more on that later in the post), the results were fairly close to what I had in mind. I believe they meet Abraham Lincoln's famous standard of literary acceptability: people who like this sort of thing will find in this the sort of thing they like.

Both books are collections of puzzles and games from Golden Age comics, selected from books now in the public domain and arranged in teacher-friendly sections. The target audience is small but the material was a good fit with the ongoing math ed and mathematical recreation threads here and at You Do the Math (which is about to go active again). I'll come back to the actual puzzles in future posts. For now though, here are a few notes on my (very limited) experience with e-books.

I like old comic books to look like old comic books, but not too much. Since I was using publicly available scans of very old magazines, some retouching was necessary but I tried to make it as unobtrusive as possible. I used GIMP for individual touch-ups and ImageMagick for things like rescaling large numbers of pictures. I'm no expert on graphics (more of a video guy) but the learning curve wasn't bad at all.

I had initially planned on doing the books as PDFs but Amazon's instructions said that would cause formatting problems and suggested submitting Word documents instead so that's what I did. I'm not sure it helped. Based on my experience and what I've read since, Kindle e-books are not a graphics-friendly format and, unfortunately, I was doing a couple of picture book. Formatting and pagination changed from device to device and, in the case of the Kindle preview function, changed while viewing the document on the same device -- as I flipped back and forth through the preview, a picture that started out on page nine might be on page ten when I flipped back. I tried playing with formatting and inserting a break for every new page but I eventually accepted defeat and simply left the page numbers out of the index with an explanatory note.

Recently, I came across a tool called Kindle Comic Creator, which I will try if I do another graphics-heavy e-book.

The rest of the publishing process was remarkably easy. The online form is fairly short and if I hadn't had to keep uploading reformatted drafts the process would probably have taken an hour or two.

I'll open the floor for suggestions now. Does anyone out there have relevant e-publishing experience to share?

1 comment:

  1. I have downloaded both books and they are surprisingly readable, even on a traditional kindle.