Please update your links. My new blog is here:
Please update your links. My new blog is here:
This isn’t about whether or not we’re going to have or how often we’re going to be reading eBooks in the next few years, because I assume that’s been thoroughly answered to everyone’s satisfaction.
This is a little view into what they may look like in the next few years, focusing on one cool feature: pop-up glossary or footnote data inside your books. Before you run off saying this isn’t for fiction, think about how often you’ve been in the middle of a complex SF or fantasy novel and wished for a f**king character list—especially when half the character names seem to start with the letter K! With science fiction you’re dealing with advanced technology that may require a little optional background info—selectable or ignored at the reader’s choice. Choice is always good, but clarity and one click away from answers is...priceless.
Let me walk you through it and then you decide if this is for you and your books. I’m going to begin with the end and show you what it looks like first, along with a sample chapter you can read and use in iBooks to see what’s going on.
Right after this part, because this is where I spent a good deal of time. And because I think it’s cool:
I built a prototype web app that automates adding the pop-ups to your EPUBs. The app takes an EPUB page (good old HTML with some new bits in it), lets you add descriptions for characters, places, events, and then adds the code, references, and pop-up functions into the page. If all goes well you should be able to drop this into your ePub file and load it up in a reader that supports the type:epub attribute (e.g., iBooks 2.0 and higher). Screenshots and a link to the builder below.
Back to the beginning. Here’s what the pop-up glossary info looks like in iBooks—which currently supports this portion of the EPUB 3 spec:
Click for the full view:
Click for the full view:
Here's the working example of Seaborn I built with the web app I made. Download it and view it in iBooks or other EPUB 3 reader, or just hit this page with your iPad and click the link. You should get an "Open in iBooks" dialog and then you're set.
Download Example: SEABORN EPUB WITH POP-UPs
Here’s the link and—below it—a walk-through of the app that I made to generate the EPUB with pop-ups.
Pop-up Glossary Builder app
You get to the next page, which looks like this:
When you get to the bottom of the page...
Keep in mind that this is pretty experimental right now. The parser for the nouns and phrases is very simple, and the find/replace operations don't take into account words or phrases inside other words and phrases—so a link for "Atlantic" will also be dropped into the link for "Atlantic Ocean".
Another thing: you will probably have to update your XML Namespace to point here: http://www.idpf.org/2007/ops
What this means is that at the top of your EPUB file you'll see something like this:
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8" ?>
<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.1//EN"
Change the part that says xmlns: ... to this:
To make pop-up links in your EPUB files here's what you do:
Wrap any words or phrases you want to explain in an anchor tag with epub:type="noteref" with the href pointing to an in-document location, like this:
<a epub:type="noteref" href="#prax">Prax</a>
Then, at the bottom of the page (I put mine right before the end body tag </body>) add an HTML5 <aside> tag, which supporting readers/browsers won't show with the page. This is where you stick your pop-up text and images:
<aside epub:type="footnote" id="prax"><p> <img src="../Images/person.png" /> Praxinos (Prahx-ee-nos) was the third Wreath-wearer, King of the Seaborn, from House Alkimides. Kassandra calls him "Prax" for short.</p></aside>
Okay, that's it for now. Let me know if you find any of this useful, how it can work better, all that stuff. Leave a comment!
Other things I was thinking about: EPUB is broken up into one file per chapter, section, or some kind of logical text break. So, you can have different text for the same word or phrase in different chapters, which allows you to reveal just enough info about a character without revealing too much and spoiling the plot or suspense. Also, wouldn’t it be nice at some point if you could turn links on or off?
I’m only here for readers—for the most part. Of course there’s always a part of me that’s writing for myself. (If you’re not in love with your own work—at least a little—then how can you expect others to fall for it? That’s fall for it in a good way). I love to get into stories, love to create characters and worlds, and writing a story is as exciting to me as reading one. But without the ability to share my work—without readers—it suddenly becomes much less exciting. One thing I will not do is write books that collect dust for more than a year or two, or let a published book or short story fade away, especially if I have all the rights back.
Rights and sharing are very important to me. The works I create are mine—the books, the short stories, the paintings and sketches. I created them, and I do sell them—ebooks, limited edition illustrations, and occasionally the rights to art and stories.
I also share quite a bit of the work I create. I have a blog and web site full of it (http://theophrast.us and http://SaltwaterWitch.com ). Years full of it. I have a couple hundred pages of the Saltwater Witch graphic novel live on my site, and have published it online since 2008. I have free mobile apps, art tutorials, writing observations. Some of it I am sharing with all rights reserved, mainly because I want people to come back to my site. Sometimes it’s because I don’t want them to use it without my approval (and that’s usually because I’m not done with it yet. Works in evolution can be like bread dough rising, where the baker hasn’t decided if it’s going to become dinner rolls or sourdough pizza).
When I want to share my writing or art I post it, and when I want readers to share my work I use Creative Commons licensing. I have a variety of work, including art, novels, and short stories licensed under several different Creative Commons licenses.
So much of the copyright world is not clear—by nature, by design, legal erosion, through cultural or technological change, or even ignorance. Licensing is complex, there’s no denying it. I have friends who are lawyers—even copyright attorneys, but I’m not one. Even so Creative Commons allows me to be comfortable managing my own rights. CC allows me to offer my work to the world without fear of contractual misunderstandings. It allows others to re-use my work without wading through legal thickets and murky restrictions. Most importantly Creative Commons allows me to promote my creative work by sharing it with the world. It works for me, and it clearly works for millions of other creators.
The question is why do I think it works? Because it means more books in the hands of readers. This has worked for me and may work for you.
I’ll give you some real numbers in a bit, but I want to take a quick look at my motives for releasing work under one of the Creative Commons licenses. I don’t think there’s anything new here, but I’ll walk through it. As part of the process of writing this article I went back through some of Cory Doctorow’s essays and posts around the web, in Locus, and other mags—on the subject of why, and I saw the recurring idea of using CC to expand reach beyond the channels already supplied by established print publishing, whether big six, indie, or anywhere in between. For example, when Little Brother was released in hardcover by Tor, Cory also released the full text of the book on his web site (http://craphound.com) in several formats (txt, html, pdf) under a Creative Commons license, which allowed his fans and fellow creators to reformat the book, translate it, build on it, create new book covers, make derivative works (e.g. movies) under similar licensing arrangements—attribution, non-commercial, share-alike.
But is this true for the new “indies”, the self-publishers, those DIY authors who are taking on most or all of the roles beyond the actual writing of the book? I think it is. Can today’s authors use Creative Commons licensing as a promotional tool? I think we can. When I say things like I’m only in this for the readers, I’m talking about extending the awareness of me as an author and my books as something science fiction, thriller, and fantasy readers might like to read. Making money off my work is certainly a good thing, and all creators should expect to be paid in some way for their work. How we are paid can depend on circumstance, newness in the market, fanbase, access to sales channels, and many other factors. Recognition is a high value for me. Just getting onto the book shelves, devices, e-libraries of readers is important.
Creative Commons licensing as a promotional tool works for me. It’s one tool in the toolbox, along with turning off DRM, going to SF conventions, using Amazon’s KDP Select features, participating in ebook and indie pub forums, posting to my web site, entering art shows, offering my books in as many channels as I can reasonably get into, offering my books in as many formats as I can reasonably manage.
The established sellers are just as valuable. Amazon does a fair amount promotion for KDP authors, unlike the current state of things at Barnes & Noble and Apple’s iBooks store. My impression of Apple is that, being a solid, powerful, latecomer to the ebook party, they are still progressing rapidly, adding features, and already offer pricing aspects (free, timed sales campaigns) and territorial reach beyond anyone else. My impression of Barnes & Noble is that they are trying very hard to do everything they can to push the books coming through PubIt into a second or third class position behind print books and the ebooks from the big six publishers—sort of a literary caste system. “Indie” ebooks aren’t categorized as any old books but are specifically separated out as “pubit”, unlike say The Hunger Games, which B&N appears to grant a higher status. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing. For Barnes and the author, it’s the typical balance of the hand that feeds you on one side and looking a gift horse in the mouth on the other. I certainly wouldn’t cut off any channel to readers because they don’t seem to care about a nobody author like me. I just wanted to point out that my experience with B&N and Apple is that you have to do far more in outside promotion if you want to do well there, while Amazon appears to do more for authors without a big pub contract.
What does doing well mean? For me, it means that I’m selling 400 - 500 books per month. I had rights revert on my first novel Seaborn early last year, and toward the end of March I released it along with the other two books in the Seaborn Trilogy, Saltwater Witch and Sea Throne. Over the course of the next nine months of 2011 I released a book per month—either a novel, graphic novel chapter, or short story collection. Some of them had been published before, some of them hadn’t. Sales since April gradually increased and I ended 2011 selling more than 4,200 books, mostly through Amazon.com and Amazon.uk, but I also did quite well at Barnes & Noble and Apple’s iBooks store. So, what does doing well mean? The answer for me is forty-two…hundred.
What does doing well mean in regard to Creative Commons? Here’s my own experience: I released my SF thriller Nanowhere under a Creative Commons license in the spring of 2006, downloadable and sharable from my web site. I had hundreds of downloads, which is all I could have asked for. Cory Doctorow was nice enough to blog about it on BoingBoing, and things really took off. I stopped keeping track after 10,000 downloads.
I was good with hundreds because that’s better than zero. I’m even better with thousands. And what does all of this add up to? People finding my books who may like them and come back for more. Like I said, that’s pretty much why I’m here.
But wait, there’s more…
If you’re ready to choose a Creative Commons license for one of your creative works here’s the CC home, http://creativecommons.org. Click the Choose a License button.
If you’re new to CC I want to point you to the very thorough and helpful Creative Commons FAQ here: http://wiki.creativecommons.org/FAQ --especially the section for licensors (the rightsholder or those authorized to license a creative work).
You really should check out the FAQ, but here are four points I think anyone looking into Creative Commons licensing should understand:
1. You have to own the rights to the work and have the authorization to apply a Creative Commons license to it. You might think those mean the same thing, but some countries have statutory licensing restrictions on works created by their own citizens, while others have voluntary membership in collective licensing which may contain some level of exclusivity. See the point on collecting agencies in the FAQ to see if this applies to you.
2. Creative Commons licenses are non-revocable, which means once you publish a work under a CC license and release it to the world you cannot take the license back from the copies already shared or used. You can certainly remove the links and copies from your web site, but the copies you shared with the world under the CC license you specified will remain with those copies. Again, this may seem obvious. You can’t allow someone to use your creative work—possibly in their own work—and then take it back when you feel like it. I think the main concern here is commercial use. My answer to this is if you’re really worried about someone else profiting off your work, then specify non-commercial use and even share-alike, which means that anyone using your work can only share it under the same licensing terms you’ve placed on your own work.
3. There’s helpful code behind the Creative Commons image. When you generate a license at creativecommons.org you will get a block of HTML with links back to the license terms and other clearly defined rules for use, but you will also get details in that block of HTML—“machine readable” details, which means there are standard codes and definitions that search engines like Google can identify and present to users. This helps everyone find your stuff.
4. And finally you should be explicit about what you mean by the Creative Commons license you apply to your work. Tell your readers, your fans, and the world the rules, and even better let them know what you would like to see—new formats, an audio version, illustrations to go along with your story, anything. It doesn’t mean it’s going to happen, but you should make things clear. It might give someone a good idea.
Here’s an example for my book Nanowhere:
This edition of Nanowhere, including the cover art and illustrations, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-ShareAlike license, which means you can share it, remix it (for example, you can reformat it or translate it), and you can share the works you make from this one, but you cannot make money from the things you do with Nanowhere, and everything you derive from it has to be sharable and usable in a non-commercial way that observes everything that’s allowed or not allowed under this license. Details on this Creative Commons license here: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0
Go create something!
"Licensing Options When You’re Giving Away Books" by Chris Howard is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Based on a work at theophrast.us. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published in Fantasy Magazine, June 2010, Lost Dogs and Fireplace Archaeology is about the children of the men and women in the US Army who grow up going to ten different schools, who lose and find friends at every post, and the pieces of themselves they leave behind every time they move.
Nanowhere is officially out. We're running a winter promotional and through the end of the month it's only .99 cents at Amazon, B&N, and iBooks. I posted a couple of my scene studies in watercolors below.
Nanowhere... it's a love story with all the usual elements: rogue soldiers, computer hacking, tyranny, cryptography, hit-men with an affinity for rolled adhesives, rebellious skateboarders, and sentient billion-node self-organizing nanotech ghosts.
Here's a clip of Cory Doctorow's kind words on Boing Boing:
Chris Howard has released an...interesting and well-written...sf thriller called Nanowhere along with a bunch of supplementary materials that purports to be the lab notes and publications of one of the book's characters ...
Here are a couple of my Nanowhere scene studies in watercolors:
This will be available soon! The Wreath of Poseidon is basically Saltwater Witch remixed by my daughter Chloe and I. This version of the story is in 3rd person (Saltwater Witch is in 1st), and this version is a bit longer, contains more story, including some scenes cut from the original. We went back to the original 3rd person story I wrote in 2003 with some help from a nine-year-old Chloe (She's seventeen now).