Every Author Needs an eReader

We’ve had calls from a number of authors who are interested in turning a print book into an eBook. It makes sense, of course, with the growing segment of the population that’s reading eBooks these days.

The problem is that many of these forward-looking authors neither own an eReader nor have they even used one. They have a sense that they should be jumping on the eBook bandwagon, but they’re reluctant to be part of the actual band.

Every author knows what a book is, and it’s easy for authors to envision how their work will be presented in what are becoming known as DTBs (dead tree books). However, an author without eReader experience isn’t quite sure how the readers of his electronic content will connect with his information.

My advice: even if you love the smell and feel and heft of paper books, get yourself an eReader and begin to learn why many readers are going electronic. A Kindle can be had for as little as $79. That’s a minimal investment in your writing career. If you’d rather have a Nook, a Kobo, or any other eReader, that’s fine, too. The important thing is for you to come to understand how your readers will experience your work on electronic devices.

As you begin reading eBooks, you’ll find some that are riddled with typos. You’ll see others where chapter 2 starts immediately after the conclusion of chapter 1 without even moving to a new page. As a reader, you may find these things uncomfortable. You’ll also find many well-formatted, well-presented books that are a pleasure to read. The more you understand how the eBook will read and be read, the more input you’ll be able to have on the eBook’s production.

In working with an eReader, you’ll also learn what’s possible and what’s not in today’s electronic texts. Recently, an author asked us to include several fill-in-the-blank forms in his book. The accompanying text asked readers to print out the forms and to fill them out as they worked through the next section of the book. The author was used to PDF eBooks, where you can print out pages. Printing from an eReader, however, is not an option.

As you think about giving your paper book an electronic brother, understand that an eBook should not necessarily be a digital mirror image of the paper book. Sometimes it’s wise to rethink the presentation in light of the strengths and weaknesses of the electronic format.

  • eBooks can include links, both internal and external. If your book includes a glossary for specialty terms, for example, you could link directly to the glossary entry when those terms are introduced in text. If you provide links to websites in your book, people reading on devices that support web browsing can jump right to your linked material.
  • While fill-in-the-blank forms or detailed maps of magical kingdoms don’t come across well on the small pages of eBook readers, you can make your forms or maps available on your website and give the reader a link to access them if he or she desires. That gives you the opportunity to connect with your readers again.
  • If you had to trim an appendix or two to keep the page count of your printed book at a manageable level, you may be able to restore that information in the electronic version.

In the end,  authors need to think like eBook readers when planning the production of digital titles. Don’t hesitate to pick up an eReader and learn how to use it. At the very least, get one of the free reading apps for your computer or cell phone. These apps aren’t as cool as having a dedicated eReader, but they can give you a sense of today’s eBook experience.