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I had enjoyed reading books on my iphone, especially while travelling for extended periods. I had also purchased short ebooks written by photographer Stephanie Laird for her tips and tricks. I guess these experiences inspired me to attempt an ebook of my own. I had several ideas for topics and had been searching (floundering, actually) for a place to start. Well, on this blog I had a post entitled A Furniture Refinisher's Newsletter. This post had formerly existed as a scrolling news page at our Second Looks Furniture Refinishing website. In 2009 when we got out of retail I moved the news page to this blog, thinking I would continue sharing news about Ben's refinishing activities. I never dreamed that this post would become the most visited post on my blog! It received more visitors than the posts about Aunt Firma and about the Cafe Rienzi. I had no idea why. Unlike the posts about Aunt Firma and about the Cafe Rienzi, nobody ever commented. So I didn't know if anyone was actually reading the thing or whether they just landed there by accident. I did some research on how people were finding it and finally decided, yes, this post might be a great choice for getting my feet wet with writing ebooks: it had a matured concept, it seemed to be popular, and it was originally designed not as a paper- or hardback book but as web-based communication. Therefore transforming it into an ebook should be fairly simple and quick.
What was going on?
And what do you do about people's names? Many individuals are mentioned in my book, because quite frankly, "it takes a village." But do you use their real names? Do you ask every single person for their permission? Some folks had moved away. I settled on changing the names in the book to respect people's privacy, except in the case of well-known businesses and their owners.
During one of my final proof-readings, I realized I hadn't supplied alt-text for the photos either in my ebook or on my online gallery. Alt-text provides a rich experience for those who are blind. I realized I couldn't leave the generally inaccurate descriptions Word had automatically inserted in the alt-text field for each image. So once again, I worked through the book and the online gallery. I discovered in writing alt-text, that I literally needed to re-paint the picture with my words, albeit briefly. It would have been more efficient for me to supply the alt-text when I originally inserted each image - because I did have to coordinate somewhat between what I already said in the text and what I wrote for the alt-text. I had to keep asking myself, how will this all fit together for a blind person reading this book?
It had never occurred to me to preview the book in black and white until I took another author's advice and previewed my manuscript on Amazon's Paper White emulator. Oh, no. Can you picture me bowed over my computer desk, my face buried in my hands? On one of my favorite websites, YouPic, other photographers had introduced me to the wonders of black and white photography. But it never caught on fire with me personally. I prefer to work in color. Oh, I wanted my photos to pop and have a wide dynamic range and good detail, but I never, while I was processing these photos for the book, considered how they would look in black and white. So it was one more time through the book, and then through the website! (Did you know you could make your Chrome browser display in black and white with its gray-scale and high-contrast theme plug-ins? At the touch of a button! Look for these apps in the Chrome store.) Working my way through the photos, I noticed that a few didn’t work at all because the color was an essential part of the picture. Fortunately quite a few photos looked pretty good once my eye adjusted to loss of color. In fact the details were were actually enhanced by the lack of color! In some photos the details were too enhanced, making it difficult to sort out the main subject from its background - I think the term for that is "good field-ground separation,” which I learned does not necessarily translate to wide aperture. Finding a medium gray on which to meter and using soft light are essential if you are wanting a wide graduation of gray for good detail. Anyway, after taking a final look I decided to say good enough for this book. If I had it to do over of course, I would look at the photos in black and white as well as in color in the design stage to make sure my ideas were coming through. I probably would have made my photos lighter and in some cases less contrasty. I also would have also given more consideration in the design stage to what color text and background would enhance both black-and-white and color images. So, lesson learned, hope it helps the next guy reading this who wants to write an ebook!