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Thursday31 July 2014

What can ebooks do for your firm?

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Electronic publishing is gaining popularity, and may provide opportunities to present your work in a more accessible manner

With the recent announcement that even the bookstore stalwart WH Smith has embraced ebooks (having launched its Kobo ereader) it may be time to consider what the electronic book format has to offer your practice’s profile.

Unlike websites, ebooks can be stored and read without “always-on” internet access. They can also be distributed not only by a simple download from a website but also as email attachments and on USB sticks. And, unlike most websites, they are specifically designed for ease of use and legibility on a wide variety of screens.

There is a multiplicity of file formats and hardware available for ebooks. The two most widely used formats are .pdf and .epub. They can be viewed on a wide range of devices, with the notable exception of Amazon’s Kindle. If you are after Kindle compatibility then you currently have to use its proprietary file format, but converters are available.

Acrobat’s portable document format (PDF) copes particularly well with reproducing graphically rich documents. Creating a PDF of an existing document can be as simple as printing to PDF or even scanning a paper copy, however the slavish reproduction of layouts intended for print becomes a restriction in achieving usability and legibility when the document is viewed on small screens.

In comparison, the epub format is designed for on-screen reading, with user control of font size, style and pagination as the default. Embedding images within the text is still possible, but the author’s control of the visual layout is necessarily diminished in favour of flexibility and ease of use.

Reading the trends

Most architects’ offices already have Adobe’s Creative Suite software for paper-based document and presentation formatting. The software includes the ability to create ebooks, not just in PDF format, but also in the epub format and other cheaper software and web-passed ebook publishing solutions.

The range of architectural books in digital format doesn’t approach the breadth available on paper. Amazon’s website has a fairly comprehensive catalogue of new publications and digital editions from the back catalogue. For non-Kindle users, reader software is available for Android, BlackBerry and Windows Phone 7 devices.

Apple’s bookstore offers a more eclectic range, including self-published books. Ebooks cannot compete on physical presence, but they do offer a cost-effective alternative to print. Most ebook creation websites include services for submitting books to the likes of the Amazon and Apple bookstores — an incentive for those who feel that their book deserves worldwide distribution!

Hugh Davies is a co-founder of IT consultant Lomas Davies. www.lomasdavies.net

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