Update September 2017
The ebook is also available! Download from here and save yourself the trouble of dealing with some epubluddites. Donation of €5 is requested, or leave a review at Hugendubel, or Thalia. Please report any difficulties with the formats to me and I will update the files. The Kindle version does not have the automatic layouting of the pictures (left, right, centre) that the EPUB 3.0 version does, but that’s about as good as it gets when you’re trying to convert a coffee table book onto a small device. Enjoy!
Update May 2018
The book is there again! After much gnashing of teeth etc I decided to go with epubli in the final analysis, because their binding was much better. All the spelling mistakes have been corrected, and all the images were “recast”, i.e. using a new technique which I am calling gtx. This attempts to automatically adjust the gamma to a midpoint of around 0.5 on one clone of the image, does the contrast/saturation intensifier and advanced tone mapping on another, then it is left up to me to mix the two images and adjust the gamma again to around 0.5. Most pictures are now much brighter on the computer screen than is comfortable, but seeing them printed in trial runs leads me to believe that a gamma midpoint of 0.55 wouldn’t have hurt either. Anyway the result is viewable. The book is also available from Hugendubel, or Thalia. Several new pictures, several pictures printed in a larger size, and a few extra pages, all for €36.99.
And yes, the book of the blog is there, even though I’ve had to take if off amazon. News will be here when you can buy it again. It turns out that, once more, all that glitters on the Internet is fool’s gold. Now to tilt at the windmills of vanity book presses…
The publisher of the first volume, Books on Demand, already had some issues from the get-go, the major one being the binding of their soft covers which was as good as non-existent. I would like to think that these companies are their own bad advertising, but even that appears too hopeful at this time. There seems to have been a creeping change in their business model over the last two years (and I’m not complaining too much that their “annual” fee of €19 was only charged once, even though the book has apparently been constantly in print for the last 2+ years). Their free service of converting any manuscript into an ebook, whilst questionable practice for a large format photo book, was enticing, but that is all I can say about it, having never seen how that conversion turned out. And with a little experience of the ebook converter Calibre, I suspect that it was turned into a pile of junk, because if there is one thing clear about this conversion, it is highly likely that the manuscript has to be completely reset for it to work at all.
But the straw that broke the camel’s back was the quality control of the uploaded file. Upload the PDF file and then click on “View” and what you get looks like the dog’s breakfast. Nobody at BoD does this, apparently, otherwise they would, I might dare to suppose, find another solution. Anyway no one cares, and the reply to my question of whether they were seriously going to print my book like that, was good old disdain for my technical abilities. I suspect the problem here lies with Firefox’s rendering of PDF rather than the way the PDF was produced, but telling your customers how stupid they are is a surefire way of losing them.
The next stop was epubli (Holtzbrinck). They seemed quite reasonable at first, no fee for publication, but €60 for conversion to ebook, which might just have been worth it. However, their website was a constant bother, somewhere between a nanny and couldn’t-care-less. The login was a reinvention of the triangular wheel, with no way to store login data, a form without focus, and a disabled enter key. About 15 years ago online banks abandoned the last two “features” because customers were fed up with dragging their mouse around for two unnecessary tasks. Not so epubli. Their submit buttons enlarge grotesquely on hovering over them, but why not just use a recognisable button, and enable the enter key? On the couldn’t-care-less side there was a submit button which was not disabled by clicking on it when submitting a publication request; and since that request took some time to process the temptation was there to press it a second time. With the result that the book was initially published twice. There is something to be said for complete execution of a concept.
I sent in an order for a couple of copies and was shown to where I could track the order. A week or so down the line, the tracking page hadn’t changed at all, but the ordered copies had arrived. What good is a tracking page that only says, “Your order is being processed,” and is never updated? Checking it two weeks later revealed that no update had taken place.
Anyhow, the books having arrived I checked out the binding and this can be described as genuinely robust. But the colours! Everything was – as I measured it – 10% darker than I’d uploaded. I seem to recall inadvertently failing to uncheck the “automatically optimise colours” button when ordering photos from Aldi once and spending countless hours trying to adjust the colours of my prints to counteract this needless “optimisation”. I’m sorry, but fiddling with customer’s wishes like this is pointless. In any case an offer was made to reprint the bad copies if I would send in a photo of one of the pages concerned. To me this makes about as much sense as trying to evaluate a hifi system over the phone.
Trying to get new copies printed revealed one last flaw and that was when I tried to substitute the cover. No amount of uploading a new cover was successful. The helpful tip to send it in by email failed because of the 32 MB file size, and it was never collected from the web address I had stationed it at. Finally the parroting of “advice” (“If you uploaded separate files for front and back covers, then only the front cover can be substituted”, “Colours on the printed page may appear different from colours on a monitor”, etc.) was just too much, and epubli, too, was abandoned.
Moved on to a site with the confidence inspiring title of meinbestseller.de. Was a little worried that the German shouldn’t have gotten past any lector worth half their salt, and the checkbox for a permanent log in was called “Erinnere mich”, which means “Remind me” (and not, presumably, “Remember me”, which is usually transphrased in German to “Eingeloggt bleiben”, “Keep logged in”). Anyway, it turns out the site is that of a Dutch company bol.com, which might just stand for bollox online. Trying to work out how much an ISBN would set me back I was told that it was “ISBNPrice}”, a sign that the programming had not been debugged. Sent off a helpful message to them, but no change was made in the course of a week, which again means they do not care. Checking out the English language version of the site was not any more enlightening. Indeed, the help message at one point read, “Do you have a question or are you just completely puzzled?” Yeah, sure.