Category Archives: Publications

Over the past week, I’ve been exploring the world of publishing-on-demand (producing a book on-line).

I published a book for my son’s 18th birthday through Apple a couple of years ago and I was about to do the same when I discovered a company called Momento (www.momento.com.au) produces books that include “all the bells and whistles” (creative stock choices, embossing, customised covers, special binding and opaque sheetings etc). So, I thought I’d give them a go on a personal project I’ve embarked on to publish a series of fine art photography books on the disappearing traditional cultures of the South Pacific.

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Back in August, I wrote that it wasn’t proving worth my while to invest further energy in producing Apple I-books, and I sought to warn other would-be digital publishers and photographers of the same. I converted two books from my existing library of publications and sat back expecting the cash to roll in but (not so remarkably you might suggest), I’m still doing my own ironing.

Well, there has been a slight change in my position. According to the latest tally, I actually sold 318 digital copies of Impressions of Papua New Guinea last year (I was looking at the wrong data sheet). While this figure is hardly likely to see me buying a Ferrari any time soon, it did occur with absolutely no attention on my part and it does represent at least a glimmer of hope for when the time eventually comes – and I’m certain it will – that digital books are produced and read in cross media platforms and on any device.

In the meantime, here’s a breakdown in sales of the book through the i-book store. Its interesting to see where the buyers have come from….Poland? Who would have thought.

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As I posted back in February, it was so incredibly easy to take one of the 15 books I’ve published and drag-n-drop the content into a stylish template to produce a digital version of the publication and sell it to a global market through Apple’s I-book store. This, I reasoned, would be the answer to the perennial problem authors and publishers have of tying up their money in stock and having to distribute their books. It took me about a week to work through it all and upload two books – a coffee table book on Papua New Guinea and a guide for travel photographers – to which a tracking device was attached to monitor sales. Well dear reader, six months later, the verdict is out: It just ain’t working. Fact is, I’ve sold six books in six months (and I suspect my mother was one of the buyers). Either the two books I uploaded stink or the vehicle for selling them isn’t doing the job it was designed for. While I’d rush to add that the printed version of Impressions of Papua New Guinea went into its third edition, clearly there was no market for the digital version and, while I continue to enjoy modest sales of my 50 Top Tips on Travel Photography through my wed site, again, it’s just not selling through the I-book store.

So, the question needs to asked, Why?

Well, unfortunately, you have to have an Apple i-pad to read the books so you are already blocking out the majority of the market who are using competitive tablet technologies (and, yes, I’ve dismissed I-phones as no one in their right mind will read a book on a 6cm screen). Then there’s the process of having to wade through the plethora of publications uploaded onto I-books by vanity authors to find anything of any substance. In the photography genre alone, every man and his dog appears to have had a go at it.

With this, I thought I’d have a look to see how some popular photographic titles might have been going so I looked at Lonely Planet’s premier publication, TRAVEL Only four reviews have been posted in total; not even enough to give an average rating it said, implying not more than five people altogether had bought the book (or, if there were more than that, only four were prepared to write about it). Other publications proved the same; based on their reviews, they just weren’t selling either.

Of course, digital publishing is a young and rapidly evolving technology which I am sure is the future, but until there is cross-platform technology which allows authors and publishers to easily design books that can be readily accessed, I’d suggest your energies might be better spent elsewhere.

NEXT TOPIC: IMAGE BRIEF (www.imagebrief.com). A crowd sourcing platform linking photographers to buyers. Easy to use but are photographers actually making money?

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For those thinking of publishing an Apple i-book, here’s a few tips:

For those thinking of going down the Apple i-Book publishing road, here’s a few things I’ve picked up along the way:

– The i-book is incredibly simple to create; just download the free, i-book Author program (http://www.apple.com/au/ibooks-author/), drag and drop pics and text into a template and check it on your i-pad. As you’ll see, it looks fantastic. The templates are stylish, graphic and they work well with photography – vastly superior to the host of e-book formats that are available (the difference in appearance is like comparing a novel with a few pictures inserted between paragraphs to a beautifully designed coffee table book).

– Uploading it is the hard part. Prepare to spend ages trying to get a straight answer from a host of faceless “Aggregators” who Apple will refer you to if you haven’t got an American tax file number or you don’t want the hassle of getting an ISBN number (two things you will need to get it published). They all want to charge you, shaft you and waste your time. For AUD$100 per book (various other packages are available but this will get you started), a company called Tablo Publishing will represent your interests and get your book up there. I can highly recommend them (http://www.tablo.com.au).

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    Excited by Apples new self-publishing technology, I have raced to update one of my most popular books – Impressions of Papua New Guinea – and publish it in the i-Book store. The book is now instantly downloadable, free of charge, by simply going to i-books and entering David Kirkland or Papua New Guinea into […]

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