Print Books vs. ePubs

So you know you want to self-publish, but what type of publishing do you want to do?

Are you going to design and print your own books, just stick to ePubs, or make both? You may not know the difference or what can kind of work each type can entail. I sure didn’t at first. I could not wrap my head around what happens to your print book when it’s converted to ePub, or how to do it. Thankfully, if you’ve found this post, you will get a cliffs notes version of all the stuff I’ve learned about the two formats.

I’ve complied a list of differences between print and ePub publishing. This list in no way encompasses all that is different, but it gives the most important differences that can help you make the choice as to how you want to produce your pattern/book. Don’t worry if I use an abbreviation or term you’ve never heard of before, everything I talk about below will become their own topic in a future post where I will cover in depth what you need to know to self-publish.

Also let it be noted that I’m referring to full pattern books below, a lot of this is not relevant if you are self-publishing single patterns. I will cover that topic more in another post.

Print is design specific.

You have page layouts with picture placement, page numbers and a variety of other elements on each page in a print book. A design program such as Adobe InDesign most likely will be needed. You could try to layout your entire book in Microsoft Word (or any similar word processing program), but it will be difficult and may not produce very professional looking results.

ePubs are print (or reading) specific.

eReaders are made with the intent of reading words on a device that can be adjusted at the readers whim. With most eReaders, the user can pick the font and the size of the text. Trying to use CSS (don’t worry I’ll explain that abbreviation later) to style your ePub can be done, but it’s usually more work that it’s worth.

Most eReaders have their own font bank to choose from and their own sizing. Using simple formatting you can easily write a whole book on Word (or similar word processing program), with no special software needed.

In print you have to worry about layout.

Do you have a half title page, a title page, a copyright page? Are they in order? Do you have the correct page numbering? Do my facing pages look good together? All of these things are needed for print books. People have in mind what they are used to seeing in a print book and if you are missing these things, it can effect how they view your work.

On a side note, what got me interested in designing my own print books was finding a  book very fortuitously called Indie Publishing.

The book gave me great starting off points and I recommend it to anyone deciding to take on the task of print self-publishing. It gives lots of information on how exactly books are set up (which even if you own lots of books that you can open up and look at, having it explained can ensure you don’t miss anything).

Forget layouts in ePubs.

Having a beautiful transparent background image on your print page is useless in ePubs. Epubs are meant to change with the device they are being read on, anything that is in a print book that normally wouldn’t move (like page numbers) need to be removed in ePubs. If you’ve ever read anything on a tablet or phone you know that just moving from portrait to landscape can change the whole layout.

You need an ISBN for print books.

ISBN stands for : International Standard Book Number. It’s that 10 or 13 digit number that usually rests above the barcode on the back of the book, and you need one to put on your print book so it can be catalogued and searched for. If you only buy one, it can be really expensive (like $125 a pop), if you buy in a bunch ($250 for 10), you may never use the extra ones.

The good thing about ISBNs is that they never expire, so you can always get the 10 pack to save money and not worry about how fast you need to write books to put them on.

You need a barcode to sell your print book in stores.

Add another $25 to every ISBN you buy to get the corresponding barcode. If you get picked up in a store you will need one of these printed on your book for inventory control. If you use a print on demand service (like Amazon Createspace) they will put the barcode on for free with the ISBN you supply.

Depending on who you work with to print your book, you also have the option to have them supply you with their ISBNs and barcodes for free. I will talk more about that option when I talk about the different outlets you can work with for self-publishing in another post.

Print books can cost you money up front.

You made a print book, now how are you going to distribute it? If you want to make a bigger profit you will want to buy a bulk amount of preprinted books and sell them wherever you can (craft fairs, your online store, etc…). You will have to purchase a good amount to keep your profits high and hope to sell them all.

You do have the no money up front option of print on demand services (like Amazon Createspace, which I use). When someone buys your book, Amazon prints, packs and ships it for you. You receive a much smaller profit, but I find the lack of involvement on my part ideal and I don’t mind the reduced profit.

ePubs are pretty much free to make.

You can buy an ISBN if you want, but beyond that only your time (and possibly any computer programs you purchase to help you make the ePub) are the only costs to you.

Of course depending on where you sell your ePub you may have to pay a percentage of your sale to that website, but they take it out of your profits, not up front.

Print and ePubs have different photographic requirements.

If you’ve never heard of PPI, by the time you are done with this series you will be an expert on it. It stands for pixels or points per inch and effects the resolution of your pictures. It also is something that much be adjusted when making a print book versus an ePub. You can easily lower a picture’s resolution for ePub, but it’s a big challenge to increase resolution for print. You will have to make the decision of whether you will ever print your book before editing your pictures.

As you can see from the list above, printing a book can be a complicated and daunting task as compared with ePubs. Especially when making print books that contain lots of photographs. So why would you choose to take on the extra task of laying out and producing print books when ePubs are so much easier? Simple, people still like reading physical books. Especially ones that have lots of pictures that are much easier to see in print than at a fixed size on his/her tablet. Luckily for you, I have conquered both and have lived to tell about it. And I will walk you through both processes so you can do it too. Stay tuned for my next installment of self-publishing where I will go more in depth on picture requirements.

See Previous topic: My Top Three Reasons I Self Publish

See Next topic: Formatting Photos For Self-Publishing

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