Monday, February 28, 2011

More Terms to Know

In the world of publishing, mes auteurs, there are a lot of terms to know. As our digital overlords begin to claim more and more of this territory for themselves, I think an e-update of sorts is in order.

Therefore! I've put together a list of indispensable e-book/Internet-related terms I think you should know. If you think of any more (and I'm sure you will), please don't hesitate to post them in the comments.

CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). A system for separating a web page's or e-book's style/formatting from its content. For example: rather than putting a tag around every block of text that specifies the font as Garamond, you can just have CSS declare that all text should be in Garamond from the outset.

Think of it as like giving directions from the passenger seat of the car: you can just tell the driver, "go straight until I say otherwise" from the outset, rather than saying, "keep going straight" at each intersection.

E-book (also ebook, eBook). An electronic book available in a wide variety of formats (e.g. AZW, EPUB, MOBI, PDF) on a variety of devices (e.g. Amazon's Kindle, Barnes & Noble's Nook).

EPUB (also ePub, ePUB, EPub, epub). The industry standard e-book format. It's basically a zipped-up website.

HTML (HyperText Markup Language). The language used to write websites and e-books. It's currently on version five (HTML5).

PDF (also .pdf). Standing for "Portable Document Format," a .pdf is a file format readable by many (but not all) e-reading devices. Its primary selling point is that it represents documents independent of the machine it runs on, so a .pdf e-book looks the same no matter what devices is used to read it. For this reason, however, .pdf files are not reflowable (see below).

Reflowable content. Content (words, diagrams, illustrations, &c) that can change or "reflow" depending on the device designed to read it. Text "reflows" when you change the font size on your Kindle or when you switch back and forth between devices with different display sizes.

This is one reason e-versions of the same title look different on different devices; another is that different e-tailers do different things to the source files they receive from publishers before making the book available to the consumer.

SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Basically, this is the idea of improving your visibility via search engines on the Internet. For example: if you Google "[your name] author," you want your personal website to be one of the first few hits. Taking into account how search engines work and what search terms people use, it's possible to move up the list of results (often dramatically).

XHTML (eXtensible HyperText Markup Language). A family of XML languages (see below) that serves as an alternative to HTML (above).

XML (eXtensible Markup Language). Wikipedia says it best: "A set of rules for encoding documents in machine-readable form." If you're using Microsoft Office 2007 or later, you're already familiar with one of XML's many uses (it's the "x" in ".docx," ".xlsx," &c).


  1. Might not be totally pertinent to e-books, but can you explain metadata (or tell me it's not important in e-book marketing)

    Terry's Place
    Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

  2. Hi Terry,

    Metadata aren't in and of themselves that interesting as regards e-book marketing, but they are necessary for any book to be catalogued and sold. In short, metadata are "content about content": the title of the text, the language it's written in, its author, &c &c.

    Hope that helps!


  3. It's currently on version five (HTML5).

    It's currently transitioning to HTML5 might be a better phrasing. Not much is actually in HTML5 yet and the specifics of the new language are still being worked on. Some say full adoption won't happen for 12 years, but then, some people still use IE6, so it's best just to look at when it passes the majority stake. That will still be a couple years as the big dogs fight over which file formats they want to use for this or that.

    In terms of ebooks, the use of HTML5 isn't that important. For enhanced ebooks, on the other hand, this is really important stuff that people are keeping an eye on. For the moment, we're kind of stuck in the middle, having to duplicate file formats to reach more than 50% of the market with any one strategy. It's a huge pain in the butt.

  4. In addition to title, author, genre, metadata usually includes "key word" subject listings. When you search for a new book in your ebook catalog, it's using metadata to determine whether or not that book should be listed as a result of your search.

  5. Blogger seems to be eating my comments.

    I would very much like to hear more about search engine optimization. Until I started my blog, all I knew about search engines was that you typed stuff in and then received answers. My knowledge is still somewhat rudimentary.

  6. Thank you so much for this. Although I know a few - very little few - I appreciate learning more. A big help for me to further my website, ebooks and more. Blessings to you, Oh Master!