Making eBook Conversion (and Store Independence) Part of Reader’s Habits

publishing.pngI left us with this challenge yesterday:

How do we make eBook formats transparent to end users? How do we make store-independence part of the habit loop of digital readers? Or even better, how do we make coming to our store part of that habit loop?

The last two questions are easier than the first. The reward portion of the loop – getting the book (with the potential additional kick of “I helped an author today!”) is the same, so that’s not a problem.

1. At the beginning of the loop: Insert “Look for the author selling the book” into the process. I get a little annoyed when authors (including my friends) say it doesn’t matter how you buy their book. I understand what they’re trying to say – that all people involved in the creation process should be rewarded and acknowledged, not just the author. And they don’t want buying their books to be a decision-making burden on their fans or to insist that readers use store X instead of store Y.

But when you have trufans asking how to make sure creators get more money, you should probably tell them the truth. Buying as close to direct from the creators as possible means that more money goes to the creators.

Maybe sending autographed pictures or some other kind of incentive could also help bring this to the fore, much as some authors directly sell autographed print books to encourage this same behavior.

2. Just past the beginning of the loop: Make the process as painless as possible. In the past, I’ve used the phrase “If you have a computer, you can read it if you buy the book from me.” I’ve offered PDF/Kindle/ePub formats for the works I’ve published, mostly as a way to help overcome resistance to a digital purchase. But as we move to phones and tablets serving as eReaders without a computer intermediary, that creates its own problem – ZIP files.
That’s where we run back into that first question.

Download an ePub or Kindle file with your handheld, and you will (probably) have it imported at least semi-automagically. A zip file, on the other hand, provides its own difficulty. While my phone can handle ZIP (via Dropbox, sort-of), and I imagine a full tablet could as well, it makes things really difficult for someone using a semi-smart reader.

But the other method of making “bundles” requires a heck of a lot more overhead, serving up (essentially) two or three products for every sale. And not offering a bundle is even worse – I can just imagine people accidentally clicking ePub instead of Kindle and vice versa. Oy.

Or perhaps an on-the-fly converter? E-mail your eBook to an address and get a converted version back? I’m not sure what a good solution would be here. Again, the software exists – and in platform-independent versions (Calibre is built around python). So it’s a matter of delivery and transparency.

What do you think?

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  1. May 10, 2012

    Browser-detection (and by extension, mobile-device-detection) is fairly trivial (though I admit I don't know offhand what a kindle-browser identifies as, but nor have I tried to download something direct to my kindle from a website – not sure if the browser necessarily connects to the file system like that). You could insert a small script that offers the appropriate format based on browser detection, and a clearly marked option for them to choose another format manually (including a zip bundle) in case your detection went screwy.

    I'd couple that with a permanent sales history, so people can come back if they've changed devices and redownload.

  2. May 10, 2012

    In theory, you're correct. Unfortunately, not all devices identify correctly (iOS devices are especially bad in this regard).

    I'm also running horribly light – while ZenCart would do a lot of this kind of stuff, I want to make casual purchases as trivial and easy as possible. (That and the SQL calls killed my low-end webhost plan.)

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