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Blog Home of D.L. Owens


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Course Review: Ebooks: Distribution and Marketing

Teacher: Dave Wogahn
Length: 3h 16m
ProviderLynda.com (course link)

In this course, Dave Wogahn goes over the various things that you’ll need to consider when you distribute and market an Ebook. This includes sales trends, search trends, market analysis, market history, promotional materials (press releases and book synopsis), promotional methods (social networking, blog networking), reviews, direct distribution versus aggregation services, pricing, and several other things worth taking into account. It was a lot to go over but it was well-worth the undertaking.
However, I will point out is that the course was produced in 2013, making several services obsolete, such as the now-defunct Shelfari. In this regard, you can use the course to teach you what to look out for when deciding the route that you will take with your Ebook. It will also offer a checklist of steps to take as well as some other relevant information to keep on hand when you are about to release your Ebook.
I highly recommend this course to anyone looking to distribute and market an Ebook, as well as those curious about what to expect from the process. If you do decide to release an Ebook, then I wish you the best in the undertaking. Just make sure to release a polished product.

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Course Review: iBooks Author Essential Training

Teacher: Chris Mattia
Length: 6h 55m
ProviderLynda.com (course link)

Whilst the previous courses in the Publish an Ebook learning pathway dealt with EPUB and MOBI format Ebooks, this course gives a comprehensive look at how to make an Ebook for iDevices using iBooks Author. This piece of software is available free of charge and is impressive, to say the least. I was stunned at the available features. It is a powerful piece of software and I really wish there was an option for Windows users. (No, I am not inclined to create a virtual machine in order to use other operating systems.)
Chris Mattia begins the course by giving us an overview of how to modify an existing template before going into the creation of a project from scratch. You will learn how to add media such as video and image files; modify imported media; add and create graphs, tables, with objects and shapes; import content from Word, RTF, Apple Pages and LaTeX; and add interactive elements such as multiple-choice questions for textbooks. This is all followed up by a chapter on exporting as different formats and a final chapter on publishing your finished product to the Apple Store.
I was pretty impressed with what I learned during this course. While a lengthy title, it made me somewhat jealous of folks with Apple MAC computers. iBooks Author is such an awesome piece of software that I wish that I had a MAC to experiment with it. It also looks logical from a user experience viewpoint. If I ever get enough money to purchase a MAC on top of my Windows gaming rig then it is a serious consideration. Alas, that might be some time into the future.
In any case, I highly recommend that folks consider checking out this course. Chris Mattia is an awesome teacher as well, with some neat activities to give us some hands-on experience with the truckload of features. And if you are looking to learn the editing and publishing aspects, then this title will teach you everything that you need to get you up to snuff.

 


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Course Review: Creating Fixed-Layout Ebooks for the Kindle

Teacher: Kevin Callahan
Length: 2h 29m
ProviderLynda.com (course link)

In this course, Kevin Callahan goes over some formatting and organizational requirements for creating a high-quality fixed-layout Ebook for Kindle. Whilst Tony Harmer uses software such as Sigil and Calibre, Callahan uses programs such as Adobe InDesign and Dreamweaver. Callahan also discusses components such as the OPF file, creating pop-ups, regional magnification and a few other neat features. You’ll also see a few videos on programs such as Kindle Kids’ Book Creator to give students something fun to play with.
I found this course very useful because of how Kevin Callahan approached the material. He was concise, demonstrated features clearly and built on complexity over time without lingering too long on any given subject. He covered new material not previously covered in other courses of this learning pathway. Throughout this course, Kevin also offers some recommendations for other great resources for furthering your knowledge and as repositories for useful content such as fonts.
Creating Fixed-Layout Ebooks for the Kindle was a great addition to my learning so far. As such all of this in mind, I highly recommend this course to anyone looking to understand what is involved in the messy business of getting an Ebook up to snuff. Heck, just enrol in the entire “Publish an Ebook” pathway and you should have a really good understanding of the process and some of the tools used for creating Ebooks in next to no time.


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Course Review: Creating Ebooks for the Kindle

Teacher: Tony Harmer
Length: 2h 11m
ProviderLynda.com (course link)

In this course, Tony covers some of the same ground as Tony’s course on CSS, but with more of a focus on setting up Ebooks for old and new Kindle devices. As with his last course, he uses Sigil and Calibre software for the MAC. However, he made sure to also give instructions for Windows users as well.
He discusses markup and metadata. Due to how varied formats are, he covers how to convert from MS Word, Apple Pages and rich text formats. This also includes how to save into multiple Kindle formats. He teaches students about batch formatting, breaking up larger files and merging files. More is covered before the last chapter on publishing to Amazon.
As with Tony’s previous course on CSS, Creating Ebooks for the Kindle is concise, sticking with the meat rather than wandering off into numerous distracting tangents. He also does it in an engaging and conversational matter that makes this course a must for anyone wanting to learn how to utilise software such as Caliber to create an Ebook for Kindle.


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Anime Movie Review: A Starry Tale Endless Constellations

Language: English dub of Japanese production (Kagaya Studios)
Online: MAL
Genre: Spoken Word, Art, Fantasy

A Starry Tale: Endless Constellations is a short, animated film offering a fantastical look at the constellations tied to Greek Mythology. The film itself shows artwork by talented digital artist Kagaya Yutaka. It runs for just under half an hour.

The artwork for A Starry Tale Endless Constellations is attractive. It is a mix of CG and 2D artwork intended to a 360 screen. The narration and music evoke a sense of wonder. Given that I absolutely love both astronomy and mythology, it further appealed to me.
However, do not expect a story. The film is atmospheric in nature. Some reviewers rightfully suggested how well it would fit as ambience during a museum tour of specific exhibits. Kids will likely appreciate the artwork as well due to the bright colours.


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Manga Review: Atashi wa Sore o Dekinai

Year: 2004 (4 parts, three stories total)
Author + Artist: Maki Enjouji
Version:  Viscans [English translations]
Online: MyAnimeListKissMangaMangaFox
Genre: Josei, Romance, Drama, Smut

Atashi wa Sore o Dekinai is an anthology of three Josei Romance stories. It features sex scenes and the classic “main guy is a jerk” cliche so common in both Josei and Shoujo. Whilst I do have some issues with the characterization in the three stories, the artwork is attractive and the characters are easily defined by Maki Enjouji. I wouldn’t say that it is a bad collection but I wouldn’t say that it is good either. If you are looking for an introduction to Josei Romance, there are certainly better anthologies and long-run series out there.


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Manga Review: Biyaku Café

Year: 2008 – 2011 (34 parts)
Author + Artist: Ayane Ukyou
Version:  Decadence [English translations]
Online: MyAnimeListKissMangaMangaFox
Genre: Shoujo, Romance, Drama, Smut

Kaoru Iseya was just fired. After accidentally kicking a can into a door of the only cafe open late that same night, she is accosted by the owner of the establishment. After accepting the offer of a cup of tea, she wakes up naked next to him the following morning. As she is about to leave, he points out that she never paid for the tea or damages to the door and that she must work it off at the Cafe. She agrees. So begins Kaoru’s job at a very unusual host cafe. [The summary at MAL is garbage.]

Biyaku Café is a collection of stories set in a very unusual cafe called Aphrodisiac Cafe that intersect with the main arc of Kaoru (the girl that has bishounen-like qualities) and Kagetsu’s amusing developing relationship. Sure, the premise of having to pay off a debt is nothing new to manga, but it plays out in Biyaku Café in a unique and interesting way. This premise is used to tell not just one story but is a way to also introduce us to several others. This is somewhat charming even if a little cheesy at times. However, be prepared for the occasional sad story in amongst the silly fun that is Biyaku Café.
I was familiar with Ayane Ukyou’s work on the Yaoi series Kuroneko Kareshi series going in. Though I found this other work flawed, it still had a character and a story arc that suggested that Ayane was capable of something beyond smut. Oddly enough, I only found out that it was the same author and artist after looking at a few frames. The art style is very similar to Ukyou’s work on Kuroneko Kareshi but focuses a lot less on the intimate relationship of the characters. My one criticism of the artwork of Biyaku Café is that some of the characters were very similar in appearance making it periodically difficult to differentiate them. However, the linework was still neat and the settings were pleasing on the eye.
Whilst Biyaku Café does have some non-explicit sex scenes, these scenes are used to push the story of Kaoru and Kagetsu forward.  Whilst the romance in Biyaku Café predominantly focuses on hetero couples, we also see the complication of one of Kagetsu’s male admirers. Each of these arcs is addressed in a satisfying and meaningful way over the span of the series. Instead of judgement, it offers a voyeuristic look into the relationships of the various characters. It is so gratifying to see each of these characters find happiness. Whilst not all characters find love, we do see some well-needed closure that allows them to move on with their life.
As a side, there does appear to be some discussion in the manga reading community over favourite couples of the series. Each relationship plays out in an entertaining fashion. If I had to choose a favourite couple in Biyaku Café, then it is definitely Kaoru and Kagetsu followed closely by Omi and Tomomi. Why? Because there is less resistance to their attractions showing these four characters to be a lot more in touch with their own emotions and willing to act upon it as adults.

I really enjoyed this odd little series. It might be a little cheesy and some of the character art needs further differentiation but it was a really fun and unique series. I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a mature Shoujo romance series.