Wednesday, October 05, 2011

The e-Book Chronicles, Part I

Sometime in the early 1990s, I swore I would be the last person on Earth to get a cellular phone. Bear in mind, this was when "handy" meant a bag phone roughly the size of the trade paperback edition of War and Peace, and you had to keep it plugged into the cigarette lighter of your car (most of the time).

Of course, we all know the end of the story; it's the same ending experienced by all the other technologically hesitant: I eventually got a cell phone and quickly realized I couldn't live without it. Ditto my laptop, my broadband Internet, etc., etc.

These days, I'm considering joining a support group for the iPhone-dependent. Clearly, I am not an Early Adopter, but I eventually cave. Most of us do.

But then came the rumblings preceding the digital book revolution. And here, friends, I dug in my heels. "A book is paper and glue and binding, with pages you can turn," I sniffed. "I want to smell the ink; I want to run my fingers along the spine. I don't want to boot up my book."

Last Christmas, my daughter and my wife ganged up and got me a NOOK Color. You can probably guess the rest.

Concurrent with my gradual immigration to the Digital Promised Land, content megasources like Amazon and others have been making it cheaper and cheaper to produce and publish e-books (and they've had a few nasty spats with Big Publishing along the way). If we know one thing about technology, it's that over time, it makes certain things cheaper. Thanks to Gutenberg and his intellectual heirs, you no longer have to be a feudal lord to be able to acquire a wide variety of reading material.

The process that required five centuries or so in printed books is happening with e-books in a couple of weeks, it seems. Now, you can download free programs that will convert your properly formatted word processing files into e-book files that can be sold online ... or forced on unsuspecting friends and family members, as the case may be (assuming they have e-readers, that is).

As an author with a few books that have come to the end of their life cycle in print, lately I've been thinking about ways to try and squeeze a little more income out of my currently fallow intellectual property. My notion is that I should be able to scan some of my out-of-print books (for which publishing rights have, by contract, reverted to me), do a little reformatting, and, by means of some free software, convert them to e-books that can be uploaded to Amazon's Kindle store,, and maybe, with a little luck and persistence, to other online stores like Whether anyone will buy them ... well, that's another story.

So, this is the beginning of my foray into e-book self-publishing. If you want, you can come along for the ride. I'll document the process, including my frustrations, my successes, and how it all turns out. I'm pretty sure I'll learn something, if only how it shouldn't be done. But who knows? I may locate a vein of milk and honey. We'll see ...

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