Friday, 13 December 2013

Kati of Terra, Book 1 – Printing the Shelfie (Print on Demand Paperback)

Kati of Terra, Book 1 – Printing the Shelfie (Print on Demand Paperback)

Before getting to the substance of the blog (which is related to this announcement), Dodecahedron Books would like to let people know that Kati of Terra Book I:  Escape from the Drowned Planet is now available from Amazon’s print book arm, Createspace,  in print-on-demand form (or as we like to say, available as a shelfie):

The paperback should also be on and Amazon Europe within 5 to 7 business days.  Note that the ebook is already on these sites, and on Kobo, as are Helena Puumala’s other books.

Now, back to the regularly scheduled blog.

Although ebooks seem to be becoming the preferred form of reading for the majority of people (especially science fiction and romance fans), the print book still has its place in the hearts of many.  Though I have written about the virtues of the e-reader in a previous blog (Imagine that you had a Magic Wine Glass), I can readily agree with the people who advocate on behalf of the paper book, that it also has its advantages.

 There are those who simply like the tradition of the paper book, the long chain going back to the early printing presses of Gutenberg, through the myriad changes in printing technology, all the way to the modern paper book, which now includes print-on-demand.   Readers tend to be thoughtful people, even a little bit romantic, so it’s no surprise that many of them value this (literally) storied past.

Then there’s the simplicity of the paper book - nothing needed but the book and a source of light, which could even be the sun.   No batteries to recharge, no concerns about dropping the book and breaking it, no problem about reading in the bathtub, no worries about spilling your coffee on  it.  I imagine that’s one of the reasons that paper is still the preferred form for cookbooks, by quite a wide margin.  A well loved paper cookbook eventually absorbs so many spills of flour and splatters of egg yolk that it really does become part of the kitchen, or at least the kitchen becomes part of it.   You wouldn’t want to have that happen to your $400 iPad.

Some prefer the tactile experience of the paper book - the look and feel, and yes, even the smell of paper.  The paper book is literally an organic product (derived from trees), as opposed to the plastic and glass artificiality of the e-reader.  For some people, the relative sterility of the e-reader is a genuine drawback.

Others like the permanence and easy transferability of the paper book - it can’t be taken away by the whims of the computer age and it can be easily loaned out to friends and family, when one discovers a writer that is so satisfying that the reader wants to share that book itself.   Many people have a deep distrust of the corporate world, and they fear that Amazon (or Kobo or Nook) could take their books away, erase them from the reader and from the cloud, forcing them to pay for their books all over again.  They also perceive that lending out their ebook is problematical, while a paper book can be loaned out as many times as one wishes (though getting your paper book back from friends can be no trivial task).

Another way that distrust of the corporate world can affect some people is the notion that Big Brother knows what you are reading, and even knows how fast you are reading it.  Though the most insidious thing Amazon is likely to do is recommend similar books to you, it can be disconcerting to know that some corporation is aware of your reading history.  After all, most of us have read 1984 - are corporate Big Brother and government Big Brother really all that different?   To many people, not so much. 

Finally, there is the bookshelf to consider.  It is such a fixture in our homes and our minds that e-readers have appropriated the idea, so that your Kindle, Kobo or iPad app usually has virtual bookshelves.  But for many, a virtual bookshelf hidden away in an e-reader can never take the place of a real bookshelf, crammed with well-loved (and not so well-loved) books.

 A real bookshelf is a public statement about yourself (well, public as far as visitors to your house are concerned, anyway).   It is a declaration of your interests and your tastes.  A collection of expensive leather bound books can also be a statement of your socio-economic status.  A collection of scientific or classic literary works can be a statement on your educational status.  It can also be a sort of loyalty statement - these are the writers I value so much that I want others to know and hopefully to value as well. 

So, to respond to all of these very reasonable preferences, Dodecahedron Books intends to offer its books in print-on-demand form, available on Amazon.  We affectionately refer to these as our “shelfies”, riffing a bit on the currently popular term “selfie” (for digital photos one takes of themselves).  Our first offering is:

Kati of Terra Book I - Escape from the Drowned Planet (need URL etc here)

It was an interesting process, converting Kati I from ebook to print book.  There were many formatting considerations, when moving from ebook to print book.  Among them were:

·         What size book to print? (we went with 6 inches by 9 inches - with e-readers, that will vary with screen size from mini-Kobo size to iPad or even 17 inch computer screen)

·         Which font to use? (we went with Times New Roman - with e-readers, readers choose their own font)

·         How big should the font be? (we went with 10 point - with ebooks, readers choose their own print size)

·         What about margins and gutters? (we went with half-inch, top, bottom and outside, and three quarter inch gutters - it’s not really a consideration with e-readers.)

·         What about headers and page numbering? (we went with chapter titles in the headers and page numbers in the footers - e-readers generally go with the “percent read” metric)

·         What about ragged right vs justified? (we went with justified)

·         What about spacing between paragraphs?  (no extra spacing on print book while ebooks generally do have a bigger space between paragraphs)

·         What about the cover?  (we decided to keep the Kati of Terra custom cover)

·         What about price? (unfortunately print-on-demand books are more expensive than ebooks, so we had to set the price accordingly, in the mid to high teens)

One amusing artefact of the transition from ebook to print book concerned the cover.   Due to the differing aspect ratios of ebook covers (5 units width to 8 units height) and the print book cover (6 units width to 9 units height) as well as print book trim considerations, Kati effectively became taller and slimmer.  Though this was unplanned, it does make one feel a little guilty, as this form of (purposeful) image manipulation goes on in the advertising world all them time, encouraging unrealistic and impossible standards of female beauty.  I am sure that a sensible, progressive young woman like Kati would object to that sort of thing, so “Sorry Kati, it couldn’t be helped”.  Either way, she looks good.


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