eBook Publishing Technology

How Does Digital Affect Funding

Gone are the days where you had hoped that a big investor would see your project and hope that you’d make enough money to recoup the investors’ money and maybe, if you’re lucky, make some yourself.

Music, books and games have benefited greatly for crowdfunding. Unlike traditional funding sources is the number of backers and the amounts that people have raised. They also provide with payment system where the money is held in escrow and, in the case of Kickstarter, only paid out if the process is successful in raising all its funds.

Crowdfunding (alternately crowd financing, equity crowdfunding, crowd-sourced fundraising) is the collective effort of individuals who network and pool their money, usually via the Internet, to support efforts initiated by other people or organizations.[1][2] Crowdfunding is used in support of a wide variety of activities, including disaster relief, citizen journalism, support of artists by fans, political campaigns, startup company funding,[3] motion picture promotion,[4] free software development, inventions development, scientific research,[5] and civic projects.[6]

From Wikipedia

Kickstarter and Indiegogo are two examples of crowd funding platforms. They provide tools and infrastructure for individuals or groups to raise money for their projects. These platforms also allow you to communicate with your supporters and build community around your project by creating two-way communication between the project and its backers.

Kickstarter will only release the funds if the project reaches its minimum level of funding. Indiegogo gives you the options of full funding or partial funding on project completion date. Both of them have deeply changed the way we fund our projects.

I prefer the Kickstarter’s fundraising model as it helps sets expectations for a project’s backer. If you don’t rise the full funding and the site released the funds, where are the remaining funds coming from? People tend to expect that the fully funded project will happen even if the project only achieves partial funding.

It is not unheard of games and other content to get over 1 million dollars on funding. Meeting and beating stretch goals; what they call the funding goals raised in excess of their initial funding, and usually with extra rewards attached, and additional products related to the fundraising that can be purchased at a discounted price.

One of my favorite examples of successful crowd funded projects is Ukiyo-e heroes

The project is very niche specific. It seeks to create traditional Japanese wood prints using modern video game characters as a way to pay homage to the characters’ roots in Japanese tradition.

The project raised over 310,000 dollars, many times over their modest goal of $10,400. The project not only raised a huge amount of money but it also built a community of people who are interested in the product and who can be tapped for additional funds through additional Kickstarter projects or through direct sales. The potential is endless.

The additional funding Ukiyo-e Heroes raised has allowed David Bull, the Japanese printmaker who created the prints for the project, to keep his art alive by hiring apprentices and experienced printmakers to work in the project. The impact was felt way beyond the virtual community of backers in Kickstarter.

Look at the most successful Kickstarter publishing projects in terms of funding. Look at the broad definition of publishing and the variety of projects that get funded under this category.

I’ve chosen 3 different projects to highlight some of these new publishing methods and results.

  • Ukiyo-e heroes
  • Art Space Tokyo
  • Mind’s Eye Theater: Vampire the Masquerade


eBook Publishing Technology

Who is a publisher and How do you define publishing?

What happens when a publisher has a tight, direct connection with readers, is able to produce intellectual property that spreads, and can do both quickly and at low cost?

Seth Godin About the Domino project

From western4ul @ Flickr

Digital tools have expanded the definition of publishing to something I would have never thought possible 10 or even 5 years ago. For every author that makes a big publishing deal (like those mentioned in this Mashable 2009 article) there are hundreds if not thousands of niche authors selling their books directly to interested audiences either through their websites, through an aggregator or through the big vendors like Apple’s iBookstore and Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing program.

We are able, if we choose to, to connect directly with our audiences and interact in ways that were not possible before the advent of web technologies. We can turn our blogs and wikis as our communication channel with the audience, using their feedback and engagement as a measure of what content we should work with, edit and refine over time; maybe even using audience engagement as the metrics for additional content and conversion to other formats.

Some examples of this new publishing medium include, among others:


PressBooks uses WordPress as the engine behind a multi publishing paradigm. It gives authors a familiar interface, many people are used to WordPress as either a blogging or content management platform so how we write our content doesn’t change much from how we write traditional blog posts.

The interface produces web content (hosted in the Pressbook platform), epub and PDF content. Pressbook has also entered in partnerships with book distributors to provide a turnkey solution for people interested in self publishing.

The Atavist

Atavist is a media and software company at the forefront of digital, mobile publishing. Our mission is to enable the next generation of multimedia storytelling, reaching readers across mobile devices and the Web.

Our flagship publishing arm, The Atavist—built on Creatavist—features original pieces of longform, nonfiction journalism. Sold individually on mobile devices and e-readers as “e-singles,” The Atavist is digital-first, pushing the boundaries of multimedia publishing while always emphasizing the story above all.

The Atavist is as close as I’ve found to what I envision a future publishing enterprise. It is clean, multi format and it’s never a cookie cutter exercise; not all stories are available in all formats but when they use a format they take full advantage of available capabilities.

Formats supported by the Atavist application for given article


Hi takes the opposite approach to The Atavist. Hi uses short 30 word moments with required location and an optional photograph. Other community members can request that you expand the moment with additional text; you can accept or decline the request.

I particularly like the way that Hi builds community by allowing users to request additional information about moments and subscribing to people who you’re interested in: every time they write an expanded moment. I like this concept as much, if not better, than Twitter.

eBook Publishing

Rethinking the future of books

With the introduction of all iPads and other tablet readers we are left with some big question: Are books still relevant? If they are still relevant, how do they need to change?

Craig Mod has written and spoken about the future of books and what we can do with books online with the new technologies for both creating the content and financing the production of the content.

Craig presented the Do Lecture below in 2011 and it caught my attention for a variety of reasons. How do we leverage the new technologies for books and the new devices we use to read these new books.

[jwplayer mediaid=”1161″]

Some of the things that caught my attention:

New ways to produce content

We can create more interactive content as part of our books. The new ePub 3 standard includes multimedia content (audio and video) as part of what we put in our books. While iBooks uses a somewhat different format than the standard ebook format it already allows for the inclusion of audio and video.

We can incorporate external video or we can produce our own as part of the book creation process. Whichever way we choose this prompts a new way of thinking about books. If we can embed multimedia content directly into books, how are they now different than regular web pages? Sure, we can’t embed java applets or flash video but we can easily link to pages on the web that have the content.

Are we requiring our users to be constantly online in order to interact with our content? If we add multimedia content to a book, does it mean that users have to be online while reading? For most tablets this is not an issue as internet connectivity is bundled with the device. As designers, however, we need to keep in mind that not all users have wireless connectivity for their devices.

Using Bibliotype as a starting point we can explore alternatives and options for putting content into web browsers and other devices without having to author a full eBook.

What tools do we use to create the content?

One of the things that attracted me to creating ePub content is the variety of tools that are available to do so. Starting with relatively simple tools like Sigil or Pages to create ePub content we can get as sophisticated as we want or need to be. Tools like iBook Creator can provide a high level of sophistication at the expense of being cross platform.

For those of us used to creating multiple versions of a document using an XML base; it is good to know that tools like Docbook can now create ePub 2 and ePub 3 content from the same basic XML document that we have used to create HTML and PDF versions of our content in the past.

Whatever tools we use we need to decide if the multimedia features or access to our content by a specific device make it worthwhile to create multiple versions of our content

Project funding as a means of engagement

We can use sites like Kickstarter as both a fund raising site and as a way to engage our community of users.

Kickstarter allows content creators to setup their project with the following parameters

  • A description of the project
  • The Fund raising steps/stages both the amount and what benefit do you derive
  • The amount to be raised and how long we have to do it
  • A discussion area for the project

Kickstarter acts like an escrow service. If the full amount is raised in the allocated time then each individual contributor’s credit card will be charged for the amount they pledged; otherwise nothing happens.

More than fund raising, Kickstarter allows you to create a community around your project. It’s not just the monetary support that brings the supporters together. They are interested in seeing the project funded and completed for whatever reason they have. They are your funding agency or agencies and they can be your sounding board and your reality check when needed.

Another interesting site is Indiegogo which provides one additional feature that I find interesting: The option of flexible funding where you get all the fund pledged by the target date regardless of whether you met your fundraising goal or not.

How do we engage with book in a digital format?

How does self-publishing change the way we see authorship and authors?

Seth Godin asks the question:

What happens when a publisher has a tight, direct connection with readers, is able to produce intellectual property that spreads, and can do both quickly and at low cost?[ref name=”godin”]Seth Godin created the Domino project as a way to put the publishers closer in contact with their audiences. This is one of the questions he asks on the site.[/ref]

We have to start by accepting that, in this context, we are all publishers and we all have networks or hives of people who can support us in our creative endeavors. Being exposed to feedback early and often is a great way to eliminate uncertainty and provide a sounding board even before the project actually begins. [ref id=’fields’]See chapter 5 and 6 in Jonathan Field’s book Uncertainty for more on creating hives and using them as support mechanisms[/ref]

Blogs as book drafts

We are not only publishers but we’re experts as well. For those of us who blog or maintain a professional or business related website the expertise is right there. We can use blogs to author content, to measure interest based on comments and get feedback from our hive of users.

Does this work for everyone? Probably not. After all we are not all alike in the way we handle criticism and feedback for something that’s not necessarily complete and in a way we’d like people to see it and comment on.

But that’s they key… it is not ready which means that the feedback we get at the early stages of the project will allow us to change the content or even change the project we are working on and this will definitely make the project better.

Creating multiple delivery methods from the same content

When I first started working with Docbook one of the things that attracted me to it was the fact that from the same source, using different XSLT style sheets you can produce different formats for your document.

In the last couple years, the Docbook community has expanded the range of formats and it now includes ePub3. It’s easier than ever to create content in a document neutral format and then convert it to HTML, PDF and ePub without bigger effort than creating customizations to the stock style sheets which we can then reuse on future projects.

Notes and References

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eBook Publishing

Why ePub matters

eBooks are way more than text

Currently eBooks are a combination of both images and text… except for the Apple iBook reader. iBook borrowed from the draft ePub 3 specification (or was it the ePub standard group who simply adopted Apple’s technology?) and allowed for the inclusion of audio and video using HTML5 audio and video embedding technologies. As a result of this early adoption ePub-based ebooks for the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch can view embedded audio and video content directly on the device.

With the ePub standard now being considered a Proposed Specification (See For more information) it is time for us to reconsider what we do with our eBook content.

Why go with ePub eBooks?

With tablet PCs and smart phones becoming ubiquitous the market for ebooks and multimedia content has grown just as fast if not faster. You can now provide a single access point for all your content without having to make it public in the open web.

You can make the book look the way you want to without having to resort to large PDF files (before you mention it I have nothing against PDF; when used properly it’s a wonderful and flexible tool, I just happen to think that eBooks are not the right place for PDF content.)

  • PDF is for the most part a fixed flow layout. You can’t really move and re-flow the text to accommodate different resolution and screen sizes. What looks fine on your desktop PC may not look the same in an iPhone without major vertical and horizontal scrolling.
  • MOBI is popular (Amazon selected it as the format for the Kindle) but, from my perspective it has several drawbacks:
    • It is a binary format which means that once create the only way to make updates or changes is to edit the original sources and then re-compile into the binary format again.
    • The format is DRM encumbered.
    • Encryption locks users to one account and one device.
    • Large vendors like can remove books already downloaded to devices (See for more information about this incident)

ePub on the other hand remains a text-based format where the files are bundled together in a zip file (easy to generate with any number of modern compression tools) that requires little or no tools depending how familiar you are with generating XML and XHTML content. What’s more important is that with ePub 3 you can add multimedia and accessibility elements finally making books as accessible as regular websites.

You can provide your clients with content as engaging as that on your blog or website. The only limitation is that ePub 3 is not widely adopted yet… that is about to change.