IDPF at BEA: Convert to Epub for Publishers

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“This stuff wouldn’t make it in San Francisco” was how a coworker summed up the products being shown at the International Digital Publishing Forum at BookExpo America this past week, saying that a lot of the solutions were quite modest technically. And there was a sameness to them; most companies were making a mechanism to map styles from an application (InDesign, Quark, or Word) to ePub. That is, their state-of-the-art solution for book publishers consists of having them:

  1. Lay-out the book in a graphic design application
  2. Assign every element in the book to a set of pre-set styles
  3. Output an ebook file with their software
  4. Repeat, until the errors are fixed

This makes sense to me only if publishers are bound and determined to hold on to their existing workflow, and seems far to laborious for mere mortals to take on. The costs being charged are also too high, especially considering that the book-maker does most of the work. At any rate, here’s a rundown of the convert to epub tools and the companies:

Blio/Baker & Taylor: They had a huge presence, sponsoring the lanyards and several events. Blio is a reader based on Microsoft’s orphan technology XPS (basically a version of PDF) through which Baker & Taylor, an old-line publisher, wants to sell it’s titles (instead of selling them through another store like the Kindle Store or iBookstore). It makes sense as a business idea for Baker & Taylor and maybe as solution for illustrated books (Blio offers a plug-in for QuarkXPress), but I couldn’t figure out why it was a compelling idea for authors or readers to use Blio, unless a title was available nowhere else. But in a quick search of a few titles (e.g. Cathy Lamb’s Julia’s Chocolates), I couldn’t find one that was Blio-exclusive. And the PDF experience is not especially a premium one; the idea of downloading a special app and bookstore to buy PDFs has little appeal to me. I don’t get it.

Flyingword: Bills itself as a platform for creating enhanced ebooks, and seems to have some tools for repurposing content into books as apps for iPad/iPhone. Their primary offering seems to be consulting services.

Incube: Demonstrated a converter application for transforming InDesign files into ePub format via style assignments.

Aquafadas: Also an InDesign plug-in, publishing to a format that can be wrapped up as a app for iPad/iPhone.

Byook: A publisher of enchanced ebooks, their first is The Adventure of the Speckled Band

Bookbaby: An ebook conversion service that generates ePubs for $99, based on your carefully formatted file to their specifications (includes 10 images, more cost extra). They say you keep “100% of the royalties,” but that is only on sales through the Bookbaby store, sales through other stores are based on each store’s percentages. It’s hard to see why I would pay them $99 to make an ePub (or $39 to make a PDF). I suppose that the consolidation of the sales accounts from Amazon, Apple, etc. would be good convenience-wise.

Yudu: Offers a service to generate an broker the sale of Apple fixed-layout ePub ebooks. Their sample books include video as well.

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