Books on the Web, Part 3: Current Tools
In part 1 of this series we looked at the benefits of putting books on the web. In part 2 we discussed some of the things that still need improvement for books to thrive on the web. In this final part of Books on the Web we look at some currently available tools to publish your book to be read in web browsers.
If you’re interested in publishing your books to the web, there are already a wide array of different tools. Each of them supports putting your title on a webpage, but how each one does it differs dramatically. Let’s a take a look at the pros and cons of each tool.
O’Reilly has long been known for producing great ebooks, and Atlas leverages their knowledge of ebooks into a tool that anyone can use. It produces websites, PDFs (both web and print), ebooks, and Kindle mobis. You can try it free for 30 days, but you’ll need to contact O’Reilly for pricing after that.
Aquafadas has a series of tools that help create digital publications. It has both an InDesign export option and web-based tools to create a book. These tools can create a web reader, and ebooks (both fixed layout and reflowable), and apps. Pricing depends on the type of outputs you want to create.
Creatavist was originally built to support Atavist’s own app/magazine The Atavist. (Full disclosure: I work at Atavist, the company that built Creatavist.) Since they it has been built to work for a variety of publishers including book publishers. It allows for the publication of books to the Web, Apps, and a variety of ebook formats. It does not produce print-ready PDFs. Creatavist might be a good solution for users looking to create multimedia titles for the web—it has built-in support for photos, slideshows, video, and audio. There are three subscription pricing tiers ranging from free single story creation to custom pricing for app creation and subscription selling features.
Inkling was originally created to provide textbooks for students with iPads. Since then they have created versions for Androids, iPhones, and the web. In the past year or so Inkling has moved to more of an enterprise model, so this might not be right for people only looking to produce individual books. Inkling is still best suited for educational materials, with native handling of a number of interactive learning widgets. And their Habitat tool is best-in-class for collaborative publishing with multiple team members. Pricing, as I mentioned previously, is for enterprise clients with an enterprise price tag.
Ajar’s IN5 is a great web publishing solution for people who already have their titles in InDesign. It produces HTML files that maintain the layout and interactivity features in InDesign. It can also export to a number of formats that can create apps. It doesn’t produce ebooks or PDFs, but then you have InDesign for that :). It is sold as a license based on the number of computers and versions of InDesign you want to support.
Pollen was created by Matthew Butterick and is used to create his Practical Typography book. It is set up to create beautiful books on the web. I would say it’ really designed for developers or those with a technical bent as it requires a decent amount of setup to get a book going. There’s no commerce features in Pollen, so you’ll either want to produce a book for free or be willing to roll your own payment system. On the plus side it is free to use.
PressBooks is a great digital publishing tool. It’s built on WordPress, so its intuitive interface allows for writers of any kind to use it. It outputs to the web, EPUBs, Mobis, and PDFs. PressBooks offers a number of beautifully designed book themes as well. It is priced on a per book basis (there’s also a free trial with watermarking).
I was recently introduced to Tizra. It helps publish PDFs to the web, and while I don’t normally promote PDFs as a means of web distribution it might make sense for the right client. An advantage of its system is in the flexible pricing—it natively allows for an user to bundle or remix titles and specify pricing for those unique offerings. It also has introduced some widgets for interactivity. Tiara is priced by subscription based on the number of pages you create.
I’ll mention WordPress here as just one of many options as a CMS that could conceivably be used t create books (PressBooks, listed above, is built on a very custom version of WordPress for example.) Building a book on WordPress definitely requires some development skills and some creativity, but it could be just the right option for the right book. WordPress is free to use and has a huge community of developers.
If there’s any I missed, please let me know!