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Archived Message:

PDF vs. HTML ebook

HLR2005 Hi!  I've just joined the forum, but have been reviewing the posts for a while.  

I am the editor of a "self-published" book which has recently been printed.  We worked in Microsoft Word, then converted to PDF format via pdf995 suite to send to the printer.

We would like to offer an ebook version for purchase online in addition to the hardcopy.  For now, the PDF version is there, but this is 15 mb!!  It's huge!!

So, with MS Word as our starting point (each chapter is in a separate document), is it worth the effort to change to HTML?  Will we end up with a smaller product? (I don't know much HTML, by the way.)

We like the idea of the "locked" books, so that a preview is available, not to mention the color options that we don't have in print due to costs.

Any guidance you can offer me would be greatly appreciated!

Posted on: 8:22 pm on May 5, 2005
Storyman Unless you are using Adobe's commercial PDF system ($19.95 vs. $5,000) your PDF can be shared by your customers. Even if you use Acrobat Pro security is marginal at best.

HTML is not rocket science and Word will create the files for you. However, know that using Word to create HTML is not always the cleanest HTML. Still it is likely to be a far smaller file than a PDF.

Since you mentioned color images and that you have a large output file, I'm guessing that you haven't optimized those images. Also, have the images been resized? For example, an image that is 600k can be reduced to 30k without much deterioration. That translates into a file that is 1/20th the size of the original.

Posted on: 3:25 pm on May 6, 2005
HLR2005 Ok, so one advantage is the security aspect of the HTML-based compiled ebooks vs. PDF, right?  And you're right, I didn't optimize those images (photos), since the printer needed them at a certain resolution.  I'll have to address that.

Somewhere, maybe on this forum, I read about a tool for Word that exports to HTML minus the extra formatting.  I downloaded it, but haven't tried it yet.  The theory was that "saving as HTML" kept Word formatting in case you imported back into Word.  The tool treats it as a "one way trip."

I know I'll be back with more questions!

Posted on: 4:26 pm on May 6, 2005
Storyman Of course I have no way of knowing if you optimized your images. It's a guess based on your unfamiliarity with HTML since HTML is for web design and those who haven't built web sites are unlikely to be familiar with the process.

You can optimize and still have fairly decent images for printing.

Somewhere I read one ebook author optimized the images contained within the ebook and for those who wanted a higher quality image for printing he linked to a higher quality image stored on his web site.

The problem with large downloads is twofold. First, dialup user (which is still the majority) are less likely to download. Second, the additional bandwidth required is going to cost you that much more.

The second issue brings up two additional issues. First, would it be better to issue your book on a CD instead of a download. Second, the large file size reduces the chances of viral marketing.

The idea of viral marketing is that users can pass the ebook on to friends. Activ e-Book is ideally suited for such an approach because you can control which pages are unlocked or locked. Because of Activ's 1,000 passwords there is a .1% chance that two friends will share the same password (the password is determined by the serial number of the user's hard drive).

Posted on: 5:03 pm on May 6, 2005
HLR2005 (Aaargh.  I just typed a lengthy reply and instead the quoted section that I thought I had deleted was posted instead!)

Let's try this again.  I agree about trying for the small file size.  And the passwords, locked book, and viral marketing are what appeal to us.

I'm going to try optimizing my images and using the Word export tool to see if my HTML files are cleaner.  I know enough to look at the code and compare the two.

Aside from that, do you you have any tips to offer me as I get started?  I want a clean, professional, easy-to-read product in the end.  Thanks again for your help.

(Edited by HLR2005 at 5:10 pm on May 6, 2005)

Posted on: 11:03 pm on May 6, 2005
Storyman For most of my optimization I use PhotoShop. ImageReady has more control over the process, but usually isn't worth the effort. For real critcial work I run it through Vimas.com Web Guru.

One thing that I see some people do is that they don't adjust the image size, which means the browser must do it. Not only does it add to the processing time it also adds to the file size.

I'm not a fan of Word's HTML. What I usually do is copy and past the text into Dreamweaver, then add the <p> tags as needed.

In the way of readability be sure to assign font size as relative (i.e., small-medium-large) or em. Using pixels make it impossible for the end user to adjust the font size.

Posted on: 4:29 am on May 7, 2005
HLR2005 I don't have Dreamweaver and can't afford it.  Any suggestions for an inexpensive alternative?  I only have Word & Publisher at the moment.  I like visual/wysiwig approaches, since arranging those visual details is my strength.

(Edited by HLR2005 at 12:09 pm on May 13, 2005)

Posted on: 6:07 pm on May 13, 2005
Storyman Heidi,

There are quite a few HTML editors that might interest you. Google "HTML wysiwyg" or "HTML freeware" and you'll find a variety of editors. It might help to go one layer deeper by googling the name of the editor along with "problem OR complaint." That way you'll find out how happy others have been with the editor.

Posted on: 8:33 pm on May 15, 2005
EBookCompiler A while ago I helped a couple of people convert from Word into HTML files

One thing that I noticed is when they resized the image in Word, it didn't actually resize the graphic file, just resized the size it was displayed.  For example, they started with a 1000 X 1000 pixel image (or whatever, can't remember the actual numbers), and in Word, they sized it to 100 X 100 pixel image.  Word left the 1000 X 1000 image as is, but resized it in the HTML code.  This meant their ebook was carrying a massively over large file unnecessarily. This increased their ebook size, and also made their ebook slow to display.

I looked at the HTML code for the IMG tags, saw the final size of the images, and Resample-d them (in some programs it's called Rescale or Scale) so the images in the ebook where the exact size needed.  I did this using Corel PhotoPaint, but other programs can do the job too. This produced dramatic savings in file size, and increased the speed of display.

Total time to do this for the images - a few minutes

Effect on the ebook - massive improvement.

Posted on: 6:49 pm on May 26, 2005

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