PDF books and The Rise of the Tablets

Something we touched on last week was viewing PDF books through various mediums.  But we forgot to say how the mediums are converging and how this works to the benefit of an author and use of a PDF  that is just a straight copy of a book, with no adjustments but for the width of the outer margins.

When PDF books were first available, they were usually sold through individual’s websites, or through the commercial site of a publisher who specialized in vanity press works.  These books were read on computers.

When the first eReaders came out, notably Kindle, Amazon wanted to control the  books they sold for their eReader – Kindle (even after they were on a reader’s device!). Because they couldn’t do this with a PDF, they came up with the .mobi format. Only Amazon uses this format.

The mobi format was combined with a ridiculously small screen, made reading static PDFs on it impossible. Theoretically.

What’s happened over time is that Kindles got bigger screens, and people figured out how to pop their normal Trade Paperback size PDFs (and ePUBs) onto it.  Now Amazon quasi supports people doing this, however, Amazon will not sell PDF books on its site.

You must convert your book to mobi to sell through Amazon, or your eBook doesn’t exist to them.

The rise of tablets, with display screens basically the size of a Trade Paperback page now, means PDF rips of a standard book are easy to read, easy to use, and present the book “as intended” by the author.  PDFs have become more acceptable again, but remain more difficult to market because of Amazon’s mobi only policy.

With the exception of reducing our margins, we’ll continue to make PDFs that are exact copies of our books because of the rise of tablets.

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Published in: on September 12, 2011 at 7:07 AM  Comments (2)  
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  1. You’ve apparently missed the news of the Kindle Print Replica format, which is PDF wrapped in Amazon DRM.
    http://www.the-digital-reader.com/2011/09/01/kindle-print-replica-ebooks-are-pdfs-in-a-wrapper/

  2. Thank you Mike, totally missed this!

    It is a fascinating development on several levels, however, in reading the Amazon website, this new format is actually limited to a very few books.

    If you read their site, Amazon wants every book to be put into the Kindle format unless there’s some major reason it can’t be such as heavy graphics.

    It does not allow anyone and everyone to sell a book in this format. In fact, they state that they have only OK’d books that don’t convert well to their Kindle format, such as college textbooks with heavy graphic content, maybe art books, etc.

    In other words, this is Amazon being forced to move into PDFs because textbooks are big sellers and they need to do this in some controlled way in order to capture these massive sales.

    This new format is really of no useful benefit to average authors or publishers in general. And, even the readers/buyers don’t benefit.

    Basically Amazon is trying to sell readers a KPR-PDF textbook that can only be read via the Kindle software installed on your PC or Mac tablet. Amazon tells you that you cannot read this replica book on your dedicated Kindle device.

    But one can already read any regular PDF book via Acrobat or Adobe Digital Editions on a PC/Mac tablet. So why would anyone pay money to buy a proprietary PDF from Amazon? Not really sure about that.

    And, as we understand it, most plain PDF books (straight text, which Amazon won’t accept to sell in their new replica format) can be read on a dedicated Kindle device or tablet using Kindle app — if you know how to do the few really simple, free steps it takes to “convert” it.

    It would be nice think that Amazon had looked at its internal publishing process and said

    “We could capture more sales and make it easier for authors (who find making a kindle to complicated) and publishers (who want graphic-heavy books or straight text presented as they intended) to sell on Amazon by rolling out a PDF format.”

    But that’s not what happened.

    We’ll definitely keep an eye on developments, and hope they open up in future, but it’s just Amazon doing what Amazon does best — capturing controlled-content sales through use of proprietary formats.

    Anyone wanting to sell a PDF version . . . should be selling through GoogleBooks, Adobe Editions, or other PDF retailers. At least for right now. And if they want to sell on Amazon — they’re stuck with having to make a Kindle version.

    Thanks again for the heads up!


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