Getting Past “Good Enough” eBooks: Liza Daly

Liza DalyLiza Daly‘s presentation at the 2010 Digital Book World Conference was one of the most talked about, and she has agreed to share both her slides and her notes with us here.

For some publishers, digital makes up 5-10% of unit sales, and the rate is increasing every day. It’s time to make ebook quality control a priority and not an afterthought. Liza Daly of Threepress Consulting will demonstrate the seven deadly sins of eBooks and how to fix them. It might hurt at first, but consumers notice. Let’s make digital books as carefully crafted as their print counterparts.

[NOTE: DBW Members can listen to the entire presentation here.]

Getting Past “Good Enough” Ebooks

As ebooks account for ever-greater percentages of sales and publishers clamor for higher prices, it’s time to ensure that digital books are meeting the same quality standards as their physical counterparts.

[slideshare id=3056166&doc=dbw-liza-daly-100202134203-phpapp01]

Some common problems with existing commercial ebooks are outlined in this presentation:

Absence of attractive covers

Ebook buyers are very disappointed to find that their editions include no cover, a text-only cover, or an unsightly generic cover. There’s no excuse for front-list books to not have the rights sorted out. If different digital covers do need to be used, they should be well-crafted, not placeholders.

Extraneous print-only material and blank pages

E-ink devices are slow to turn pages.  Don’t waste readers’ time with useless material.

Wrong or misleading metadata

If the ebook is going to include ISBN or other metadata, ensure that it’s for the correct edition.

Unnecessary tables of contents

Ebook formats include tables of contents internally. In most cases it isn’t necessary to include them in the flow of the book content. If they are included, ensure that they have hyperlinks to the actual chapters.

eBook 201: Production Intensive WEBcast SeriesEditorial errors

Ebooks aren’t a lesser edition of the final product.  They should have the most current and complete editorial updates and corrections.

It’s critically important that publishers attend to the 5% rule: the first 5% of the ebook will end up in the free samples provided by retailers. That 5% should be compelling. Readers with limited time and attention want to jump into the story as fast as possible, and to maximize conversions it’s the publisher’s role to get readers hooked.

Publishers compete not just with other publishers and other types of media. In the digital world they also compete with free, easily-available pirated ebooks. In some extreme cases, pirated ebooks have been found to be superior in quality and thoroughness than some of the automated print-to-digital conversions on the marketplace today.

If you expect readers to pay $12.99 or more for an ebook, you must give them the same high-quality product they expect in the printed world. Consumers don’t know or care about image rights issues, technical difficulties or multi-format conversion errors. They want a good story, in a readable form, that’s good value for their money.

Liza Daly is the president of Threepress Consulting and an experienced software engineer in digital publishing.

21 thoughts on “Getting Past “Good Enough” eBooks: Liza Daly

  1. Ilya Kralinsky

    As an illustrator and writer I am afforded the unique opportunity to look at design and visual enticement as selling points for a book. I can produce tremendous writing with maximum visual appeal all the way around at the low cost of what time I put into the project and what software it takes to get it into an e-book format. Beyond that, it can be on the Internet and make money. Traditional publishers turn this down. Let them fire down on us peasants and bleed out hitting themselves on the foot. They need … to be … open … to NEW … TALENT and not the giant blocks of drivel they’re currently pedaling (there are shining spots out there, but, well …. Trust the sensibilities of someone else. Let the Internet take it all over, I say. You are absolutely right that the front matter could actually go to the back of the book. Even the film industry moved away from lingering credits in the beginning with minimal credits at the end to minimal credits at the beginning and massive credits at the end. We as writers are competing with films, television — all these flashy media developed for people with ADHD. We need to get on the stick and really compete instead of relying on the notion that artifacts are charming. Fantastic slide presentation, and you are very correct.

  2. gjones

    I agree on the samples especially. Sending me the publisher credits. acknowledgements and copyright info in my sample pages is no way to convince me to buy an author I’m unfamiliar with. Can’t wall slam a kindle the way you can a paperback.

  3. neal

    Liza’s points are dead on here. Give customers the content they paid for, make it easy to navigate, and eliminate material that does not fit the medium. -neal

  4. Susan Neuhaus

    Thanks for showing us these examples. I read a lot about converting print to ebooks in the cheapest, fastest way. But ebooks that frustrate the reader can’t be good business. Hopefully, crafting the reader experience will be a better business model as well as an exciting challenge.

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  7. Anne Tucker

    I am so pleased to read about this presentation. Yes to the commentators who are saying get the basics right.

    Ebooks need to be well-edited, carefully proofed and have excellent navigability between the parts of the book, ahead of any enhancements. If I could feel confident I was getting this I’ll be happy to pay more.

    And before we get too fancy with enhancements, first some basic things in ereaders:

    • Text size and line spacing options that are effectively infinite, not just three choices of font size and line spacing that never spaces enough.
    • Some way of showing how far through a chapter you are, as well as how far through the entire book. This could be a combination of percentages, scroll bars, or dependent on what view you are in, but please not line numbers.
    • Ereaders that to allow you to left justify the text, to avoid those reading-defying rivers of white on a small screen.
    • Brightness control within the readers on backlit devices for easy and precise adjustment to the ambient light to avoid eye tiredness/strain.
    • Page-turns that can be done in either direction from either side of the screen, so as to be able to hold the device in either hand.
    • A search function.
    • Rotation-lock which reopens to last used orientation and doesn’t maddeningly first open to portrait and then, because you have lock rotation on, need to be unlocked to change to landscape and locked again.
    • The ability to tap on the page to bookmark as well as hitting the + button in the control view
    • And, yes, sadly, having the time of day showing, at least in the control view.

    Looking forward to a better ereading experience (and more books we actually can buy from New Zealand too!).

  8. Dan S.

    I worked for an Educational Publisher for 15 years and if you look at eTextbooks these days, in many ways they are superior to the pBook. Not only do they have the same basic content, they include lots of extras: extra content, links to interactive learning tools, online video, nice formatting. Many of them are very well done.

  9. Pilar Wyman

    Thank you, Ms. Daly!

    I agree it’s time to make ebook quality control a priority and not an afterthought. But your list of the seven deadly sins of eBooks and how to fix them is sadly incomplete.

    The eighth deadly sin? indexes that aren’t linked.

    Why release an ebook without an eindex?

    There’s no excuse for an ebook index that isn’t live and electronic like the rest of the book.

    (In fact, in some cases, in line with putting the front matter in ‘back,’ the index can come first. But I digress. First, they need to be live!)

  10. Kaetrin

    Oh definitely Liza! I’ve wondered for ages why there’s a Table of Contents page. At first I thought it was because I could choose which chapter I wanted but no! – it has no functionality, it’s just a waste of time.

    I like the covers (colour please! – after all ebook readers are evolving, I first see it on my PC anyway and I might get a colour reader one day) and I don’t mind the acknowledgements but the rest of it could easily go at the back or not be there at all.

    I totally agree about the typos and line breaks. Very often ebook buyers are paying a higher price and we seem to be getting an inferior product – why do we get treated so poorly?

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