Category Archives: Personal Publishing

A Look at Flipboard’s Send to Friends Feature

The latest iOS update for Flipboard gives users the ability to share articles with friends who are also using Flipboard from right in the app. This video gives you a walk-thru on how the feature works.

While you’re out there, I hope you’ll take a look at my Fiesta 500! magazine – celebrating 500 years of Florida’s history.

Scribd for Family History

Scribd’s new subscription service has been a reading delight. Even if I never got past the cookbooks, it would be well-worth the $8.95/month fee. My latest discovery is The Food, Folklore and Art of Lowcountry Cooking which is not only full of great recipes for the dishes I grew up eating, but it also looks at the history behind them. The nice thing about this subscription service is that the books don’t have to be returned by a certain date. As long as I’m a subscriber, I have access to these books any time I want them. The cookbooks alone make this a great deal, but they are just one category in this huge collection of books. Yes, there are even genealogy books included in the subscription service – just not as many as I’d like.

One of the very nice things about reading books on Scribd is that for the most part you are reading the books as they were originally designed and laid out. Take a look at one of my Moultrie Creek Guides below. This guide was built using the Keynote presentation app and is designed to be read on a tablet. Even scrunched to fit the available space on this blog page, it’s still quite readable. On an iPad even the example images are very readable. Many of those examples are from actual family history projects and, combined with Scribd, my family can enjoy them online via a Scribd app or downloaded as a PDF and read on whatever device they prefer.

Anyone can set up a free account on Scribd and use it to post their own books and documents. Your publications can be freely available to all, privately available only to select users or included in the Scribd store to generate revenue. Did you notice the difference in the tools available in the toolbars on each of the examples above? My Moultrie Creek Guide offers tools to download and share the publication where the subscription service does not. That’s because I chose to make those features available when I posted the publication. Scribd has free reading apps for iOS and Android devices and has just released one for Kindle Fire tablets. Using these apps you have access to the subscription service as well as the free collections.

There are also a growing number of books and other publications on sale at Scribd. Anyone with their own original work can publish at Scribd. When you offer a book for sale at Scribd, you set the price and you take home 80% of that price with each sale. What makes Scribd even more attractive is that your publications can be full of photos and graphics – and created using the word-processing apps you already have.

For those who prefer to download a PDF version when available, the free Documents app for the iPad not only reads just about any kind of document file, but also has an amazing file management system that can hook into just about any cloud storage or online repository as well as download directly from a web site.

Scribd is a great platform for publishing family history projects, giving you the ability to include the images, charts and tables that are so difficult to include in most ebooks. Not only is it free to use, but you can also make publications available for sale through the Scribd Store. And, for your own reading pleasure, the Scribd Subscription service is hard to beat. Don’t you think it’s time to take a look at Scribd?


Formatting for Tablets

My family has discovered the joys of tablets – which has given me an easy and effective way to share our family stories. Thanks to platforms like Scribd and it’s associated mobile apps, along with apps like Documents by Readdle, I’m discovering that I can create some amazing publications full of text and graphics to share with my family. It’s all a matter of formatting.

My two favorite apps for these projects are Apple’s Keynote presentation app and Pages, the word-processing app. I am using the older version of Pages (v 4.3) because it has the layout capabilities not available in the version 5 app. Windows users can use Word and PowerPoint to do the same things. Keynote is my app of choice for publications heavy on photos and graphics. With it I can create scrapbooks, picture books and even photo documentaries – and all will fit comfortably on a tablet’s screen in landscape view. For text-heavy publications, I use Pages. I’ve created a template with a page size of 6″ x 8″ and ½” margins on all side. Combine that with a 12pt font size and I’ve got a very comfortable read in portrait view and a readable two-page spread in landscape view.

While most of us have used presentation and word-processing software for years, few of us use the features that will make a family history project extra special. Learning to use features such as styles, table of contents generation, image placement and metadata will take some time, but that investment will result in a better quality publication with less effort. If you have used a scrapbooking app to layer papers and graphic elements on a page, you’ll find that you can do many of those same things with your presentation software – it’s just the commands are different.

The Future of Memories at Scribd.

The Future of Memories created in Pages and published at Scribd.

Once a project is finished, it’s exported to PDF format and posted on Scribd. My family can use the free Scribd app to read it there or download it and read it with the app of their choice. Using apps like Documents [iOS -free], family members can read all kinds of files and move files between a number of popular cloud storage systems. I have also set up a shared folder to make my storybooks easily accessible to those who prefer that method.

One last note . . . Scribd is not only an impressive publication-sharing platform, it also has a bookstore and subscription service so you can make publications available for sale through it. I’ve found it a great place to publish my Moultrie Guides series of how to books. The 80% earnings per sale is very nice too.

An ePublishing Introduction

Do you want to publish an ebook but don’t know where to begin? The best place to start is to learn just what an ebook is and why it’s so different from its paper cousin.

An ebook is designed to be read on a portable electronic device. Some devices, like the Kindle reader, are about the size of a hard-cover book, only thinner and with monochromatic screens. Their features are limited to reading, purchasing and organizing books. Their battery charge is measured in weeks rather than hours and hundreds of books can be stored on the device at any given time. Readers who already have a mobile device such as a smart phone or tablet can choose to install one or more reader apps. The reader can begin a book on one device, then pick up right where she left off when she opens the same book on a different device.

Both ereader devices and apps offer a number of useful features to improve the reading experience. First is the ability to adjust the font style and size. For those of us with aging eyes, this is a blessing. You can also bookmark, highlight and add notes to the text. Most readers also offer dictionaries, giving you the ability to look up the definition of a word used in the text. Some even offer translation functions.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that right now ebooks are the Wild Wild West of publishing. Each major bookstore (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and Apple’s iBooks) has their own line of readers and reader apps which will only read books bought from them. Amazon even has its own proprietary ebook format. Publishers are nervous and authors are confused. Traditional publishing is getting turned on its ear.

All this chaos offers lots of opportunities for do-it-yourself author/publishers. There is a pretty sigificant learning curve, but the results can be quite rewarding.

For those of us who grew up in the world of word-processing, ebooks aren’t that different. The biggest difference is that the document/publication never makes it to paper. The biggest challenge is that you aren’t formatting it for a specific size (letter, legal, card, etc.). You’re formatting it for all any and all sizes. You are creating one book file that can be read on devices ranging from the small screen of a smart phone to the large screen of a desktop computer and any number of devices in between. OMG!

Each of the current ebook formats uses HTML, the language of the Web, to present their books. HTML was designed to format and control “flowable” content – content that adjusts to the size of the container displaying it. If you are reading this article at my web site using your desktop computer, it will look different than if you are reading it on a tablet device or using a newsreader. I don’t try to place an image at a specific spot on the screen because I know that’s a waste of time. Instead, I place images within the flow of the text so it’s located near the text that discusses it. That way it will be in the same relative position on whatever screen or device is used to view it.

As with blogging, it’s much easier to format text publications than ones with lots of photos and graphics. I’m not saying you can’t include images. I’m just saying it’s going to require more time and effort. Bookstores like Amazon have a vested interest in helping you get your books published – without the publisher middle-man there’s more profit for both of you. They offer lots of helpful information on how to create a ready-to-publish ebook from your word-processing document. For more information on how to do this, I recommend Aaron Shepard’s books From Word to Kindle and Pictures on Kindle.

Another great resource is Smashwords. This publishing platform will take your Word document, convert it into an ebook and place it for sale in each of the major bookstores. Smashwords manages your sales from each of these vendors. There’s no upfront costs to use Smashwords but they take a commission from your sale revenue before sending your royalty check. They also have a detailed guide – The Smashwords Style Guide – which can be downloaded for free with step-by-step instructions on how to format your Word document for conversion to an ebook.

For people with books that are photo/graphic heavy with precise layout requirements, today’s ebook technology still isn’t ready for you. That doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of digital publishing. It just means you have fewer options. However, one of those options is quite impressive. It’s called Scribd. Scribd has been around for several years as an online library for documents. Then they opened the Scribd store so people could upload documents to sell. Recently they announced a subscription service – think Netflix for books – where for $8.95/month you can read any of the books included in the subscription catalog. At the same time, they announced an agreement with the Harper Collins publishing house to include their catalog as part of the subscription service. Scribd offers free reader apps for tablets and smart phones to take advantage of this service and their entire library.

The beauty of Scribd is that you can upload Word documents – even PowerPoint presentations – and Scribd maintains your formatting. The guide below was created using Apple’s Keynote presentation software, saved as a PDF document and uploaded to the Moultrie Creek library at Scribd. This guide can be downloaded as a PDF file – again keeping all the formatting and graphic elements intact. If this had been posted for sale, buyers would get the PDF document which can be read on most desktops and devices. Obviously, this would not be a pleasant read on a smart phone or dedicated ereader device, but it does look great on tablets.

Scribd has no upfront costs, but they take a 20% commission from each sale. If your book is included in the subscription service, you will receive revenue for each subscriber who reads all or part your book.

This is a broad overview of the current state of electronic publishing. Your next step is to take a look at the platforms and publications mentioned here for a more detailed description of the effort required to get the result you desire. I also recommend you wander through the archive here at the Gazette. There’s lots of good information here – and lots more to come.

Textilus – A Scrivener Companion and More

Textilus [iPad - $5.99] is an amazing word processing app for the iPad, but it’s also the best app I’ve found so far to take a Scrivener project with me.

Even without the Scrivener connection, it’s a most impressive app. It supports inline graphics and makes it possible to sign documents with your finger. You can export your documents in PDF, RTF, RTFD, TXT, Markdown and HTML format. There’s also a document manager supporting Dropbox, iCloud and Evernote connectivity. I use Dropbox with Scrivener’s External Folder synch feature to move project files between Textilus on my iPad and Scrivener on my desktop.

But that’s just the beginning. Would you like to send HTML emails? Create them in Textilus then export them via email in HTML format. Got docs in Word format that need editing? From your computer, drag the Word document file to the Textilus folder (in Dropbox) and when opened with Textilus on your iPad, the document will automatically be converted to RTF (rich text format).

Textilus Screen

As you can see in this example, the keyboard has been customized to provide easy access to the editing features you’ll use most often. And, yes, the dictation feature works too. The document you are looking at is the Getting Started document included in the app. It’s a quick guide to using its many features and definitely the place to start.

Textilus Sketching

I bought this app to support my Scrivener projects, but I’m already seeing many more ways to put it to good use.

Oh, there’s also a free version of Textilus if you’d rather try before you buy. If you like it, the upgrade to the full app is an easy in-app purchase.

Affordable Royalty-Free Music

If you’re looking for music to perk up a storytelling project, take a look at Vimeo’s music store. Here you’ll find more than 45,000 royalty-free tracks covering just about any music style or mood you need for your project. Many tracks are free and those that aren’t will only set you back $1.99 for personal use.

An Introduction to Publishing with Smashwords

Thinking about publishing your family stories? Smashwords can help. Here’s an introduction to publishing using Smashwords.

Sketchbook Journaling

My favorite app on my iPad is Paper by FiftyThree [iPad - $6.99]. It’s an artist journal/sketchbook where you create journals and sketch, write, doodle or whatever on the pages. The app itself is free, but only includes the pen tool. Other tools (color, sketch, write, outline) are in-app purchases of $1.99 each or you can get them all for $6.99.

I’m a doodler at heart so this app quickly became a favorite. When I stumbled onto Stuff I Remember, a book two sons put together from their father’s childhood sketchbook, and How to Make a Journal of Your Life, about sketchbook journaling, I found even more inspiration.

It’s also quite easy to save journal pages as graphic images, so I can incorporate my doodles into my Day One [iOS - $4.99, Mac - $9.99] journaling apps. Now I have the best of both worlds – hand-crafted entries in a high-tech journal.

Does tech get any better than this?

The hand-crafted book

I’ve been providing some genea-research support to a friend who is writing a local military history. He has been looking at some of the more scholarly publishers to produce his book, but realizes that with his project’s limited audience he’s not likely to get their attention. I’ve tried to talk him into self-publishing with Lulu, but he resisted it – until recently. What made him change his mind?

In his research, he was able to connect with the family of a man he wanted to spotlight. In addition to documents, letters and photos, they showed him a memorial book one family member had made – and published using Lulu. He was very impressed with the quality of the book and the clarity of the photos and scanned documents included in it. Now, he wants to learn more about Lulu and what it can do for his history.

While the debate will continue on the advantages/disadvantages of electronic publishing, examples like this convince me that it facilitates the return of the hand-crafted book. Someone in this family spent the time and effort to collect the information and artifacts of their loved-one’s life and build a memorial to him. In earlier days that may have been done in the form of a scrapbook which would be handed down from generation to generation. Over the years, the pages and content would start to crumble or, even worse, it might get thrown out. Today’s hand-crafted book is professionally printed and bound and any family member who wants one can have it. Copies can be donated to local libraries or historical societies to add to the area’s history and insure this loved one won’t be forgotten.

Electronic publishing – with it’s many formats, services and platforms – gives us all the opportunity to produce a hand-crafted family history in any number of ways. Whether it’s a printed book from Lulu or Blurb, a PDF publication that can be read on a mobile device or printed on a home printer, an ebook read on an e-reader or a digital scrapbook, it’s our choice. And isn’t having choices a wonderful thing!

Telling Stories with Keynote and Scribd

My favorite layout tool is Keynote – Apple’s presentation graphics app. It gives me the flexibility to build publications that are part story and part scrapbook – my favorite format. Keynote is not a writing tool and it doesn’t handle the linked text boxes that flow from one page to another like Pages Apple’s word processing app. It does make it easy to place and arrange photos and other graphical elements and I can create some interesting text effects. In this particular publication, most of the stories come from blog articles I’ve written over the years, so I’m taking that “finished” text and styling it with layout, fonts, graphic effects and photos to get the look I want.

The Scribd online library makes it possible to publish my stories in this unconventional format, letting others read it online or even download a PDF if I choose to make that feature available. The built-in revision system makes it easy to upload a new version when I have more stories to add. The first edition of Behind the Alligator Farm is posted at Scribd. You can view it via the embed below. Like most family histories, this is a work in progress. As new stories are completed, a new version will be posted at Scribd.