Music and Sound Effects in Books

By Tiffany Bailey from New Orleans, USA (Abandoned Art School 81) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By Tiffany Bailey from New Orleans, USA (Abandoned Art School 81) [CC BY 2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

Audiobooks are gaining popularity, but sounds are making their way into ebooks as well.

Back in 2013, Google submitted a patent to trigger sounds in ebooks. According to GoodeReader, “The sounds would be triggered by events within the book, such as lapping waves, an ominous crescendo, or maybe an outdoor market. The new application would have the sounds stored on a server and would be pushed out to the eBook users are reading at the time.”

Now, the startup Booktrack, which synchronizes movie-style soundtracks with ebooks, has been busy expanding its reach. This year alone, Booktrack has partnered with Microsoft and Hachette’s Little, Brown. According to DBW, Booktrack Classroom, which is used in over 15,000 classrooms, is integrating with Microsoft 365. Continue reading


Looking for Innovative Stories? Here’s a List of Ebooks, Apps, Websites, Games, and More

Ebooks, or maybe I should say stories, come in all shapes and sizes: EPUB, apps, virtual reality, games, and more. If you want to see some exciting, innovative new forms of storytelling, check out this list (sure devices have some limitations and enhanced ebooks haven’t exactly taken off yet, but there are ways to make ebooks great): Continue reading

Build An Interactive Holiday Ebook with CircularFLO


Happy holidays! To those who celebrate Christmas, CircularFLO, which allows you to build interactive ebooks without coding, is giving away personalized, free interactive ebooks.

You can get your copy at Inside you’ll find a drag and drop jigsaw puzzle, a hangman game, a matching game, and more. Plus CircularFLO is holding a contest where you can win a new ebook.


Reading Ebooks on Your Smartphone

"Samsung Galaxy S5" by GalaxyOptimus - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

“Samsung Galaxy S5” by GalaxyOptimus – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons –

Smartphones have exploded in popularity in the last few years, and because so many people own smartphones, publishers are now thinking about how to best deliver digital content to the small screen.

As a side anecdote, four years ago (2011) I was sitting in a marketing class at NYU, and the lecturer was telling us about how she read all five A Song of Ice and Fire books (you know, Game of Thrones), on her phone, usually while commuting on the subway. At the time, most of us in the class thought it was crazy extraordinary — we were still getting used to the idea of ebooks, and reading books on an iPad. But flash forward and I find myself getting most of my reading done on my phone when I’m commuting on BART in San Francisco. The times they are a changin’.

According to BookWorks, “there are over one billion smartphones in the hands of potential readers, and that number is thought to triple by 2017.” And, “With the growing popularity of eBooks, on-the-go bibliophiles have chosen to transition to their smartphones for their daily dose of literature.” Wall Street Journal also confirms the rise of phone reading. Continue reading

What Rights Do Ebook Owners Have?

By NotFromUtrecht (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By NotFromUtrecht (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

Over the last few years, there has been a lot of discussion around the ownership of ebooks.

The LA Times reported in 2012 about how ebook owners had few rights when it came to their ebooks. Instead of owning ebooks they purchased, they were merely licensing them:

Unlike the owners of a physical tome, they won’t have the unlimited right to lend an e-book, give it away, resell it or leave it to their heirs. If it’s bought for their iPad, they won’t be able to read it on their Kindle. And if Amazon or the other sellers don’t like what they’ve done with it, they can take it back, without warning.

In 2013, Motherboard wrote about how in some cases you can only access ebooks in certain territories or countries. For example, one professor from the U.S. traveled to Singapore and lost all his ebooks stored on his Google Play app, all because the Google Play bookstore wasn’t available in Singapore. To get his books back, he had to go back to U.S. and redownload them all. Also,, :

You can’t give away, loan to a friend, trade or sell your book when you’re done reading it, because it’s bound to the account of your Kindle, Google Play, iBooks, or whatever ecosystem you bought it from. This really ruffles the features of voracious readers, since sharing books is a classic and much-loved tradition

And in 2014, Guelph Mercury reported on ebooks that were disappearing in Japan. One ebook retailer announced it was shutting down, and issued refunds to users, but those users were no longer able to access the ebooks and comics they had purchased. According to the article:

It is technologically possible to make such e-books readable on other service providers’ platforms after one company discontinues its service.

But Toru Sampei, chief of the secretariat of the Japan Electronic Publishing Association, said, “All the companies are reluctant to do so because it takes time and is costly.”

Fortunately, there is more discussion lately over how to protect readers from losing their ebooks. In 2014 the state of Delaware passed a law that gave “heirs and the executors to estates the same rights over digital content which they would have over physical property,” according to The Digital Reader. Although this only applies to residents in Delaware, it is a strong first step.

Have you heard about any more recent steps to protect ebook owners? Please share in the comments!

New Ebook Fonts Make Ereading More Like Print

The average reader probably doesn’t think a lot about fonts, but they are important contributors to the reading experience.

A few weeks ago, Google announced a new typeface for Google Books, called Literata. The Next Web goes into more detail, but the gist is Google ebooks now have a font that distinguishes it from ebooks read on a Nook or Kindle, and it was created to give a better reading experience, with varied texture to make it more interesting. According to The Next Web, this font has been in the works since April 2014.

Interestingly, just a few days after Google announced its new font, Amazon announced Bookerly, the new font for Kindles. According to FastCoDesign, is a custom-made serif font that replaces Caecilia as the default font. The article says Amazon tested the font for increased legibility, reading speed, and reduced eyestrain–the article said, “According to Amazon’s internal tests, that means it’s about 2% easier on the eye.” Bookerly looks like a mix of Baskerville and Caecilia, and the new font will stand out with Kindle’s new layout engine, which makes the ebooks read a lot more like print books:

Even if you max out the font size on the new Kindle app, it will keep the spacing between words even, intelligently hyphenating words and spreading them between lines as need may be.

The layout engine also contains some beautiful new kerning options. They’re subtle, but once you see them, you can’t unsee them: for example, the way that the top and bottom of a drop cap on the Kindle now perfectly lines up with the tops and bottoms of its neighboring lines. Like I said, it’s a small detail, but one that even Apple’s iBooks and Google Play Books doesn’t manage to quite get right.

It sounds like Amazon was working on these developments for a while, so it’s probably coincidence that Literata and Bookerly came out around the same time.

What I find particularly interesting is that new technologies and designs are geared towards replicating the print experience. In many ways, it makes sense, and I wonder if these types of changes will convince people who love print to embrace digital.

What do you think? Please share in the comments!

Publishing Children’s Ebooks

The children’s book market is expanding. According to IBISWorld, “e-readers and other popular devices, like tablets and smartphones, make books easier to buy, read and store. Animation and other extra features made possible by these and other devices are making e-books particularly attractive to children.”

Jane Friedman also reported that “Children are starting to read e-books at a younger age, and the e-book format is growing as a percentage share of all books purchased. (It increased to 21% in 2014, up from 14% in 2013.)” She shared a great chart from Nielsen on where books rank for different age groups. You can see it here.

It may still be easier to go the traditional route to publish children’s books (and by children’s books I mean heavily illustrated books, not YA), but more options are popping up for those who want to self-publish. To get a better feel for how it all works, I self-published my first picture ebook, called Apple’s Adventures. I’m also in the process of editing the second book in my How to Make Ebooks series, which will focus on how to create picture ebooks, also known as fixed format ebooks. Continue reading

A Look at Interactive Ebooks

Interactive, multimedia ebooks are starting to gain some traction. In addition to embedding audio and video, some ebook creators are experimenting with game elements, using GPS, and adding activities. Continue reading

RedShelf: Affordable E-Textbooks

Screen Shot 2015-01-28 at 6.31.32 PM

RedShelf is a platform that allows students to access e-textbooks. The company started in June 2010, when the co-founders Tim and Greg were asked by a professor to create a digital course packet. They developed the e-reading technology while still in college, and started forming partnerships with campus bookstores. Now RedShelf has more than 160,000 titles and 160+ bookstore partnerships. Continue reading

Taking a Closer Look at Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited

Screen Shot 2014-07-23 at 3.39.28 PMThere has been a lot of buzz lately around Kindle Unlimited, the latest service to enter the ebook subscription game. But what out of all the subscription services  I’d say that this one is the biggest game changer, and that’s because it’s an Amazon service.

After recently finishing Brad Stone’s The Everything Store, I have a feeling that right now, Kindle Unlimited is more of an experiment for Amazon, to test the waters of ebook subscriptions. They’ve probably been thinking about it for at least a year or two, when the phrase “Netflix for ebooks” started becoming popular. But like the other business models out there, I’m not sure it’s yet clear how profitable or successful subscriptions for ebooks are.

Amazon already has tried a few varieties of subscriptions, such as Kindle FreeTime Unlimited and even with the Kindle Owners Lending Library (KOLL). Kindle Prime users have access to KOLL, which allows them to borrow, for free, one ebook per month. The selection is fairly large, and it includes all ebooks authors have enrolled in the KDP Select Program. For those who may not know, authors who choose to upload and sell their ebooks on Amazon’s platform have the option to also enroll those books in KDP Select. KDP Select requires that the ebook be exclusive to Amazon for 90 day periods at a time, though that strategy no longer works as well for authors as it used to. Continue reading