In this first in a series of articles on how you can potentially make money online with your book via digital distribution, we are going to take a look into what formats are best suited for your book or preview along with what tools there are to create these formats cheaply and quickly.
Digital distribution is mostly associated with music downloading and bit torrent. I’ll get to bit torrent later so lets talk about the downloading of music and what we can learn from it.
Instead of covering the well-documented history of music downloads, let’s look at how the practices of music download providers can be applied to selling digital books.
The growing popularity of digital downloads in the music arena can be attributed to three factors: lower cost for the consumer, portability, and accessibility. The digital distribution of books, comic books, or any type of creative work can take advantage and capitalize on any or all of the aforementioned factors.
In order to sell your book online, you have to create a file which can be easily downloaded in the shortest amount of time. Which leads to what format should your downloadable product be in.
If you’ve done any research on selling books online, no doubt you’ve heard the term “eBooks” mentioned a lot. So what exactly is an eBook? eBook is a general term used for electronic or digital book. They offer publishers, self-publishers, and creators the opportunity to either sell or preview portions of their work to anyone with internet access. Typically, eBooks are created as a PDF file but the format of an eBook can vary. They include but are not limited to:
Image Files: An eBook created as a series of image files. This format is aimed at eBooks containing a large number of images. Because of this, this type of eBook can be quite large in file size, possibly making it undesirable for those with a modem connection. This particular type of format is mainly used for comic books and art books in digital format. CDisplay and PicWalker are free programs used to view these type of files. If you’re familiar with bit torrents and where to find them, then you might also know about the increasing number of bit torrents for comic books. This is something I’ll come back to later in this series.
E-Guide: Typically created as a Microsoft .doc or text file, they are usually created as guides or instructional manuals. Due to their lack of security measures, this type of format is prone to editing by individuals who then turn around and resell the product as their own creation.
Portable Document Format: PDFs have become the de facto format used by most eBook creators due to its ability to be easily printed in addition to being viewed on multiple platforms (including some handhelds) and on the Web with an Adobe’s free Acrobat Reader. There is a multitude of available programs used to create PDFs. Adobe’s Acrobat program is very common but there are also some free programs such as PDFCreator and others which you can simply Google for.
So what format should you use for your book, previews, or whatever you plan on creating to sell or market? I would suggest both PDF and Image Files. PDF files are easy to create and most online users are familiar with them. Image Files are not as widely known and not everyone has CDisplay on their computer. But that shouldn’t stop you.
So how do you create a PDF file? There’s a handful of options. Some are free; some are not. The best free PDF creator (in my opinion) is CutePDF. CutePDF integrates itself in most document-creating software (such as Microsoft Word), allowing you to easily create a PDF file from a Word document. I have used it in the past and find it very easy to use. But if you have money to burn, then you could purchase Adobe’s Acrobat software for around $450 US. But I would suggest checking out CutePDF first.
To view your PDF file, the reader will need the free Adobe Reader plug-in available for download at the Adobe web site. According to the Adobe web site, more than 500 million copies of Adobe Reader have been distributed worldwide on 23 platforms and 26 languages. It’s common practice to include a link to the download page for Adobe Reader when you offer a PDF download just in case the person wishing to view your PDF file doesnt have Adobe Reader or doesnt know if they have it.
Image Files are simply image files (JPGs, PNGs, or GIFs). To create a file which is viewable in either CDisplay or PicWalker, you simply have to take the image files of your book or preview, name them so that they are read sequentially, use a program to archive them (such as WinZip), and you’re done. When the reader downloads your archived file containing the image files and loads it into either CDisplay or PicWalker, they will be able to view the image files in a two-page layout- just like a comic- without having to unzip the file. If you are familiar with Photoshop, I would suggest you first shrink the file size of each file/page first just to cut down on the final zipped file size.
Now that we have covered what formats are best and and covered the basics of how to create your preview and/or book, the next step would be what to do with your newly created preview and/or book. That will be covered in the next part of this series. Stay tuned.
Wesley Craig Green runs Creative Entrepreneur, a blog providing information to entrepreneurs, bloggers, self-publishers, and creators on Web 2.0 tools, marketing, and taking their business to the next level.