Photography & e-books

In December I made my fourth tour of Richmond in recent years.  Previously I had visited some of the plantation homes along the James River, the downtown museums, some of the historic houses, and the houses along Monument Avenue.  This tour was unusual in that it focused on four of the modernist houses in the area. The most interesting house is the Rice House, now owned by the Virginia Science Museum as a guesthouse.  It was the former home from 1965 – 2005 of a man who had been ambassador to Australia. Upon his death, his wife gave it to the state.  I printed a 20-page hardcover book of the house using Shutterfly.com for my own personal use.  I was considering a PDF format book of a walking tour of downtown Richmond, similar to the one I did for Raleigh a couple of years ago, but there already are iPhone apps published for 99 cents for that.

You can see all of my photographs not only of the Rice House but also many other trips at my photo web site: personal photos.  I have used this site for several years to share a limited number of albums with friends.  Shutterfly.com makes their money by selling prints or photo books, but they don’t charge anything to host your photos or to create a personal web site.  Their service is similar to Picassa and Flicker for sharing photos.  I have two sites: one for travel photos, and the other for family pictures.  If you want to become a “member” of my site, you can just send me an email and I’ll sign you up.  You do not need to be a member to view the photos, but as a member you will receive notices of updates as I add photos.

Blurb.com offers several versions of how to publish both photos AND text as POD books or e-books.   They have a plug-in for Adobe InDesign or Adobe Lightroom for graphic designers, or an add-in for Microsoft Word or Adobe PDF for ordinary folks to convert to e-books.  Their Booksmart software can be used to publish an e-book for only 99 cents that you can download to your iPad. They quote a much higher price for a print-on-demand version.  They don’t have a page limit so you can publish longer books. Their e-books are not listed in Apple’s iBooks Store; they are listed on their web site.  I used their software to create a personal photo book for my iPad of a selection of some of the photos from all of my Richmond trips.  You also can “publish” or “share” on Instagram or Facebook.

Recently Apple through its iBooks editions on their iTunes store is offering the free software iBooks Author app that you can use to publish directly to the iBooks Store for free, but you have to pay for an ISBN number, other minor service charges, and meet their qualifications to be approved.  I have downloaded the free software, but I have not yet tried to publish a book although I am considering a rewrite of an old autobiography.

There are many proprietary formats for e-books: Kindle, Nook, Sony, E-reader, etc. where the publisher and/or the device maker determine the format, and the author usually doesn’t have a choice.

Some writers are choosing to publish directly in digital format and bypass the traditional publishing sequence of getting an agent and then a publisher. At this point I don’t see an easy route to monetize your own e-book.  If you go through a publisher who chooses to publish both in print and digitally, then you have a distribution system that is crucial to making any money.  For all of the hype about videos, tweets, and posts going viral, I don’t see anyone making money from them.  It’s free publicity, but for what?

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