Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Winding Road to Poetry Ebooks

By Gerald So

My co-editors and I took pride in The Lineup as a print chapbook, and wanted to stay in print as long as possible, but we had also considered reproducing The Lineup in ebook format since 2009. The major hurdle was preserving a poet's lines as written despite how ereaders might resize the text.

On February 21, 2011, I made Issues 1-3 available as PDFs. While these could loosely be called ebooks, PDF is not the optimal format for ereaders.

On March 25, I used a free ebook code from Tyrus Books to download The Complete Amos Walker Short Story Collection by Loren D. Estleman. I downloaded Calibre to give myself the best reading experience short of an actual ereader.

Calibre's .epub conversion features started me thinking anew about Lineup ebooks. I'd heard .epub format was more or less HTML with some CSS, so as an experiment, I began formatting The Lineup #4's plain text in Sigil.

None of this preserved the poets' lines as written under ereaders' font-resizing features. The solution came from The Poetry Foundation's Alizah Salario. Applying Salario's CSS, if a single line as written does not fit on a single line of an ereader screen, the rest of the written line continues indented on the next line of the screen:

Lines as written

Same lines enlarged

This practice is seen in print when a poet's lines as written would exceed a book's required margins. I had to apply the CSS to every line of poetry, but it was worth it to show respect to the lines as written.

I then found the best way to separate the poems from each other was to make a separate chapter for each poem, not just a few line-breaks between poems.

And finally I had to use precise wording when linking to the book's title page and Acknowledgments page so Calibre would create a proper table of contents for the Kindle/.mobi version.

With the content squared away, my attention turned to the cover. We had a fantastic, attention-grabbing cover thanks to photographer Kathy Slamen and designer John Collis, but I couldn't simply scale the image to fit a Kindle's 600x800 resolution. The original cover text looked squished on resizing; it had to be replaced with slightly larger text:

The Lineup #4 .epub passed epubcheck validation, but did not accept it due to "file permission errors". Apparently these errors can be resolved with the Windows version of Sigil, but I work in the Linux version. On the bright side, I was able to upload the .mobi format to Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing and the .epub format to Barnes & Noble's PubIt.

As one of the final checks, I downloaded the Windows emulator Wine 1.3 and used it to run Amazon's free Kindle for PC app.

My thanks to ebook testers Christine Boylan, Andrew Carbone, Richie Narvaez, Deshant Paul, John Ricotta, Keith Snyder, Henry So Jr., Matt Tedesco, and Steve Weddle.

Update: As of October 2013, I have published The Lineup #2, 3, and 4 and The 5-2: Crime Poetry Weekly, Vol. 1 for Kindle and Nook. Unable to properly preview The 5-2, Vol. 2 with Barnes & Noble's Nook Press revamp, I have only released Vol. 2 for Kindle. You can purchase all of these from our Books page.

I decided against publishing a Lineup #1 ebook as I was unable to obtain reprint permission for much of its content, but the original chapbook remains available in print on demand.

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