eBook Publishing Options

Posted: October 7th, 2013 under Digital Migration, journalism.
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How journalists can build their own news/publishing business

I was asked by my students if there were ways that they could publish their stories, videos and audios, without having to give up control to media companies that really aren’t all that interested in publishing new & interesting content from unknown authors. Well, not unless it is given to them free, with no obligations to pay any residuals or royalties, and they have exclusive rights to publish and market that content in all media known or unknown, throughout the universe, until the end of time.

There are a bunch of companies that have sprung up that publish multimedia books – you’ll have to do some research to see which one would offer you the best deal for your project.

1. Vook – they started off just doing ebooks with video embedded. These were interesting as experiments, but really didn’t push the form very far. Now, they’ve started publishing to all the major platforms (rather than trying to establish themselves as an alternative to Amazon, with their own proprietary standards – a losing game, if ever there was one).

The first Vooks were like the first CD-ROMs. They had text on them with cutscenes of dubious quality. Usually made from literature that was in the public domain (i.e. free for some geek to hammer on without having to pay fees to the pesky creative writer-types).

The first Vooks were like the first CD-ROMs. They had text on them with cutscenes of dubious quality. Usually made from literature that was in the public domain (i.e. free for some geek to hammer on without having to pay fees to the pesky creative writer-types).

2. Atavist – this is a company that started in beta last year. I was excited about them, but have to admit that I kinda lost the thread. Not sure if they’re good, bad or whatever. Still, they seem to have some decent content & authors on their site, and the company was founded by Evan Ratliff, who was a hotshot at Wired.

The Atavist is both a publishing tool and a sales platform for journalists interested in producing long-form stories. The tool was a bit rough & buggy when I tried it a year ago; I have my hopes that they've gotten better.

The Atavist is both a publishing tool and a sales platform for journalists interested in producing long-form stories. The tool was a bit rough & buggy when I tried it a year ago; I have my hopes that they’ve gotten better.

3. Inkling – These guys got buttloads of startup capital to help them launch. They aimed at taking over the hundred-billion $$ plus textbook market. Didn’t get much traction there … there’s a story that I’ve heard whispers of, involving huge under-the-table graft payments by crooked school districts, kickbacks to publishers, sabotage, etc. Dunno. Conspiracy theories abound in the margins of the digital migration. What I do know is that they have  published some of the best interactive books that I’ve seen – check out their volumes on how to shoot & light interesting photos, or on music appreciation. They seem to be trying to move into the consumer market right now. I do know that their publishing terms can be stingingly punitive, however – they demand mucho dinero upfront, or a big-ass slice of your earnings. Most of their stuff has a really, really high price point – $100 and up is not uncommon, if you click around the “Business” section. Still, their tech works.

Inkling seems to be aimed at the high-end textbook market. Their technology is great. Their fees likewise.

Inkling seems to be aimed at the high-end textbook market. Their technology is great. Their fees likewise.

4. iBooks Author – the “DIY” route. You have to do all the heavy lifting of laying out the book, embedding your videos, working out the kinks as you export to the iBookstore … however, the barrier to entry is basically nonexistent.  You will find that there are complexities undreamt-of in the layout process. This is a crude tool, in many respects, but it does get the job done.

iBooks has a lot in common with the other Apple "GrannyWare" in that it tries to dumb things down to the point where any dimwit can use it. The downside of this is that when you try to take control & do something complex, you are stymied at every turn (such as when you try to produce a book that works in both portrait and landscape mode).

iBooks has a lot in common with the other Apple “GrannyWare” in that it tries to dumb things down to the point where any dimwit can use it. The downside of this is that when you try to take control & do something complex, you are stymied at every turn (such as when you try to produce a book that works in both portrait and landscape mode).

5. Adobe DPS (Digital Publishing Suite) – this is the Big Daddy of ePublishing options. You can produce a full-featured “magazine app” style publication that contains all your videos, text, maps, timelines, interactive elements, etc. And you can get it into the Apple App store. And you can be up until 4 a.m. pulling your hair out. The learning curve on this one is steep … but if you figure out how to publish your own material, whatever it may be, and get it consistently into the App Store, AND figure out how to market/advertise it to get people to pay cash dinero for this, you will not NEED to work for a media company.  You will BE a media company.

The Adobe DPS is a cradle-to-grave publishing suite, that allows you to control every pixel, every interaction in a full-fledged "Magazine App." It's great for control freaks ... who have years of free time to learn all the ins and outs of every single conceivable app in the Adobe Creative Suite.

The Adobe DPS is a cradle-to-grave publishing suite, that allows you to control every pixel, every interaction in a full-fledged “Magazine App.” It’s great for control freaks … who have years of free time to learn all the ins and outs of every single conceivable app in the Adobe Creative Suite.

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