The Journey From PDF to Book: How To Find the Best E-Publishing Service


About a month ago, I asked Eyebeam alums eteam to write a blog entry on their experiences with e-book publishing to help others who may be going through their own research process. They kindly did so, the result is below. - Roddy Schrock

From pdf to book  (eteam)

In the beginning it seemed so easy, or at least so much easier than editing a video. Easier in terms of technological and space requirements. But as it is with pretty much everything we do, things don’t turn out the way they appear at first. And writing a book was no different. Instead of 3 weeks it took three month for a pocket book of 58 pages to be written, composed and finally printed. 

And this is where video and printing share very similar qualities. Getting the digital file from our editing tool into a “permanent” form was equally challenging for print as it was for video with it’s codecs, frame sizes and output formats. So when we finally thought, that’s it, just make a pdf and send it off to the printer, we were faced with the limitations of our default print-on-demand choice, LULU. We have no idea why we only thought of LULU, but we had used its service before and were satisfied with its result. Only this time we weren’t looking for bright white pages and optimum color reproductions, but for a simple pocket book in a paperback format, 5" x 8" with black text and b/w images on off white, natural or cream paper, perfect bound. Nothing fancy, just the basics.

LULU only offers 5.83" x 8.26" as it’s smallest size and allows only for certain size/binding combinations to choose cream paper. Our choice wasn’t included. And even so much spoke against it, we did complete the process in LULU, hoping that it might not be so bad. But once we received our 4 copies, we weren’t happy. It felt like a smooth and slick set of photocopies, perfect bound together. A look and feel we could have probably gotten from Kinko’s as well. The reproductions weren’t so bad, at least we have to give it the benefit of the doubt as we used these copies to do some heavy adjustments to the photos. 

Our next stop was Blurb, we hadn’t considered it at first as we had always seen it as a publisher of photo books and our book should be more of a simple paperback. But, it offered everything we wanted, the right paper size, paper quality and no minimum numbers on orders. The book had to be finished for an opening which was happening in two weeks, so we didn’t spend much time on the details and used blurb’s InDesign plugin to upload a file that would be properly formatted - at least we hoped, based on our marginal knowledge of trim size, bleed and InDesign itself. (A pretty good alternative to InDesign is Scribus, but there is no blurb plugin that takes care of the proper specs.) We completed the process in 12 hrs and placed our next order for 2 books. 

The following day we felt that blurb was a good choice - we hadn’t seen the books yet but felt positively reinforced by the correct options -  and placed a larger order for the show. Only then we noticed to our big surprise the shipping costs. Blurb is much more expensive than any other printing option. Who would want to buy a book for $6 if the shipping is $8? That’s crazy. We cancelled the order for the show and went back to our search for the right print-on-demand service.

createspace was the place we finally found. It is owned by Amazon and offered exactly what we needed, a book in the right size, paper format and binding as well as an ISBN so the book can be ordered from Amazon or through any other book store. Thanks to blurb’s plugin, our file was properly formatted and we could just submit the pdf we had sent to blurb. The process in createspace is a little more cumbersome. If it is your first time with createspace, you have to supply all your tax information if you plan on selling the book. Once the book is submitted, it is reviewed withing 24hrs (via mechanical turk ?) and approved - or not. Only after the approval one can order a proof copy and only after the proof copy has been ordered, the book can be offered for sale - assuming that you have reviewed and approved the proof. Every revision of the book has to go through the same process before it can be printed. In order to speed up the process we skipped the waiting for the arrival of the proof and released the book as soon as the proof order had been placed. - When the proof finally arrived, the book had come out nicely and even arrived before the blurb copies that had a much heftier shipping price.  

pro’s: good color print, fast, decent shipping costs, ISBN option and e-book iTunes store connection

con’s: limited option for size and paper type

pro’s: good color print, many options for size and paper type, e-book conversion option for iTunes store

con’s: Blurb does not currently issue ISBNs, overly expensive shipping costs, slow production

pro’s: good print production, many options for size and paper type, fast production time, free Amazon publisher ISBN and e-book Kindle store, option to also distribute through Ingram distribution and overseas

con’s: Further contribution to Amazon’s growth, approval process, submission of tax information,

we haven’t used this option as it has a minimum amount of 25 books, but it has all the options that createspace offers and it offers a wide range of e-book distribution, all options are offered mostly as packages with a minimum of 1 or 25 books.

And finally, here is a link to the book “Buzz Cut” we just published so you can see how it is presented. Amazon has more exposure, but you will get less royalties; CreateSpace is pretty much limited to your marketing efforts and give you more royalties.

People: eteam
Tags: e-book