You can read this and thousands of other books on Scribd for $8.95 a month using their subscription service. Scribd has free apps for Android and iOS devices and you can read from your browser on any desktop or mobile device. And, there’s also a gift service just in time for the holidays.
Think of it as Netflix for books.
For $8.99 a month, you can read any and all of a growing number of books in Scribd’s subscription service. No, not every book and document in the Scribd library is available for subscription reading, but there sure are enough to keep me occupied for a long time. My favorite mystery authors – Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayer, Jacqueline Spear and Georgette Heyer – are all there.
You will need to install the Scribd app on your tablet/phone. It doesn’t have the features of the Kindle app, but it works just fine. With it you can add books to your library and download them to your device for reading offline. You can adjust the font size, access the table of contents and post what you’re reading to your favorite social network.
The subscription service helps authors too. Each borrowed book generates a commission for the author. Why is this interesting? Because it isn’t just publishing houses who can publish and sell their works on Scribd. More on that coming soon.
One of the most popular forms of traditional book marketing has been book-signing parties. That’s very nice when you have a physical book to sign and a marketing budget to pay for the traveling, but what about the self-publisher who’s publishing digitally on a shoestring budget? All it takes is a bit of imagination, a little time and effort, and an online hangout like the virtual cafe at Moultrie Creek Books. Let’s look at your options . . .
If you have a PDF edition of your book for sale on your site or via platforms such as Scribd or Lulu, your readers who have a PDF copy of your book can email it to you and you can use a PDF app with annotation capabilities like Evernote’s Skitch to write a note and sign the book. This is much easier to do on a tablet than a desktop, but will work on a desktop/laptop with a digitizer tablet or a touchpad. Both the PDFExpert [iPad - $9.99] and Good Reader [iPad - $4.99] apps support annotations, making it easy to write on a PDF document.
NOTE: An iPad stylus makes writing much easier than with your finger. It also works quite well on a Mac touchpad. You might try one on your laptop’s touchpad to see if it works there too.
Sample Virtual Book Card
Whether or not you are publishing a PDF edition of your book, you may want to consider creating a book card. A book card is a postcard-size “business” card for your book. In the example shown here, I have the book cover on one side of the card and a short description with bookstore link on the back – leaving room to sign the card. In this example, I saved the card layout as a PDF file and signed the card on my iPad using the free Documents by Readdle app on my iPad. You could also have physical cards printed for face-to-face marketing opportunities at conferences or society meetings.
I chose the postcard size for a number of reasons. First, the size gives lots of design room for cover graphics, book description and purchasing details and still leaving room for signing. Second, it’s easy to find 4×6″ postcard stock to print your own and it’s a standard size offered at print shops. And, since 4×6″ is also a common photo size, there are tons of albums available to keep them. Who knows . . . book cards could be the next new thing in collectibles!
So, if you’ve got a published book and would like to try a new angle on marketing, build your own book card, practice signing your name with your finger or a stylus, then contact me at The Bookstore Cafe to schedule a virtual book-signing party.
Unfortunately, book pages like this one are much too common on self-published platforms like Lulu.com or Smashwords. Someone has put in a lot of time and effort creating a 237-page book – and this is the 4th volume – but couldn’t find the time to provide a description of this book or add a few tags. This could be a fascinating history but how many people will fork out $20 to find that out without some kind of incentive?
Spend the time to describe the contents of your family history including the surnames, locations and time periods covered in the narrative. Use the tags or keywords fields to add even more information about the families discussed in your book. Regardless of the platform you use, your book page was designed with search engines in mind. Everything from the title to the description and on to the tags has been designed so that when a cousin searches for information on the Bennion surname, your book will get included in that search. Whether it will show up on the first page of search results or the 82nd will depend in part on the effort you put into the descriptive sections of your book page.
Every self-publishing platform includes all kinds of fields in the book’s catalog form to help describe its contents. Take advantage of them to include as much information as you can about your book.
In this example from the Smashwords catalog, you’ll find a lot more information about the specific families included in the book. In addition to surnames, the author provides the time period covered in the book and used the tags field to add locations. Consider what keywords you used during your research to find information about the people discussed in your book and include those keywords in your book’s record.
Another useful tip – if your publishing platform includes the ability to present a preview of some of the book’s pages, make sure you include the table of contents as part of that preview. It will help us determine if your book discusses our branch of the family.
All of this will improve the chances that research cousins discover your book – and you. You spent a lot of time and effort creating this book. Take a few minutes to present it properly in the bookstore. It will be a very good investment.
If you look down the sidebar on any of my blogs, you will see the Creative Commons graphic. Follow the link to the license information and you will be pleasantly surprised that the license text is written in plain language. There is also a legal version of the license at the Creative Commons site and machine readable version (so search engines and web apps can identify licensed work).
While I do want credit for the works I create, I don’t mind if others use my works in their own creations. This is especially true in my family history projects. That doesn’t mean you have unlimited rights to my publications or postings or that you can claim them as your own. Creative Commons offers the flexibility to create a license that suits my needs. For example, the short name for my license is “attribution-share alike” which means you can use my stuff if your work includes credit to me and the work you create using my stuff will also be licensed to share to others. I don’t limit the number of copies you can have, keep you from giving my work to someone else or make you ask my permission to use my stuff. All I want is credit for my efforts and that you don’t try to lock my work up by including it in an “all rights reserved” copyrighted publication.
The beauty of Creative Commons is that it gives you the flexibility to determine how your work can be distributed. There are several different options you can incorporate into the license you use. Will you allow commercial use? modifications of your work? How will others attribute the work to you? At all times you retain copyright to your work.
Whether you are building an original work and including family treasures or offering scanned copies of existing photos and documents, Creative Commons gives you the opportunity to choose how those works can be used by others. Visit the Creative Commons site to learn more.
I stumbled onto the most amazing book this weekend – Paperless by David Sparks. This book shows you how to go paperless using Mac tools. (David also writes for MacWorld magazine.) Although it is designed to get your personal papers under control, it’s full of great ideas for family archivists too. It shows you how to capture, process and manage your digital documents and discusses the tools needed to make it all happen.
Almost as interesting as the book’s content is the book’s construction. The book was built using iBooks Author. There are two versions – the iPad version [$9.99] and a PDF version [$10.00]. Both “books” include more than an hour and a half of video and screencast demonstrations of the processes discussed in the book. With the iBooks version, those videos are viewed right in the book. On the PDF version, when you click on the screencast’s title image, the video pops up in your QuickTime player.
If you are a Mac user and want to learn how to better capture, digitize and manage your family history archive – not to mention your personal papers, this book tells you and shows you how to do it.
Having seen the strange story about the deleted Kindle library that has played out over the last few days, I was reminded once again how volatile the ebook world is right now. However, there are things you can do to protect yourself – and your library – from disaster – and it’s actually quite easy. Install the Kindle desktop app on your computer and use it to open each book in your Kindle library. This will download a copy of those books to your desktop. On my Mac, these downloaded books are stored in Documents > My Kindle Content. There’s a desktop app for NOOK users and those books are stored in Documents > My Barnes & Noble eBooks. Kobo also offers desktop apps, but I’m not sure where those files are stored.
Often your books will be listed using a numbering system that makes no sense when you look at your files. You will see the title and cover graphics in your reader app. I recommend using the wonderful Calibre [Mac, Win & Linux - free] library management app to organize all your ebooks. Each book in your library is displayed by title, author, cover and whatever other details you want to show. See the related reading list at the bottom of this article for more information on Calibre.
One other tip . . . A growing number of indie publishers feel that when you buy their ebook you should have the same rights you have with a print book. Their ebooks are being sold without the digital rights management (DRM) controls that prevent you from moving a book you bought from one device to another (Kindle to NOOK, for example). The Amazon bookstore identifies these books in their product details with the Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited item. Kobo details this in their Download options field. When you see this, you can share it with friends just as you would a printed book.
TIP: Although you can identify a book at Amazon and Kobo as having or not having DRM restrictions, once you’ve downloaded it to your desktop, that information is gone. If you want to know which books have DRM and which don’t, you might assign a “nodrm” tag when you add the book to your Calibre library.
Yes, you can protect your library from disaster. All it will cost you is a little time.
One of the – many – advantages of digital publishing is the ability to update your ebooks quickly and easily. No, I don’t mean the research and writing effort is quick and easy, but the publishing effort is. As the author/publisher, that gives you several advantages. First and obvious, you can make changes to your book and let your readers replace the old copy with the new. Second, if you use it as a strategy when you first begin a book project, it can be used as a selling point too.
Let me explain what I mean by offering an example. As you know I’m an avid WordPress fan. Some time back I stumbled onto a book, Digging Into WordPress, which was offered in both a print and PDF format. The PDF edition appeared at first to be a bit pricey ($27) until I read further and found they offered a “lifetime subscription”. Every time WordPress got a major upgrade, they would update the book and distribute PDF copies to every subscriber. In a world where tech books are expensive and often outdated before you can get them home, this was a fabulous idea – and one that has more than paid for itself since I bought it. I’ve had either 3 or 4 updates since I bought my copy, with another one expected at any time.
Tech books aren’t the only books that change over time. Family history is often quite “fluid” as research continues to produce new and interesting facts to add to the existing narrative. Fortunately, by publishing digitally, you also have the ability to update your book and send your new revision to those who received the initial one. And, if you published using platforms like Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, it’s also quite easy. While all the platforms offer a way to update your ebook once it has been listed in their bookstore, the Kindle platform will even send email notices to the people who have purchased your book to let them know an updated version is available for them to download. You will still need to use your blog, GoodReads, Facebook and other social venues to let your readers know there’s a new revision available and offer guidance on how to update their copy, but that effort could also inspire new readers to purchase your book.
For many of us who are taking advantage of the opportunities self-publishing provides, this can be a useful marketing tool – as my favorite WordPress authors have already discovered. I’m already collecting information to update my Digital Toolbox book which I hope to have ready in time for RootsTech 2013. My guess is this one will easily support a yearly update as technology continues to offer new ways to make our research life easier.
Take a look at your publishing platform and see what it takes to make your revised books available to your readers. If you are in the early stages of a publishing project and haven’t yet decided which platform to use, check into their ability to accept and distribute revised copies before making your decision. You could find it quite useful information to have later on. Protect your working files too. Even if you aren’t planning to ever update a writing project today, you could change your mind at any time . . .
My Kindle Paperwhite arrived yesterday. It’s a delightful improvement over my Kindle Touch. Beginning with the case, which is darker and made with a material that is more tactile so it offers a better grip, the Paperwhite is thinner yet a bit heavier. The touch screen is significantly more responsive – more to the level of my iThings. Then there’s the screen itself. WOW! The lighting is amazing. It’s easy to adjust the brightness level to suit your current reading environment. With the light turned down, the screen appears more like a standard e-Ink device, but when it’s pushed up to the maximum brightness it is gorgeous. I read for several hours last night with no eye strain. Most of the time, the brightness was set at about the 2/3s level which was very comfortable.
It will take a little time to adjust to the differences between the two devices. I kept trying to press the Home button last night – which doesn’t exist on the Paperwhite. Instead, you tap the top of the screen to display the menus. They have changed a bit too. Below you see the menu that appears on the home screen. The menu displayed within a book includes a second row for adjusting fonts, navigating the book and sharing content.
The main screen’s book list has been replaced with book covers. It will take a bit more effort to scroll through a large library, but I find the covers much more enjoyable than a list of titles. Browsing for books online remains a challenge. The bookstore’s screen design has improved, but it’s almost impossible to wander through such a massive selection of books even on my large computer screen. I take advantage of Amazon’s Wish List feature to capture books that catch my eye. It would be nice if a link to my Wish List was included on the main store front page.
I haven’t yet experimented with the 3G functionality of the device. It will get tested today at my office. If it can communicate in that black hole of a building where I work, it will truly be an amazing device.
My Kindle Touch has been a wonderful reading tool and I’m looking forward to enjoying the improvements included in this new Paperwhite. These little readers put a library into my hands that I can take anywhere. With it, I’ve got both entertainment and an impressive reference library with me wherever I want to take it.
Image courtesy of the Kindle Support site.