We are now publishing each issue of our magazine — the Annals of Improbable Research — as an e-book, as well as on paper.
Until now, no —not any!— magazines have been available as standard e-books. That’s a big problem. We invented a simple way to solve that problem.
Here I will explain (A) the problem; and (B) how we solved it. We think our little invention is a big deal for anyone who publishes magazines — and for anyone who reads them.
A. The Problem: magazines are not available as e-books
E-books are becoming the dominant form in which people get and read books. These e-books have three important qualities:
- They are comfy to read on both big screens and tiny screens (mobile phones).
- They are comfy to obtain (from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.)
- They work with pretty much any standard e-book reading app, on pretty much any device.
But (but!)… those books have a third pertinent quality: they are mostly text. For nicely formatted publications — hello, magazines! — e-book versions have until now been impractical-to-impossible.
Yes, some magazines are available in digital form — but, as far as we are aware:
- They are uncomfortable-to-intolerable to read on a tiny screen (mobile phone);
- You can read them on only a few, particular devices; and
- On many/most devices, you can read those magazines only by using a special app — they don’t work with most of the standard e-book reader apps
B. What We Invented: how to make a magazine into an ebook for all screens
We wanted to make our magazine issues into e-books comfortable to read on a tiny screen (such as a mobile phone), as well as on a big screen. If you have ever tried to read a nicely formatted document (a PDF, for example) on a mobile phone, you know that it’s excruciatingly awkward to navigate your way through a page.
That’s why we invented a special format. Each of our e-books contains TWO copies of the magazine, each with the same content. The first copy is formatted in a simple, small-screen-friendly way. The second copy shows the same issue of the magazine, but formatted in full glory, exactly as it appears in the print edition.
This two-in-one format is just a wee, little innovation. But it solves the problem of how to make a magazine (or any publication that has a complex layout) that people can get and read as a standard e-book.
Using this format, we can take an issue of our magazine, and produce an e-book version that’s available on Amazon and on Barnes & Noble (and soon on Google and iTunes and elsewhere). This e-book version is comfortable to read on any device that handles standard e-books — comfy on tiny screens and big screens.
We invite you to download a free e-book issue of the Annals of Improbable Research!
If you like it, you can find (and, we hope, buy) other issues.
Here at Improbable Research, Lauren Maurer did most of the hard, careful, often-frustrating work of turning the concept into the actual e-books. Geri Sullivan contributed a helping of her famous design expertise and wisdom.
Many people helped us, especially in learning about many of the undocumented quirks of the Kindle, the Nook, and other e-book readers, and finding many equally-bedeviling quirks of the various online e-bookstores. I’d like to mention a special few individuals who knowledgably, kindly, patiently helped in a big way: Ben Biggs, David Foulser at Google; Ros Reid at Harvard SEAS; and Sara Montgomery and Nick Sidwell at The Guardian.
Please Spread the Word
There’s a tremendous amount of published, richly-formatted material — magazines and lots more — that until now has been un-offerable and unobtainable in a comfortable digital form. Please help us spread the word to other publishers that they, too, can make make their magazines (and whatnot) into e-books.