Publishing an eBook
Some have asked about how we actually produce the eBook. It’s actually a pretty simple process.
Authors Take Charge
Authors are in charge of their chapters. They make changes as they see fit based on what’s happening inside Office 365, their experiences, and insights from other professionals like Microsoft contacts, MVPs, or customers. All chapters are in separate Word documents and changes are tracked.
When an author is finished updating their chapter, depending on the type of change it might go through a technical editing process to check that the content is correct. It’s amazing how easily errors sneak in…
All changes go through a copy edit to ensure that the content reads well and fits with the rest of the book. We also check the positioning of figures and whether they have alt-text in place. Afterwards the author gets to check any changes made by the copy editor (usually Tony Redmond in his role as the overall editor of the book) and the final text is settled upon.
When the time comes to generate a book, all the changes from individual Word documents are brought into a single large (37 MB) book file, which is also a Word document. We generate a completely new book for each release to make sure that people don’t have to patch pages or do anything so tiresome. When you download an update, you get a complete, up-to-date book with all the updates made by authors incorporated into the content you see.
We generate the PDF version of the book direct from Word (save as PDF), but we need to use a different tool to create the EPUB and MOBI (Kindle) versions.
That tool is Calibre. We’ve tweaked the Word template over the years so that we are sure that Calibre will generate good-looking EPUB and MOBI output. This is an ongoing process…
EPUB and PDF Updates
We then upload the PDF and EPUB files to Gumroad.com and save them as updates for the book. Gumroad can send email on our behalf to inform subscribers that an update is available and it’s then up to the individuals to decide whether they want to download the new files. With the 2019 edition, we are trying not to update as often as we did with the last edition (51 times) because people have told us that they can’t cope with such a frequent schedule. We would like to use a monthly update frequency, but that really depends on the degree of technical change that happens within Office 365.
The update process is different for Kindle. We upload the MOBI file to Amazon and the file then goes through the Kindle generation and publication process, which can take up to eight hours to complete. Eventually, the book update appears on Amazon sites around the world. We always include the date of the last update in the book description to let readers know how recent the content is.
Amazon doesn’t allow us to proactively update purchasers that new content is available. We go through a process of justifying a notification by proving to Amazon that it would be valuable for people to know that they should refresh the book in their Kindle library. Basically, Amazon’s processes are built for novels that seldom if ever change and not for technical 1,000-page books that might change weekly. It can be a battle to convince the Kindle team that our changes are important, but we do try.