E-book creation and lending
LR: So e-lending for dummies: I have a tablet, a library card… do you have to come in to do anything to access the tablet thing at some point?
ZO: No. If you’re at home—and as long as you are a member—you can just download the Overdrive app and then find the library on there, and all you have to do is log in and browse and download at home. Our patrons get to choose whether they want to borrow something for 7, 14 or 21 days, and then once it hits that day, they’re no longer able to read it. If they want to continue reading it, they have to go back to our website and borrow it again, as long as no one else has borrowed it.
EC: So, it gets blocked if someone else has it and they can’t check it out.
ZO: That’s right, but they could put themselves on the waiting list and be notified when it is available.
HM: Why wouldn’t you always take 21 days?
ZO: Well, we have a limit of 5 books per patron at a time, so once you have five books and you download all of them, you have to wait for your 21 days to expire. If you don’t download them and just read them right from the browser, that’s not a problem, you can return them any time. But if you’re a fast reader…
LR: So the Romance readers, I guess you have quite a few that choose 7 days?
ZO: Most people stick to the 14 days.
LR: We haven’t spoken much about the creation of e-books yet. For example, someone comes to you asking how to get an e-book into the library.
HM: Do you know what Pressbooks is?
LR: I know a bit about it but I’d love it if you would tell us.
HM: It’s an online tool: you go onto the Internet and you stick your content in and generate formatted outputs. The .pdf output is built to go to printers: you can just dump your content in to Pressbooks, then you can send that .pdf to a print-on-demand company or printer. Then there’s an equivalent web version—.ePub—which is what you would provide to Overdrive, and there’s an equivalent .mobi version which is for Kindle readers.
LR: Aside from .pdf, are these all DRM formats? (Digital Rights Management, which means a digital file can’t easily be copied.)
HM: The DRM is baked into the formats, into how they’re distributed. We don’t do any DRM-ing, but when a .mobi file goes to Kindle, they will wrap DRM around it. I’m sure Overdrive does this too.
LR: Is the ePub version, the web version, something where the text is searchable?
HM: Yeah, it’s totally live-on-the-web. Pressbooks is actually built on top of WordPress, so the web version is natively web. The model is that every book is its own blog—sort of a self-contained blog.
There is also a “deck” made for publishers, all your book files in one place. You could have 20 or 50 or 100 different books on a Pressbooks system. It’s relatively easy to use. The interface looks sort of WordPress-y so you can import doc files. They need to be prepped a little bit beforehand—it’s built more for text with some images. It would do a zine well enough, but if you’re doing like a coffee-table book or a graphic novel it’s not the ideal format.
There is a content management system that again, looks like WordPress. You keep your different chapters in it, you can edit your chapters at any time. You can make an edit and re-export all your different files.
There are also a lot of different templates. They’re more built for non-fiction and categories like mystery or romance. A lot of university presses do stuff with us, so we have a lot of templates adapted for their needs.
HERE IS A LINK TO THE SLIDESHOW PRESENTATION that Hugh McGuire gave about Pressbooks.
LR: Do you set up a WordPress page on your own first or do you suggest going through a developer to install it?
HM: It’s not hard to install on your own. Any developers can work with this too, for example the University presses use a lot of footnotes and floating images. We’ve done some work with The Wall Street Journal… so these are books that they give away to their subscribers as a gift, and they like Pressbooks because we output in .pdf, which is what their users prefer.
LR: Speaking of that market, is there any way of having these kinds of e-books updated once downloaded?
HM: That depends on how you’re getting it, I think Kindle can update books that were already sold… but if you’re getting it through Overdrive, then you’re just getting whatever they’ve got.
Pressbooks works best if you’re using it not as a conversion tool to get from some finished format to e-book, but rather if you’re using it instead to make the e-book from scratch. Getting a print format into e-book is kind of messy in general, there needs to be a lot of touching up of the code and formatting so it’s not a mess.
Our clientele is made up of a lot of self-publishers, a handful of micro-publishers doing 3, 5, 10 books a year, and then a handful larger publishers. Some are using this for new books—Fortress Press for instance totally jettisoned their existing production process and replaced it with Pressbooks. They cut their costs by 70%, it increases speed and reduces cost.
What happening is that a lot of specialty publishers and University presses—for instance, anyone a large number of books with small runs—are starting to print this way. 50% of those sorts of books are just pulp within a year anyway.
LR: Computer manuals are one thing I’d be happy to see the back of, for how quickly those get out of date.
HM: Exactly. Pressbooks exists partly just to do that, but actually I think the more interesting world is one we’re nowhere near yet, when book content is actually native on the web and is query-able on the web…
LR: It’s been a long time coming, it seems…
HM: It still is! (laughs)