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Writing an e-Book Needs Software - Free is Best!

By Grant McNamara
Posted Monday, January 3, 2005

If you've been keeping track of Internet trends then you'll be aware of the huge potential of promoting and selling e-Books. E-Books are becoming a common medium used on the Internet. An e-Book is simply a book, that can be read on a computer. Many books now aren't even published in hard copy.

Perhaps you're considering writing an e-Book, well if so read on. This article explains some of the mystery and might well save you a heap of cash.

E-Books have a wide popularity and avoid many of the costs of traditional hard copy publishing. They don't need to be printed, and as such avoid the associated costs of distribution, inventory and the risk of not selling. In fact they don't need a traditional publisher. Anyone can write a manuscript, format it as an e-Book and promote it on their web site themselves. And of course there are numerous examples of e-Books being the basis of promoting successful affiliate programs.

Many e-Books are used as a mechanism (often indirectly) to promote web sites. Authors of e-Books gain credence from the fact they've achieved publication, not to mention the information their book contains.

Creating an e-Book is technically very simple (once the text of the book and any associated artwork has been completed). In order to create an e-Book we need a software product. The software takes the manuscript developed in a word processor and converts this into an e-Book.

The resulting e-Book created by the software will usually be in one of three forms; either a PDF document file, an executable file (called an exe file type) or an 'ebo' file (the e-Book system used by Microsoft).

PDF, which stands for Portable Document Format, is the file extension for e-Book (along with any other document) created with Adobe Acrobat Writer. This is the de facto standard used in the commercial printing industry. If you plan to have hard copies printed then you should seriously consider using the PDF format.

An alternative is to use an e-Book software system called a compiler. Such products effectively do exactly the same task as Adobe Acrobat Writer, but the output is an executable (which is the file name suffix of the resulting file). Most such compilers are priced at around US$100.

And the third alternative; the Microsoft ebo file system which is making dramatic inroads. It is still relatively new, but like most things Microsoft do, once they decide they want to be the market leader, competition beware!

So this raises the question of which type of e-Book is the most appropriate. Deciding the answer to this question depends on several factors, not least of which is how the e-Book is going to be marketed.

Advantages of using Adobe Acrobat Writer include:

Adobe Acrobat Writer will convert an entire document containing all of the text and graphics in a single step. To do this the original document needs to be a single word processing document (or a linked document equivalent). This also facilitates updated versions to be created if the source needs to be edited.

The resulting file can incorporate an index, external links to the internet, automated page numbering and a multitude of other facilities.

For the person who wants to read the book they use a software system called Adobe Acrobat Reader. Adobe makes this software available for free and it is widely distributed and used. It is an excellent product which allows the reader to print, use the index, and have complete control over the size of the text. It also facilitates add-ins such disability facilities (i.e. a synthesized voice system can read the text). The free Adobe Acrobat e-Reader system is an alternative to Acrobat Reader. As well as all the features of Acrobat Reader the e-Reader system takes any existing PDF file and presents the text in an e-Book form.

The resulting PDF file is almost always far smaller than an equivalent executable file. Thus download times are shorter and the file occupies less space on the reader's computer.

PDF files can be guaranteed virus free, where as executable files don't have this advantage. People generally don't like to download files that have an exe suffix in the name. Exe files are a notorious way for viruses to be spread and people tend to be more reluctant to download them than they would with PDF files.

PDF files have the advantage that they are supported on a variety of computer operating systems including all versions of Microsoft Windows, Macintosh OS, and Unix/Xenix/Linux. Exe files are restricted to Windows. And when you think for example that there are over 8 million Macintosh users in the US alone that's a large number of potential readers to exclude.

Advantages of EXE files include:

E-Book compilers are priced far lower than Adobe Acrobat Writer (around US$250). Such software is also far simpler to use. (Adobe Acrobat Writer is a very sophisticated publishing system with the creation of PDF files a minor function). There are other software products which can create PDF files. Some word processing systems have the facility, as does Corel Draw.

Some e-Book compilers are available for free use. Those I've tried though all either add some information about themselves into the resulting document, or limit the number of pages. Alternatively they're limited to a trial period such as 30 days. The writers of such software understandably really want you to buy their software! Once purchased all these frustrating limitations disappear.

E-Book compilers also (usually) include a rebranding facility. The rebranding facility allows other people to market your e-Book. But rather than having the contact details and web site links referenced back to your site, they can be altered to point back to their own site which the rebranded book promotes. Your authorship is still protected, but this feature allows the e-Book to be used in an affiliate program. The rebranding can be achieved with Adobe Acrobat Writer but it is more difficult to achieve.

Using e-Books as a promotion tool is usually far more effective if the down stream resellers can customize the book to their own affiliate links.

Web site references for e-Book compiler software:( ( ( (

If you use free E-Books as a viral marketing tool, rebranding is the key to success, because people are much more likely to promote your E-Book if they can customize it with their own affiliate links.

Microsoft Reader:

The Microsoft Reader software (the software which allows someone to read your E-Book) is available for free download from the Microsoft web site. Using the reading software is very simple and for those with reading disabilities, the standard download includes everything needed to increase text size, and use voice synthesis.

Microsoft Reader is restricted to use on the various Windows operating system variants. To date I've heard of no instances of an E-Book in this format having a virus. The file type is nothing like an EXE file so the virus problem is far less likely. Size wise the resulting e-Book is similar to a PDF.

To create an E-Book for this system requires that you have Microsoft Word version 2000 or 2002. Assuming that MS Word is installed then a small add-on is available for free download from the Microsoft web site. And from my own experience, creating an E-Book under this system is incredibly simple.

I've not determined exactly how the resulting e-Book can be rebranded for any affiliates you might wish to include in distribution, but I'll spend some time on this soon and add a new article about it.

I alluded above to Microsoft tending to become market leaders. It is worth noting that both and Barnes and Noble have picked the Microsoft Reader system as the future industry standard. They, along with several other publishers are very busy making their e-Books available in this format for on-line purchase. In the free category several Universities are making e-Books available, again using Microsoft E-Book as their delivery system.

About the Author
Grant McNamara has over 20 years experience in IT,and specializes in multi-lingual web site and software development and training. His web sites are ( and (