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ebook production 2020 update

2020 July 27
by Matt

I have not published any more ebooks of my own since Hancher vs. Hilton, nearly four years ago. But in the past year or so I have continued to land the occasional freelance ebook project, so I have a little sense of what’s going on with this format today.

Fixed-layout ebooks seem to be the trend, at least for people relatively doing their own thing (aside from wanting some freelance technical help). This doesn’t surprise me. The World Wide Web started out intended as thoroughly “reflowable,” and has ended up back there to a great extent, but the demand for rich formatting and layout control has generally prevailed nonetheless. In the world of ebooks in 2020, I’m sure a lot of people come along and see tables and color and complex diagrams as beyond question, and at any rate attach more value to them than to the ability of their book to adapt neatly to a mobile phone screen. I still think the result of the “fixed layout ebook” seems basically like reinventing the PDF, but whatever.

I’m still using InDesign to produce ebooks; this seems mostly to work well, but also some opening up and poking around the epub file’s contents seems to remain necessary. For all that I dislike cluttering up my Mac with applications, the eCanCrusher app’s quick and easy reassembly of split-open epub files is worth downloading it.

One other interesting note, about the .mobi file format. This seems like it is largely obsolete except for internal use by Amazon (which is apparently referring to the format as AZW3). In checking up, today, I read this advisory that “when you publish on KDP, Amazon will convert the file for you. Only [bother creating a .mobi file] if you plan to send the file directly to a Kindle user.”

If you do for some reason wish to create a .mobi file, apparently the best way is to bring an epub file into the Kindle Previewer application, then export it. This impressively modernized application is also, perhaps more practically, a way to check how your epub will be converted if you choose to publish it through Amazon.

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