Alex B. Campbell 2.0

About a month ago I received an invitation, under the aegis of my role as Hacker in Residence, Robertson Library, to a meeting in the library with the team working on publishing the ebook and audiobooks versions of author H. Wade MacLauchlan’s biography Alex B. Campbell: The Prince Edward Island Premier Who Rocked The Cradle. While the printed book was published by the PEI Museum and Heritage Foundation, the library had taken on the digital publishing task, with the proceeds from digital sales generously directed towards the library’s digitization program.

By the time I joined the effort all of the heavy lifting of the digital project – recording the audiobook, preparing the EPUB, and building a website to sell them – was done, and so my contributions consisted primarily of making pithy comments like “why are you charging in the first place, man: information wants to be free.”

Okay, I didn’t actually say that. At least I didn’t say it like that.

But my arguments fell on deaf ears and the capitalist impulse, or at least the enlightened capitalist impulse, won the day, and so I latched onto a tiny offshoot of the project: getting the digital books into the various proprietary platforms – Google Play Books, iBooks, Kindle, Audible – where they might attract a broader audience.

So I started the project being a defender of information’s right to be free and then became one of its jailers. Irony noted.

What has followed, over the past month, has been a fascinating deep dive into the arcane world of digital publishing: EPUB formats, metadata, bank accounts, asserting rights ownership. The whole exercise nearly came crashing to a halt when the intractable finance department at UPEI refused to allow its bank account to be the repository for funds from Apple et al. But I was able to route around all intractability, institutional and technical, and so I am happy to say that you can now purchase the Alex Campbell biography at fine digital stores everywhere, worldwide:

On the Kindle and Google Play what you’ll purchase is a handcrafted EPUB that I stitched together from an InDesign HTML export; this is a “reflowable” EPUB, with endnote references linked to the endnotes, that works equally well on phones, tablets and on the desktop. The Apple version is a straight non-reflowable EPUB that came right out of InDesign; I’m working on upgrading this to a more flexible format.

As to the audiobook, that’s the next frontier: what I discovered is that own the audiobook marketplace, at least in North America: if you want your audiobook on Audible, iTunes and Google Play, you need to get the book on Audible, and to get on Audible requires a U.S. address, a U.S. bank account, and following some strict audio format guidelines.  I’ve cracked the address and banking questions; the audio formatting will get underway next week.

In the meantime, you can purchase the audiobooks – and, indeed, the ebook – directly from the library, where the library keeps 100% of proceeds rather than the crumbs that the multinationals pass on: just visit


Danny D'Amours's picture
Danny D'Amours on January 7, 2015 - 06:27

Thanks for the insight into the ebook & audiobook world. I'm curious how each platform compares when it comes to the "crumbs" that get passed back to the content owner.
Is there a large difference in amount skimmed off by each platform?

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