Reverse Windowing: On publishing an eBook before print

eBook windowing is the practice of delaying the release of an eBook until the print version has been out for a few weeks or months.

Readers with Kindles and iPads are understandably not happy about the practice. Nor is Amazon. You can read a good analysis of this battle of publishing models here.

But since I’ve begun the process of self-publishing The Tourist Trail, I’ve realized that eBooks should come before the print versions.

In a later blog post I will document the many technical reasons why eBooks should come first. In a nutshell, designing an eBook is easier than designing a print book. That’s because eBooks are largely raw text. The devices themselves set the font type, size, and page navigation. All I do as book designer, is tag the text, set up the meta tags, the table of contents, upload a cover — and the device does the rest.

I should note here that creating an eBook is not without its challenges. Kindle wants the eBook in one format; the iPad wants it in another. And the software you can use to create these different formats is hardly what I would call user friendly — though there are some promising developments on the horizon.

And just because I’m putting off print doesn’t mean that it’s any less important. If anything, print is the most important medium of all. Designing a print book takes much more time than electronic because the book designer creates both the book as well as the device — the book layout, page dimensions, binding. Lots of decisions that can all make a big impact on the reading experience.

So here’s my publication plan for The Tourist Trail:

  • Amazon Kindle edition: This week!
  • Apple iPad edition: End of June/early July
  • Print edition: August/September

If I weren’t moving in July I would have the print edition out sooner. But I want to move carefully. I want to get the right printer. I want to make sure the cover reproduces well, etc.

If publishers weren’t still wedded to old business models I think they too would embrace reverse windowing. It will be interesting to see how this model evolves in the years ahead.

For me, reverse windowing just makes the most sense. Though I still can’t wait to hold the print book in my hands. It probably won’t feel real until then…

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