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E-books and E-stories

Writing for the Internet
Because of today’s technological advances, more and more companies encourage a paperless society; people are adapting to this lifestyle and are turning to a different forum for their content. Unlike papered media, it's instant and interchangeable. The demographic of those turning to the Internet for their information has expanded significantly. If you have made the decision to write an e-book or e-story, consider the points covered in this article and weigh up carefully the direction in which you wish it to take.

Remember the frenzy that surrounded the release of a Harry Potter book? Bookstores opened at midnight, thousands of fans waited in line to become the first on their block with the new adventure, online booksellers were swamped with orders. Millions of people eager to have that treasured printed book. But if the Harry Potter book had been released as an e-book then that craze may never have happened, at least not in the same way. The book would have been available instantly – obtainable in the time it takes to download – and in the comfort of the reader's own home. No midnight openings, no lines, and no next-day shipping for online booksellers. And possibly the media would’ve had to find something else to talk about for five or ten minutes.

Although some people still resist the change, it appears that e-books are well on their way. The early success of Stephen King's Internet-only work The Plant has shown the medium has caught on, although it didn’t hurt to have a famous author write it. Several publishers have established e-book divisions and online bookstores have created spaces on their sites to handle e-books.

The new technology has a number of advantages over its paper relation, dubbed p-book, but the posing question is whether they outweigh the seemingly irreplaceable intimacy shared between reader and his tree-born companion. The ultimate challenge, as is usually the case with the transition from old to new, has to do with getting used to the change. In relative terms, typewriters replaced longhand as the preferred way of writing. Mark Twain's Life on the Mississippi was the first typewritten manuscript. By the late 1980s, a number of writers had abandoned their typewriters for word processors, which is now considered the norm.

The new technology eventually found its place, but that didn't mean the old one was abandoned. There are people who still write longhand, but many are now comfortable with the flashing cursor and cut-and-paste convenience options of their computers.

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E-Books or P-Books
From a practical viewpoint, the storage capacity of e-books makes it easy on both business and leisure travellers. No more carrying around volumes of company reports, public manuals, or the five novels you've packed and planned to read on your next holiday.

The most attractive quality of e-books is their versatility. E-books have searchable highlights, making it easier for you to relocate important sections you've marked. You can take notes without running out of margin space. An electronic dictionary allows you to click on a word and get its definition. E-books can also be read in the dark. Finally, as mentioned earlier, you can download an e-book in seconds – and there are no shipping fees.

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Formatting And The OEB Standard
E-book publishers and design industries are not so concerned with how you're reading their titles (whether it's via laptop, Ipad, PDA, or a Rocketbook), but which format these mediums use. Currently, at least six formats exist, so publishers have to be able to supply their product in each format in order for customers using any device to be able to read their books.

However, members of the industry have been pondering this problem. Their solution is Open E-Book (or OEB), a standard for formatting and packaging electronic books. The OEB defines not only how text should be formatted for electronic publication, but also how the different parts of an e-book (cover, table of contents, chapter headings, index, and so on) should be packaged together. (Visit www.openebook.com for more information.)

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The Future Of E-Books
Opinions on the future of e-books varies. Some authors and publishers are anti-e-book, but there are those that welcome the technological advances. Some concern is over PDA screens being small, which requires lots of squinting and scrolling. E-book readers are much more like paper books in terms of font size, but reading them can be like looking at a computer monitor for great lengths of time. Nevertheless, the technology continues to improve.

There are those who believe e-books will become the dominant way to read, and the paper version will become a rarity. It’s believed newspapers and magazines will be read in this format as well, and the current trends certainly back this theory.

Paper and pen won't disappear and, despite some people’s opinions, neither will p-books. In June 2009 at BookExpo, the American Booksellers Association convention, the vast majority of participants (ranging from publishers to authors to website entrepreneurs) agreed the bound book would still be available well into the future. One panellist observed that videotapes didn't kill off movies; the two co-existed for years and benefited one another. The same panellist suggested the same would apply for e-books and p-books. The underlying fact that came from that gathering was the audience’s desire to experience a good story, and e-books will merely be another medium.

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To E-Publish ...
Below are some points in favour of online publishing:
  • E-stories and e-books can be published without the costs associated with traditional publishers.
  • It can be almost instant to publish, and without the need to print copies, bind them and distribute them, this means quicker recognition.
  • Technology is moving forward. At the very least, Internet publishing needs to be accepted as an alternate forum that one day may be more readily accepted than that of its counterpart.
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Or Not To E-Publish
Below are some points against online publishing:
  • Like music, e-books can be easily downloaded or copied repeatedly. There is no profit for the writer if one person buys it and then allows, for instance, 10 friends to copy or download it for free.
  • Not all readers think to search the Internet for a good book
  • Many booklovers prefer to wander the aisles of a bookstore soaking up the unique aroma of the printed form than purchasing a story online.
  • While it may generate interest or alert a publisher to your name, there are few (if any) famous authors that have ‘made it’ publishing purely online. Although, some claim profitable returns through e-publishing.
  • The possibility of plagiarism is compounded with the ability to ‘cut and paste’, which is readily available on any computer.
  • There would be no traditional advances or royalties normally associated with a published book through a publishing house.
  • Nor would there be the ability to ‘sell on proposal’ if already published, as successful authors are able to do.
  • Parents will often purchase a book for their children while browsing in a bookshop for themselves, or while at the supermarket. When passing a bookshop, a child will visually acknowledge a book of interest, unlike the Internet.
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Audience
Generally speaking, when writing for the Internet, there are three crucial differences: Audience, Format, and Lifespan. It is important to consider each of these key differences while writing for the Internet.

A writer must consider the audience. The basics won't change when considering an audience from paper version to e-book in regards to identifying who the primary targeted audience is, but there are some huge differences in other areas.

Most people, once they have bought a magazine or newspaper, are likely to give each page a cursory read before setting the item aside. Not so with online. When writing for the Internet you must always keep in mind your reader can leave with a click of a button. People don't have a lot of time to waste, so you must remain on target and focused at all times. If the writer doesn't deliver good content then the reader will simply go elsewhere – and fast.

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Format
Another important point when writing for the Internet is that many online readers are what can be called skimmers. They scan your copy quickly before committing themselves to reading the entire thing. It's important to write clearly and concisely. Use punchy headlines and subheadings, as well as solid introductions and conclusions, as these are key points for skimmers.

Don’t try to mimic traditional print documents. Writing for the Internet requires different strategies. One of the most important is the entry point. A search engine may deliver readers to some point in the middle or end of your document. If you have written coherent and cohesive content, then those readers might consider moving to the beginning for a proper read. It's best to break longer pieces into several stand-alone sections that can work together as a whole or as separate documents.

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Lifespan
While the apparent lifespan of many electronic documents appears or believed to be short-lived; it's not necessarily the case. Printed newspaper and magazine articles are current for a day, week or the month of their publication, So while it's important as a writer to be fresh and current, keep in mind that your reader may access your words from the Internet at some undetermined point in the future. Therefore, try not to be too topical, as you may severely date your article in the process.

The sole decision whether to publish online is up to the individual.

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