Since the fall of 2012, I have been working on a book about a family of refugees from Sierra Leone. The book is finished and has been shipped off to at least eight or nine publishers now. No one, to date, has been interested in publishing it, though I am keeping up the effort.

With a little time on my hands over Christmas break, I am taking a big step: turning the book into an e-book and publishing it. There are a few things to consider, of course, and the first is whether or not I lose all credibility by self-publishing the work. At this point, I have to say I no longer care. That was easy enough. I don’t need the publication for my CV; tenure is behind me; and I am growing weary of rejections from print publishers.

The next big question is which e-book platform to use. A quick review of some major options:

  • Apple iBooks Author is newly updated and free for Mountain Lion users. I upgraded to ML, in fact, just for this tool, which is getting pretty good reviews. It has a series of very sharp design templates that should accomodate just about every e-author. And in true Apple fashion, the tool itself is easy-to-use and relatively intuitive. Better still, you can embed video (not Flash, of course) into your e-book. My book is based on video interviews that would fit nicely into this format. Some issues: again, like most Apple software, you have to work to get inside it. It is frustrating to be limited to the templates provided by the software, and for some reason, it is impossible to create a simple blank page. As for publishing, the software exports only to Apple’s proprietary e-book format (.iba), limiting your book to the Apple store. Hardly a surprise.
  • Adobe Creative Suite is a much more powerful design program made for professionals. I have the older version of this software (CS5). Its successors Adobe CS5.5 and 6 both support e-publication even more so than CS5. But even inn CS5, you can export to the open-source e-pub format, making your book marketable anywhere that accepts this format (such as the Google Play Store). The design possibilities are nearly endless. The software offers sophisticated tools that go well beyond anything in iBooks Author. If you can imagine it, you can probably design it in CS5. The problem is the price tag–somewhere around $1,300 for the newest Creative Suite Standard. For $29.99/month, you can subscriben to the Creative Cloud, a cloud-based version of the software that I have yet to try.
  • Create Space by Kindle isn’t really full-fledged e-publishing software. It’s more like a set of guidelines and some cloud-based tools that help you publish your e-book to Amazon. Just become a member of Create Space–it’s free–and get started. Here, the problem is that there are no robust tools like Creative Suite or built-in templates like iBooks author. You’re pretty much on your own. The advantage is that Amazon owns the e-book industry right now, and you immediately have a huge audience.
  • Google Play Store is the least proprietary of the e-book vendors: it publishes a range of formats, including the open-source e-pub format. That is good. But like Create Space, it doesn’t really assist with the design of the books, and I’m not sure it can handle an e-pub with embedded video.

To end what is becoming a long post, I am going with iBooks Author for now, hacking its templates whenever necessary. I may also use the powerful e-book manager Calibre to convert my ebook. I am excited, however, about the way the e-book format can enrich my text . . . more on this later.