Turning Books into Kindling

A Pilgrim’s Progress in the New World of e-Publishing

With the release today of an electronic edition of Why I Stay: The Challenges of Discipleship for Contemporary Mormons, Signature Books now has 7 Kindle editions available at Amazon.com for between $6.00 and $20.00 each. Soon enough, there will be many more titles available, but this is a new frontier for us and we’re making every effort to see that the electronic books are as attractive and readable as the print editions.

Signature Books on Kindle“Preparing e-books is easy and fun,” says Signature production manager Connie Disney. “You start with an InDesign file unless the original book was formatted in Ventura Publisher, in which case you convert it to MS Word and clean it up, then bring it into InDesign and add paragraph and character tags. Then you export the text as an ePub file and open it in a program called oXygen, where you do some editing in HTML codes and bring it into Calibre to convert it to a MOBI file, testing it in Digital Editions to see what it will look like, and finally uploading it to Amazon as a Kindle book.”

“How long did it take you to prepare your first e-book?” we asked assistant editor Devery Anderson. He laughed and said, “All of the month of September, and that was with help from Connie.” But he was quick to add that he’s down to “a week now for one book and think I’ll be able to improve my time to a book a day. That’s the plan,” he says. “The best e-book people can turn around a title in a half a day, depending on the original format and degree of complexity. It makes a difference whether there are photographs, charts, footnotes, or foreign scripts.”

“How well are the books selling?” “Well, that’s a little embarrassing,” Devery said. “One of the books we’ve released is The Development of LDS Temple Worship, 1846-2000, which I happen to be the author of. It’s selling well as an e-book—over 60 copies in two months. That’s not the problem. A month ago we released my boss’s book, Nauvoo Polygamy: “… but we called it celestial marriage,” and it’s only sold 12 copies so far. That’s a good performance for the first month, but I need to see an improvement before I submit a report to George Smith.”

For now, Connie is back to her normal job of designing and typesetting print-edition books, and Devery is back to editing a forthcoming book. “I’m learning so much here,” Devery said. “Today I learned the abbreviation for the Shepherd of Hermas’s Similitudes is ‘Herm. Sim.’ Imagine how useful that is!” Devery is editing Robert Price’s forthcoming book, The Amazing Colossal Apostle: The Search for the Historical Paul. Connie is currently typesetting The Midwife: A Biography of Laurine Ekstrom Kingston by Victoria Burgess. “All in due time,” says Connie. “Salt Lake City wasn’t built in a day, you know.” Indeed.