PDFs, ISBNs and knowing your Ps and Qs PDQ

Your printed book needs an ISBN.

PDF books need an ISBN that distinct from your printed book’s ISBN.

ePUBs need an ISBN that’s disinct from your PDF and your Hard copy book.

However . . .

ePUB is a the universal international eBook standard.

Nook books are ePUB and do not require you to have an ISBN. They use an internal identifier.  If you have an ISBN, you can use it.

Apple books are ePUB too. The do require that you have an ISBN. They also use an internal identifier.

If you have or plan to create an ePUB of your  book to sell on various vendors, the ISBN you put on that can be used on the Nook and Apple versions too because they are all ePUB format.

This is what we’ve been told, always double check.

Amazon’s AZW / Mobi books (Kindles) also do not require an ISBN.  A Kindle book will be assigned a number from Amazon, called an AISN.

You can give the Kindle one if you like, but Amazon’s format, which is mobi but tweaked so they call it azw, is not widely used. It’s not going to be sold anywhere else in this format.

Take away?

So, if you have one ISBN  . . . you probably want to sell an ePUB version that can be widely sold through various vendors, including sold as a Nook and iPad version.

This won’t exclude you from sale at Amazon, because Amazon will convert your .doc to mobi/azw and will sell your ebook too, but with an internal AISN.

This means you probably won’t be selling as a PDF (unless you have a spare ISBN lying about). But since the major markets are covered, do you really care?

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Published in: on September 13, 2011 at 7:07 AM  Leave a Comment  
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The tab button is not your friend

3 Things your PDF eBook should have:

  1. TOC, bookmarked to chapters so people can navigate it quickly.
  2. A good cover which you can do yourself create cheaply with images from photostock places. Text boxes that will fit into the display window of  e-readers easily.
  3. Page numbers (because otherwise it’s hard to remember where you were or discuss the book with a friend).

1 Thing your PDF doesn’t need: Headers. Headers, as you’d find in a traditional book, or even a PDF, with book/author name? Don’t need those.

Other things to know

Some people find a lot wrong with their PDF after they convert it. Always read through your PDF after conversion. Weird stuff can happen. Usually it is something that you did — unintentionally — because you live in a WYSIWYG world.

The biggest complaint about conversions is paragraph indents. You cannot use the tab button for making paragraph indents. You must use the hanging indent.  This may mean you have to spend a day, or two, going through your book removing tabs. It sucks, but you have to do it.

If you decided you wanted some fancy design that required tabbing . . . you need to go back and set it up with an indent so that the item you tabbed to the far end of the page, now occurs naturally where you want it placed

Another complaint is usually formatted text.  Check to see if your bold/ital/etc is there. If not, did you embed?

You really shouldn’t have any issues with your quote marks.  But check them all the same.

Make sure you have your metadata sorted. Metadata is where you put in the name of your book, author, etc.

And your security (DRM is Digital Rights Management).  Some people like to lock up their PDF so it can’t be copied or printed out — hey, why make it easy to steal?

Reads some PDF Books  If you haven’t read a PDF book, you need to.  Download the free Adobe Digital Editions and then download some free books in PDF  (www.planetpdf.com or from ADE library).

The download some ePub versions. Look at the PDFs vs the ePubs.  See what qualities and features they have.

You put a lot of work into your book, you want it to stand a chance. Make your PDF the best it can be.


Published in: on September 8, 2011 at 7:07 AM  Leave a Comment  
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PDFs as eBooks that won’t make eReaders weep

PDF Page set up    If you are going with PDF, you will need to reformat your book so that the pages are small.  The average eReader screen size is something you need to focus on.  If the display is 6″ wide, you cannot have your static PDF text running at a width of 6.5″ with additional white margins!

In the example we showed you Friday, the PDF was created on 8 x 11 pages, but the text box itself is only 4.75 inches wide and 8 inches long (including the header).  In other words, it was created to become a 6 x9 Trade paperback.

This is why, once you manipulate our PDF slightly in Adobe Digital Editions, it’s easy to read.  It’s just like reading the book version, because it is the book version.  And in fact, you and could read it, with friends at a book club, on readers or in hardcopy and be seeing the same thing with the same pages.

But to be honest, it could have been even better, ie easier for eReader users, if we’d simply made set the page set up for the PDF to custom, and set the text box on a page size that smaller to begin with, to match the size of the reader screen.

It’s something we’ll fix this time around simply because it’s easy to do, even in InDesign!

If you have your text set up on the custom paper size, and that size is smaller than a screen display (6″ wide), with it a tiny margin all around .25″ (it’s probably more like 50 pixels), then your resulting text boxes will fit into an eReader and display well without any manipulation once your text has been PDF’d.

In our case, we’d probably want to set the page size to w 5.25″ by h 7.75″  (A kindle DX display is 5 3/8 x 7 7/8). As it stands, our text box at 4.75″ w is fine, but it needs to be reduced to 7.25 in height.  This will create more pages in the final PDF, and a different numbering than the hardcopy edition, but a better eReader experience for anyone using a Kindle DX or iPad.

Remember, once it’s PDF’d there’s no going back, no one can manipulate it very much. So if the E-reader can’t present it in a readable fashion . . . your book won’t get read.

More on PDFs, tomorrow.

Text   This doesn’t mean you should change your text size (unless you’re using something like a 10pt).  Using a 12pt Times New Roman throughout is probably for the best (although some people prefer non-serif fonts).  Because it’s large enough that people of many visual abilities can read it.


If you love your font selections, that’s ok too. But you need to make sure they travel with the PDF (think embedded journalist, traveling with troops).  Most people don’t understand how to convert to a PDF with embedded fonts (that would be, PostScript the file first, then open the Acrobat Distiller then choose open and select the PS file, at which point it converts to a PDF with embedded fonts). If you do know this, great, do what you want.

With a PDF, it is what it is. Your readers get some of the experience of the physical book because you can duplicate the typography. Many eReaders change the font, or allow it to be changeable, but you can’t do that with a PDF on an eReader. It is, what it is.

You want to be sure that you have your PDF version set up to be either a) as useable as possible, or b) exactly as you want it in your book, but you’re ok with that because you’re using it more to send around as a “Galley” version / review copy of a print book that’s coming out soon.

Marketing   People with Nooks and Kindles  and iPads can read PDF version documents.  But, people have to hear about your book before they go to your website and download it.  Since you can’t market your PDF versions on B&N or Amazon or iBooks platforms without converting them to proprietary formats first,  . . . . .

Things your PDF eBook should have: TOC, bookmarked to chapters so people can navigate it quickly. A good cover which you can do yourself create cheaply with images from photostock places. Text boxes that will fit into the display window of  e-readers easily. Page numbers (because otherwise it’s hard to remember where you were or discuss the book with a friend).

Things you don’t really need: Headers. Headers, as you’d find in a traditional book, or even a PDF, with book/author name? Don’t need those.

Which button makes it work? Help me!

Ok, you have a book.  Let’s call it a text of a book, because that’s what you’ve really created, a text.

Now you have to decide in which format you want to distribute it: PDF, ePub, Nook, Kindle.

You can release your finished book in all these ways if you want, and you probably should.  Don’t limit your market!

In terms of easy to do, a PDF conversion is easiest. Format your book very simply, with page numbers and headers, in a standard readable font, and convert. It doesn’t have to be more complex than this, but you could bookmark the TOC to the chapters to make navigation easy, and you could slap a cover JPG on it. You can then check your creation using free Adobe Digital Editions software on your computer (PC or Mac)

Many people use this option because they have worked with Acrobat.  No access to Acrobat? Search around the Adobe site. It usually allows you to do some free conversions as a sample.  Mac users have a built in PDF creator, but the Mac PDF created isn’t always stable on all platforms. So be aware if you choose to go that route.

The PDF advantages are . . . you can read them on your computer and distribute them around to reviewers who can then see your book as it will look when printed.  The PDF creates a version that maintains your formatting. They can be read on devices such a iPads, which are slightly larger page size.

PDF disadvantages . . . if you do a straight book to ebook conversion and look at it on your ADE, you’ll see the problem immediately.  The white page margins are always there. Even when you shrink it down.  If you go up and select READING, and from the dropdown menu choose Custom Fit, then adjust it 174%, and fit the reader window directly over the text, you’ll see what it’s like trying to read your book on an iPad. It’ll look a lot like this

The problem with simply converting your book formatted text to a PDF (if you aren’t going to make a printed book, and these aren’t review copies), is that PDF formatting is static. You can make it smaller or bigger.  But it’s difficult.  It also becomes totally unreadable on any small eReader or iPhone.

So, when considering a PDF, which can be a great format for people who read on a laptop, or iPad, or when sending out review copies of a book that will be coming out in print (and so you want to show reviewers what it actually looks like), a text formatted into a book configuration and then PDF’d can be a good thing.

However, if you are shooting for an eReader market, you have to make it eReader friendly. So, our tip for when you absolutely positively are going to go PDF, but want the widest possible audience?  Check back Tuesday.

And on to ebooks, and how we make them — do not use as intended.

Before we go any further, we have to be honest, we don’t use things “as intended.” This upsets experts their field, but it always works out for us and it always turns out to be way, way, way, simpler.  Whatever we tell you this month about ebook conversions, don’t spread it around.

We do all our books in Adobe InDesign. It’s a professional type of software most publishers use.  Everyone told us not to buy it, to job the work out to a professional. But we said no. We can do this.  And we did.  But we did it our way.  So we do not use ID as intended.

We put everything for one entire book, in one entire InDesign file. From frontmatter to backmatter.  Just they way you wrote your book on your computer’s word-processing software. We use ID like a big, powerful word processor.

Hear that high-pitched sound? It’s professional designers screaming in the distance.

It’s totally NOT, what you’re supposed to do to make a book in InDesign. But doing it as we do means creating printer files and PDF ebook files that are consistent, free of conversion errors, and a total snap.

And, drum roll please . . . .the first thing to know about creating an ebook? Everything goes in one file.

We end up with a nice product we can sell worldwide, including through Apple, because LSI / Ingram Digital is an aggregator for Apple. (But not Amazon or B&N, which is why we have to go through this now.)

So, if you are currently staring at your not very formatted  potential ebook on your creaky word-processing program and thinking “Yes, but now what? I don’t have any professional software! And I don’t know what I’m doing!”

No worries, you’ve already done the hardest part! You wrote a book and it’s all in one file.

Published in: on September 1, 2011 at 7:07 AM  Leave a Comment  
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