PDA

View Full Version : image-heavy ebooks



elae
09-05-2010, 09:58 PM
Hey there! Dipping my toes into the subforum; I usually stick to the comics/graphic novels section (and a few others), but I recently launched a title (IN MAPS & LEGENDS (http://niki-smith.com/InMapsAndLegends/)) on various eReaders/phone/tablet apps and had a few questions for those who know more than I do about these things.

Basically, I teamed up with a writer, and we've started releasing our comic as a new issue every 6 or so weeks. We're available as PDF, on iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch apps (all in the "Books" section), Android phone apps, and on Kindle (http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00408B0HK). We would LOVE to be available on more eReaders.

We looked into formatting with Smashwords, since that seems to be the simplest way I've found to get into various eReader retailers. But Smashwords itself can't handle graphic-heavy files, and just gives errors. I know that the formatting itself would work on eReaders (digital comic Valentine (http://www.valentinethecomic.com/epub/) is released as .epub, but the writer has had to run the store herself on her site), so it's a Smashwords thing.

Anyone have any solutions or recommendations for alternatives we can check out?

Thanks in advance!

efkelley
09-08-2010, 09:33 PM
You should probably contact Smashwords for technical assistance. I don't know of any alternatives to Smashwords at this time for cross-posting/publication.

Medievalist
09-08-2010, 10:52 PM
Easiest way I know of to properly produce an image-heavy ePub is to use Apple's iWorks app Pages, which will do a nifty Save As to produce an ePub book.

You can hand code epub using XML but it's labor intensive.

elae
09-09-2010, 04:07 PM
Yeah, we don't have any problems *making* the ePub. But when you send an image-laden file through Smashwords to be verified, their Meatgrinder system can't handle it.

Another writer launched a digital comic last year and ran into the same problem-- here's her account (http://www.bleedingcool.com/2009/11/09/uncanny-valleygirl-by-alex-de-campi-5-be-my-guinea-pigs/), to sum things up:


Smashwords, at least, is a disaster for image-heavy books and has almost zero support. Smashwords uses a process called the “Meatgrinder” to strip your comic (which you have to submit as a Microsoft Word document) of all its formatting and lowest-common-denominator it across about five different e-book formats. Meatgrinder, folks: the clue is in the name. I spent days experimenting with this, using Adobe Digital Editions (http://www.adobe.com/products/digitaleditions/) (free – and 100% necessary if you’re doing epub work) to download and check the Smashwords versions as it has no preview function. While I’m sure Smashwords is a wonderful service for text, and does the best it can to be a one-size-fits-all solution, it cannot handle images. And unfortunately there’s no “hey, I’m smart, and can format my book in ePub myself” option for individual authors.


This was from November of last year. She contacted Smashwords and they know it's a problem (so I don't think my contacting them would do much good). In February (http://www.bleedingcool.com/2010/02/01/uncanny-valleygirl-by-alex-de-campi-9-valentine-sales-epub-how-to-and-ipad/) she happily posted that "their Meatgrinder/ePub bypass functionality will launch soon", but there's been no sign of that happening, so Smashwords remains kind of useless for comics/image-heavy books.


So yeah, that's the problem! We can code .epubs ourselves, but then have no way to get them into stores.

Torgo
09-09-2010, 08:22 PM
Is .epub the most appropriate format for comics? If it's all Smashwords offers perhaps Smashwords isn't the place to publish...

Medievalist
09-09-2010, 09:30 PM
Were it me, I'd look at something other than Smashwords for a graphic novel. And I wouldn't spend much time on digital versions yet, other than possibly on the Web.

Honestly, the digital comics I'm seeing, even things like Sandman on the iPad, aren't really well supported by the hardware or the software.

I'd give it a year.

elae
09-09-2010, 09:44 PM
Is .epub the most appropriate format for comics? If it's all Smashwords offers perhaps Smashwords isn't the place to publish...


Were it me, I'd look at something other than Smashwords for a graphic novel. And I wouldn't spend much time on digital versions yet, other than possibly on the Web.

Honestly, the digital comics I'm seeing, even things like Sandman on the iPad, aren't really well supported by the hardware or the software.

I'd give it a year.

Well, we've already launched as a digital comic on a half a dozen platforms, and plan to finish our 10 issue run. :) There's not much to gain from running a free webcomic version (other than spending a lot of effort for a few cents from ads). We're just hoping for a way to add one more platform to the list.

As for why epub: eReaders are perfectly capable of rendering comics. Manga & indie comic publishers already take advantage of it, since they're mostly greyscale to begin with.

Why cut off that huge segment of our potential audience by not trying to figure out a way to offer it to them?

Seems like no one has Smashwords alternatives, though.

Torgo
09-10-2010, 03:33 PM
I read a lot of comics off screens and I have to say the only experience that so far makes sense to me is something like CDisplay on my PC.

The shape and size of the screen is of crucial importance. I can't read a standard format comic off my iPhone screen; there's no way of displaying the whole page at once in a way that allows you to retain the detail and the legibility of text. You need to be able to show at least one page and ideally a spread at once at something close to s/s. iPad / other tablets might be a way to go, I suppose. (I'm kind of sceptical about e-ink readers being able to display even b/w comics in a way that's pleasant to read, but I will keep an open mind!)

I know the current fad is directed reading - something like the Marvel app going panel to panel - but I loathe that. It dissolves the whole design aspect of the page.

Medievalist
09-10-2010, 09:27 PM
I know the current fad is directed reading - something like the Marvel app going panel to panel - but I loathe that. It dissolves the whole design aspect of the page.

Exactly. It needs to at least duplicate experience of reading it in print and -- to my mind -- be superior to make it work well.

Way back when in the 1990s Voyager used Flash (back then it was called Director) to do all of Maus on CD ROM. We used very high resolution scans, but what made it work was the added content--interviews with Spiegelman and his father, alternate versions, etc.

elae
09-12-2010, 08:03 PM
I read a lot of comics off screens and I have to say the only experience that so far makes sense to me is something like CDisplay on my PC.

The shape and size of the screen is of crucial importance. I can't read a standard format comic off my iPhone screen; there's no way of displaying the whole page at once in a way that allows you to retain the detail and the legibility of text. You need to be able to show at least one page and ideally a spread at once at something close to s/s. iPad / other tablets might be a way to go, I suppose. (I'm kind of sceptical about e-ink readers being able to display even b/w comics in a way that's pleasant to read, but I will keep an open mind!)

I know the current fad is directed reading - something like the Marvel app going panel to panel - but I loathe that. It dissolves the whole design aspect of the page.

Well, let me first say that while seeing the whole page is important-- don't assume that digital comic pages are formatted the same way as floppies. :) Ours is done in a landscape format-- half the height of a standard DC/Marvel page, so it fits perfectly on a computer screen, no scrolling necessary. You do not have the same zoom issues on a tablet, or, as I'm trying to get at-- on a ereader. The screen size allows for a legible comic when viewing the full page.

Here's what our first test on an ereader looked like (http://niki-smith.com/InMapsAndLegends/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/Kindle_IMALPhoto_01_small.jpg). The e-ink works fine to render the graphics. Since the screen *is* smaller than an iPad and has no zoom, we later increased the sizes of all the word balloons and dialogue (this image shows the original smaller text, not the fixed version for sale).

We're not just jumping into this. We've considered all the possibilities-- trust me, we're the last ones who would want our work to be displayed poorly. ;) And we've come to the conclusion that yes, an ereader version is worth it. So if anyone knows Smashwords alternatives, I'd love hear about 'em.

(also, as for comics being chopped up for phones-- yes, I completely agree, it is far from my preferred format and completely does away with any composition I put into the layout. But you're going on the assumption that all digital comics are chopped up. Check out this one (https://comics.comixology.com/#/view/941/Valentine-English-1) for a great example of a comic specifically created for phone screens. --and really, is anything you view on a phone going to be in its ideal format? A teeny tiny little version of Avatar? Not at all. But there is a paying audience there, and I'm not going to snub them. If they purchase it through Comixology's app for their phone, then log into the site on their desktop, they can read the same comic in their web browser with no panel-to-panel transitions.)


Exactly. It needs to at least duplicate experience of reading it in print and -- to my mind -- be superior to make it work well.

Way back when in the 1990s Voyager used Flash (back then it was called Director) to do all of Maus on CD ROM. We used very high resolution scans, but what made it work was the added content--interviews with Spiegelman and his father, alternate versions, etc.

Well, again-- why should it duplicate the experience of reading in print? This is a digital comic-- it started as one and while it may *eventually* be printed, that's not our largest concern by far. We have no print experience to worry about duplicating, haha.

Depending on the distributor, we do have extras planned-- with Graphic.ly in particular, though they haven't released that version yet. You will be able to "peel" away the colors and see just the inks or sketches, and interviews are inserted. We plan on taking advantage of the "digital" part of this, yep.

elae
10-19-2010, 08:10 PM
Just wanted to give a short update for anyone else interested in making an image-heavy .ePub (a comic, a picture book... I know you're out there)-- B&N's PubIt is completely image-friendly! You just format the images, construct the .epub, upload, and away you go. Here's a link to issues 1 & 2 of our comic if you're curious and want to see it in action. (http://productsearch.barnesandnoble.com/search/results.aspx?store=book&ATH=Niki+Smith)

Our images are 563 x 750 pixels, for reference.

http://niki-smith.com/InMapsAndLegends/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/NookMAPS.jpg

efkelley
10-19-2010, 11:19 PM
That's excellent. :)

It won't take long for the other devices to fall in line, I'm sure.

elae
01-10-2011, 06:38 PM
Hey again-- just wanted to update with a link to a tutorial my co-writer put together on formatting image-heavy/comic ePubs. He's got a template you can download and tweak to fit your own project.

Digital Comics: Formatting Your Comic for Nook (ePub) (http://michaeljasper.wordpress.com/2011/01/10/digital-comics-epub-formatting/)

He's considering doing a similar write-up on formatting for the Kindle, so if anyone's interested let us know!

ichMael
02-09-2011, 05:11 AM
This looks like the right thread for this. Graphics intensive ebooks. Iíve read the postings here and will check out the links, but I have some questions....

Link to pdf sample:

http://www2.moment.net/~michael/MazeExperiment01.pdf

Thatís one of a series of fortune telling mazes I worked up years ago, when the internet was just beginning to boom. The mazes were designed for print media and made use of an up-and-down orientation (portrait) rather than side-to-side (landscape). I wasn't able to interest buyers in the print media, and the work wasn't suited to horizontal computer screens, so that was that. But now, with the screens of e-readers having a portrait orientation, I may be able to do something with the work.

A couple of questions:

If I converted that pdf to one of the ebook formats, would the pdf page fill the screen? I don't have an e-reader with which to do proper testing. These mazes need to be visible full-screen in order to work them, so, will the page fill the screen, or would the viewer need to scroll?

Also, on an e-reader, would the straight lines in the pdf maze appear to be of a uniform thickness? Had problems with that when I tried uploading the piece as a GIF...some of the lines looked thin and some looked thick, depending on how they straddled the pixels. Would I have a similar problem with an e-reader?

Advice and opinions from any of you would be appreciated.

Thank you.

elae
02-09-2011, 06:19 PM
Hey ichMael-- let's see if I can help.



If I converted that pdf to one of the ebook formats, would the pdf page fill the screen? I don't have an e-reader with which to do proper testing. These mazes need to be visible full-screen in order to work them, so, will the page fill the screen, or would the viewer need to scroll?
Check out these walk-throughs:
Formatting image-based ebooks for ePub/Nook (http://michaeljasper.wordpress.com/2011/01/10/digital-comics-epub-formatting/)
Formatting image-based ebooks for Kindle (http://michaeljasper.wordpress.com/2011/01/26/digital-comics-kindle-formattin/)

In both cases, you want to save all of the pages of your ebook as individual 72 DPI jpgs (not pdfs).
For ePub/Nook, those images should be sized at 562 x 750 pixels.
For Kindle, those images should be sized at 525◊640 pixels.
These are the best fits for the different e-reader screen sizes, with no scrolling needed on the reader's side.

Then download the templates at the links above. Save your images with the right file-names, and replace our place-holder images with your own.


Also, on an e-reader, would the straight lines in the pdf maze appear to be of a uniform thickness? Had problems with that when I tried uploading the piece as a GIF...some of the lines looked thin and some looked thick, depending on how they straddled the pixels. Would I have a similar problem with an e-reader?

Advice and opinions from any of you would be appreciated.

Thank you.
That's most likely because the files were GIFs. Try saving them as JPGs and they should be fine.


The tutorial should walk you through it all step by step, but let me know if you have any more questions!

ichMael
02-10-2011, 04:20 AM
Thank you, elae.

I did the conversion as you outlined...jpg, 72 dpi, 562 x 750 pixels. The result is here:

http://www2.moment.net/~michael/MazeExperiment02.JPG

Lots of corruption...lost the vertical straight lines. Redid it at 750 x 945 pixels and got this:

http://www2.moment.net/~michael/MazeExperiment03.JPG

The second jpg is much better and not many more KBs. I guess I need to know if e-readers shrink to fit on the screen.

Don't have much time for this right now, but I can see that I need to download some stuff. I'll work on it and post results here.

Really do appreciate your help.

elae
02-10-2011, 06:55 AM
E-readers do not resize images down or shrink to fit, no. That's why I recommend those specific sizes. It's frustrating, I know it! We've had to make a completely different .epub edition for the iBooks app than for the Nook store, since iBooks fits to the iPad's larger screens.

How many colors does your file have? Right now it looks like a black-and-white only bitmap file, which is causing the problems. You want it to be in RGB or Greyscale before you attempt to shrink it.

It should look something like this:
http://niki-smith.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/MazeExperiment01.jpg

No rough pixel edges. My file is also less than half the kb size of yours, which you can adjust if you're using Photoshop or a similar program by choosing "Save for Web".

ichMael
02-12-2011, 03:54 AM
Thanks for the input, elae.

This graphics work is old. Did it on Corel 6, which doesn't have a "Save to Web" feature. May have "Save to Stone Tablet," but I'm not sure.

These are indeed black and white work, but Corel has a Grayscale setting, so I've been doing some experiments converting to jpg with that. Latest result:

http://www2.moment.net/~michael/MazeExperiment04.JPG

Your tweaked version of the maze looks much better than my work. May I ask how you achieved that? You did a Save As, and then you resampled or something, right? Your image has uniform line thickness, which I can't seem to achieve.

I need to figure out how to get a uniform, legible image before I can jump into the epub stuff.

Thanks again.

PS - Your info on Height/Width and dpi was great. It could have taken me forever to figure that out. I'll be using your templates too, when I get to that point.

elae
02-13-2011, 01:31 AM
Happy to be of help. That looks much better already! Though the height/width don't look quite right.

I haven't used Corel in many years, but if it's as old a version as I think it is then yeah, you probably don't have all the same options. ;)
You might try using this site: http://pixlr.com/editor/
It's pretty much an image editor in your browser, with many of the basic Photoshop options. When you save you can adjust the image quality/file size to what you think works best.

ichMael
02-23-2011, 06:43 AM
Took your advice on the image editor. Couldn't download pixlr for some reason, so I downloaded one called IfFan. Really basic, but way ahead of what I was using.

I have 9 titles in the mazes and each title has a dozen or so maze variations (to keep the user guessing). I'm having to do lots of re-drawing to get them e-book ready. Should have the graphics work done in a month or two, and then I'll take the next step--actually looking at what's required to get an e-book assembled and transported from my computer to Barnes & Noble.

These mazes...they're a lark. Fortune telling mazes built around clever ideas and titles. I'm thinking of using them as calendars, but not the yearly type. Avg kb size for each maze should be about 60, so 365 x 60 would be way too big for an e-book. So, I'm thinking I could upload monthly packages and sell them for a reasonable price. It's a plan. But first I need to get the graphics work finished.

Thanks again for your assistance. The image editor idea was just what I needed.

elae
02-23-2011, 09:45 PM
Glad to hear it's working out!

Here's some updates on making image-heavy/comic ebooks for Kindle:

http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/digital/content-and-e-books/article/46244-kindle-we-have-a-problem-amazon-s-pricing-policies-affect-publishers-.html
A good read, which brought up some points Mike & I had overlooked.

Basically, when you're publishing books for Kindle, you can set your price anywhere above $.99.
$.99-$2.99, or $10+, you get 35% of each sale
$2.99-$9.99 - you get 70%

HOWEVER, for those 70% books (and only the 70% ones), you also have to take into account how large your file is, because you're charged a "delivery fee" for each Kindle transfer. They charge you $.15 per MB. But that's *after* their conversion to Kindle format...
Our issue 1-4 combo (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004LGTJDS) was a 14.6mb zip (85 color jpgs). After uploading it and they converted it to Kindle format, it's 7.26MB. That means that we lose $1.09 from each sale before Amazon even takes their standard percentage. Just something to keep in mind when you're pricing your comics there.

I think this is an utterly ridiculous charge, but Amazon knew they had the market firmly in hand when they set it up. Thankfully, the Nook doesn't charge anything like this.

elae
03-28-2011, 08:19 PM
http://niki-smith.com/InMapsAndLegends/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/howtocover-197x300.jpg (http://niki-smith.com/InMapsAndLegends/2011/03/28/formatting-comics-ebook/)

IN MAPS & LEGENDS (http://inmapsandlegendscomic.com/) writer Michael Jasper and I have been making image-based ebooks (digital comics) for about a year now, and we want to share what we've learned. Over the past few months, Mike wrote a number of blog posts and guides-- we've now compiled them into an ebook: Formatting Comics for the Kindle and Nook (http://niki-smith.com/InMapsAndLegends/2011/03/28/formatting-comics-ebook/).

This guide expands greatly on those posts, with updated information and plenty of screenshots to help you figure the process out. I also wrote a brand new section about sizing your images correctly!

You can buy Formatting Comics from the following online distributors:
Amazon’s Kindle Store (Kindle (http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004TMC1B6))
Barnes & Noble (Nook (http://search.barnesandnoble.com/books/product.aspx?ean=2940012312549))
Smashwords (HTML, MOBI, ePub, PDF, RTF, LRF, PDB (http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/49128))
DriveThruComics (PDF Download (http://comics.drivethrustuff.com/coming_product_info.php?products_id=89678))

Here's the complete table of contents, for anyone curious about how this is different from the blog posts I'd linked to earlier in this thread.

Introduction
Part 1: Preparing Graphics
- Adjusting for a Smaller Screen
- Tweaking the Text Size
- Adjusting Image Legibility, and Deciding on Grayscale vs Color
- Setting Pixel Dimensions for Kindle
- Setting Pixel Dimensions for Nook / ePub
- Adjusting the File Size
- Streamlining the Formatting Process
- Creating the Cover
Part 2: Uploading Your eBooks
- Uploading Your Comic for the Kindle
- Uploading Your Comic for the Nook / ePub
Part 3: Working with Digital Distributors
About the Creators

Hope you check it out-- and feel free to pass on the link to anyone else you know who may have an image-heavy project to turn into an eBook and is looking for a tutorial. While our experience is with formatting comics, the guide should be useful to anyone looking to make a eBook version of a coffee table book, children's picture book, photo book, art book, and anything else you can think of. :)