Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Pimp My Novel: Anatomy of an E-book

B & N's Nook - Color & Touchscreen

Stolen  Borrowed from Eric at Pimp My Novel:

"I've gotten a few questions from the more tech-oriented among you, fair readers, as to what, exactly, an e-book file looks like. So! Allow me to illuminate... the EPUB format.

If you're looking for the short (and somewhat inaccurate) story: The EPUB format is the industry standard, and the file is sort of like a zipped up website. The book itself is written in the same code used to write web pages, and fancier books have extra files zipped into the final package.

If you're not familiar with the idea of "zipping up" a file, just imagine it as packing up all the stuff in your room. Your unpacked room represents all the various files and formats you'd like in the finished product; the single box you end up with that contains everything from your room is the zipped-up file.

For the more involved (and more technically correct) story, a basic EPUB file consists of the following:

· A bunch of pages written in XHTML that contain the written content of the book;
· CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) to provide formatting;
· An XML file with the extension .opf that contains the book's metadata (title, the language it's written in, &c);
· An XML file with the extension .ncx that contains the book's hierarchical table of contents.

These last two XML files are what really separate an e-book from a website: they provide a linear structure to the book that require (for the most part) that it be read in a certain order. (Many books do contain hyperlinks and allow you to skip from page to page this way.)

Now, although EPUB is the standard by which the industry operates, not all e-book retailers use it (and those who do generally modify the files they receive from publishers or individuals to suit their particular standards). This is why e-books often look different from device to device.

for the rest of his article, go here: Pimp My Novel: Anatomy of an E-book:

Amazon Kindle with Lighted Cover
Eric goes on to explain why Kindle is its own snobby little beast, how coding systems doesn't always play nicely together, and why one format for all handheld devices is unlikely to appear any time soon.

I confess, I was a book-you-can-hold-in-your-hands holdout.  Then I moved.  And as I was hauling really heavy box #16 of books up a steep flight of stairs to my new apartment, my lower back killing me, the thought occurred, "Gee, maybe e-books wouldn't be so bad, after all."

Especially when I considered the twelve equally heavy boxes still waiting in the truck.  Because someday, I will want to move again, and I do tend to collect more books  <shudder!>

Now I have a Kindle, with a pretty blue cover just like the one in the picture, and "dead-tree" books, and... I'm digging the Kindle a lot more than I thought I would.  For a long trip, the Kindle is a no-brainer.  It means I can bring all the classics I mean to read, someday, like War and Peace, non-fiction, chick lit, in one snug little handful.  If I get bored, I can just just make another choice.  It feels "right" in the hands, and the page turning experience feels much like a "real" book.

Also, my agent has asked me to try writing some short e-books - and to know what to write, I needed to get an e-reader and familiarize myself with what's currently in e-book circulation.

This is not my bathtub. (Except in my dreams)
However, if I was in Australia, I'd  seriously consider staying here.

I still need "real" books to read in the bathtub, though.  Instinct and sad experience with other electrical devices  tell me that bubbles and Kindles won't play well together either.  While "dead-tree" books shouldn't be dunked in water either, at least they're salvageable if you do fall asleep in the tub.

What do you think about E-books?  Love 'em?  Hate 'em?  How are you reading yours?

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