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Should self-published authors use an e-book conversion service?

Posted By Juli Monroe On February 12, 2013 @ 1:22 pm In ebook,self-publishing | 7 Comments

I’ve written plenty on this site about e-book conversion (most recently here [1] and here [2]), and I almost skipped over the Bowker press release [3]. I’m glad I decided to investigate further.

Okay, quick details first. From the release:

Once an author has decided to self-publish, the next step of creating an eBook alongside print is obvious – it is too big a market. Not too far in the future I believe we’ll drop the “e” and we’ll just have books,” stated DCL CEO Mark Gross. “We applaud Bowker for recognizing the need for trustworthy conversion services for its customers, and are honored to have been chosen for that role.”

DCL’s EPUB on Demand is an online submission portal that allows authors, publishers, and other users to benefit from the same powerful resources dedicated to larger clients and organizations while streamlining the process. It’s quick, accurate, cost-effective and supports all popular eReader devices.

Okay, calling it “EPUB on Demand” and then saying it “supports all popular eReader devices” was a bit odd. Yes, the service does support Kindle.

I went to the Bowker site [4] to learn more about the service, and that’s where things got interesting. Scroll down to the pricing section.

The cost of producing an eBook is based upon the complexity and size of the project. Keep in mind that we do not simply run a script to convert your files. We put your PDF through multiple phases to insure that the files you receive have gone through rigorous quality assurance testing.

As you see below, each format is significantly less expensive when you purchase two formats. If you are thinking that you want your book on the Kindle as well as the Nook and iPad, then you will need both formats. Purchasing both eBook formats upfront will save you money.

Prices for Low & Medium Complexity Projects

Single Format

$1.60 / page


$1.85 / page

By the way, although they say PDF above, you can also submit as MS Word, InDesign or HTML.

Let’s look at what this costs. Curious, I pulled up my current manuscript, which I’ll be working on formatting later this month. 203 pages in Word, which costs out to $375 for conversion to EPUB and Mobi. That’s pricy. I know another well-regarded conversion service that would have charged me $190 for the same project. (52 Novels [5], who converts all of Joe Konrath’s books.)

I’ll admit that I don’t mind doing it myself, so I won’t even pay the $190, but $375 sounds like an awful lot for formatting my e-book.

By the way, see that cost savings for doing both formats at once? Here’s another quote from their site.

Can I get the discounted price if I purchase both formats separately?
Sorry, we can only offer this price upfront, as much of the savings is related to not needing to repeat work. Because we can create certain efficiencies in this process, we can do two formats of the same book at a discount. However, we cannot offer the difference at a later date.

This makes me wonder about their process. Once you have a good EPUB, conversion to Mobi is a snap. Unless you’re talking a complicated formatting job, that is—which they quote individually. So I’m taking that statement with several grains of salt.

One last note. They have a “helpful” rundown of iBooks, Kindle and Nook at the bottom of the page. Unfortunately, their information on Kindle is incorrect. They say the royalty rate is 35 percent. That’s true in some cases, but it’s easy enough to put your book in the 70 percent category, so mentioning a range (like they did with Nook) would be more accurate.

Don’t get me wrong. I do see the benefit for many authors of having a service complete the conversion for them; I’m not against conversion services. However, I do believe that authors should shop around to be certain they are getting a fair deal. And I’m definitely not convinced Bowker has the best option for the self-published author on a shoestring.

7 Comments (Open | Close)

7 Comments To "Should self-published authors use an e-book conversion service?"

#1 Comment By Frank Lowney On February 12, 2013 @ 1:48 pm

Conversion services are solutions in search of a problem that shouldn’t exist in a standards-based environment. Web designers suffered for years with this and are now in a much better but still not perfect, position because of better standards compliance. Today, few web browsers would dare to ignore HTML 5 as ePub 3 seems to be ignored in the world of eBooks.

#2 Comment By Paul Salvette On February 12, 2013 @ 11:15 pm

I don’t understand the pricing model on a “per page” basis (disclosure: our company is a competitor). A 12-page brochure is actually more complicated to turn into an eBook than War and Peace, since images and different styles of text require special attention. A straight-forward novel can be done pretty quickly.

Regarding EPUB -> MOBI/KF8, it’s a best practice to use a different stylesheet for the Kindle devices. There’s also a few caveats like MOBI/KF8 doesn’t allow an HTML cover page. I hope you’ll consider us, Juli, for your book. We charge a lot less than $375 (a lot less).

#3 Comment By Juli Monroe On February 13, 2013 @ 9:10 am

Paul, I hear you on the stylesheet. However, does it really cost enough more that their statement makes sense?

I’d consider using you, Paul, if your book on formatting hadn’t been so darned good. :) For the moment, I’m happy to do it myself. I figure its good experience to have. Maybe in the future, when my books are making enough money that it makes financial sense to outsource the work.

#4 Comment By Paul Salvette On February 13, 2013 @ 9:22 am


The additional markup for the MOBI does not justify the cost. It’s good to learn how to do this formatting stuff. Good luck and let us know if we can help.

#5 Comment By Juli Monroe On February 13, 2013 @ 2:36 pm

Thanks, Paul, for confirming what I’d thought. I’m sure I’ll be talking to you about conversion some day soon.

#6 Comment By David Derrico On February 13, 2013 @ 3:38 pm

Well, it must be worth it if they “insure that the files you receive have gone through rigorous quality assurance testing.” Hopefully they can ENsure that their quality assurance team is as good as their proofreading team.

#7 Comment By Lisa On September 9, 2014 @ 6:26 am

Ebook conversion service is necessary, if you’re not aware about the formatting or new to formatting. Recently, I converted my book with [6], they did an excellent job at cheap price. The pricing which you mentioned is really high when comparing to the ebookcoder.com.

Anyway, thanks for the article and my comment help few authors.

Thank you..

Article printed from TeleRead: News and views on e-books, libraries, publishing and related topics: http://www.teleread.com

URL to article: http://www.teleread.com/ebooks/bowker-and-data-conversion-laboratory-team-to-help-self-publishers/

URLs in this post:

[1] here: http://www.teleread.com/epub/flipick-to-allow-epub3-from-adobe-indesign/

[2] here: http://www.teleread.com/ebooks/review-the-ebook-design-and-development-guide-by-paul-salvette/

[3] Bowker press release: http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2013/bowker-partners-with-dcl-to-offer-ebook-services-to-authors-small-publishers/

[4] Bowker site: https://www.myidentifiers.com/bowker_ebook_conversion_service

[5] 52 Novels: https://www.52novels.com/pricing/

[6] : http://www.ebookcoder.com

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