Saturday, January 12, 2013

Smashwords and the .epub format

Tonight, I came within sneezing distance of publishing the second two books of the Waldgrave Series on Smashwords.  I didn't do it.  There were a few reasons, all related to my long and tortured love-hate relationship with Smashwords.

First, I want to make it clear that I love Smashwords.  I love what they have done for indie authors, and I love what they have done for readers.  I like that they give a good royalty to authors, and I like that they provide so many formatting options for download to buyers.

Now, why I hate Smashwords.

In a word: Meatgrinder.

The Meatgrinder is the Smashwords method for providing so many formats to buyers; it's an ingenious way to do it.  I suppose my qualm isn't so much with Meatgrinder as it with what an author has to do to make an ebook "Meatgrinder ready."  I spent a good deal of time converting my Word .doc books into .epubs so that they could go on to Nook and Kindle.  To get the books on to Smashwords, one must backtrack from an .epub to a complex series of rules and formatting requirements in Word before uploading to the Meatgrinder.

I can say it easily took me twice as long to make my Meatgrinder .doc as it did to make my .epub, and I am not nearly as satisfied with the Meatgrinder .epub generated from the .doc.

Then, around the end of 2011, a light at the end of the tunnel: Smashwords announced an effort called Smashwords Direct, where authors would be able to upload their own .epubs instead of Meatgrinder Word .docs.

This feature is now in beta; it's the feature I *almost* used tonight.  The reason I didn't is that I finally read the fine print: if you upload an .epub, that's the only format that will be available to buyers.  They won't Meatgrind-er it; this is a good thing, because they won't butcher my formatting.  This is a bad thing, because all the folks who go to Smashwords to get a .mobi, a .pdf, or an HTML version of the book won't be able to get it.

Sigh.  There is no option to upload customized versions for these other formats.  So my option is to deal with Meatgrinder, or .epub only.

One can upload both a Meatgrinder-ready .doc and a custom .epub, but anyone who selects a format other than .epub will still get the stripped and possibly low-grade Meatgrinder experience.  The reason I wanted to wait for the .epub upload was that I somehow believed they would be able to make better quality .mobi, .pdf, etc. files if I upload my own coded digital format--as an .epub--but this is apparently not the case.  Also, I was sincerely hoping that I would no longer have to deal with the Meatgrinder requirements.

<End rant.>

I am sure I will get over it.  I always do.  And I probably shouldn't be this wound up over the requirements for a service that has so much value; I do a lot of my giveaways through Smashwords, which is something it has over Pubit and KDP.

However, as I am making the decision about whether or not to spend another weekend going through the Smashwords Style Guide for Deception and Secrets, I would appreciate knowing if anyone has been dying to see these books on Smashwords, and what file format you usually use.


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