Learn How to Efficiently Use Scrivener with Take Control of Scrivener 3

Tc scrivener3The long-awaited new version of Scrivener (for Mac and iOS) was released a few weeks ago, and we’ve got a newly updated book to match! Take Control of Scrivener 3 by best-selling author Kirk McElhearn walks you through setting up, organizing, writing, formatting, revising, and compiling a Scrivener project, whether you’re working on a Mac or in iOS.

Scrivener is a powerful tool for managing long-form writing projects–such as novels and screenplays–and Take Control of Scrivener 3 gives you all the details you need to know to harness its potential. With Scrivener, you can start writing at any point in your work (end, middle, beginning), then easily move scenes, sections, and chapters until it’s exactly as you want. It also allows you store items such as research material, character sketches, and setting information in the same project file as your writing.

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Where is eBook Interoperability?

Back in 2007, Steve Jobs wrote an open letter to the music industry, entitled Thoughts on Music. In it, Jobs discussed the problem of DRM – digital rights management – on music files.

As Jobs said:

To begin, it is useful to remember that all iPods play music that is free of any DRM and encoded in open licensable formats such as MP3 and AAC. iPod users can and do acquire their music from many sources, including CDs they own. Music on CDs can be easily imported into the freely-downloadable iTunes jukebox software which runs on both Macs and Windows PCs, and is automatically encoded into the open AAC or MP3 formats without any DRM. This music can be played on iPods or any other music players that play these open formats.

Because of this document, Jobs and Apple spearheaded the move toward selling digital music files without DRM; files that are “interoperable,” that can be played on any device that supports their format. Ten years later, this is the norm for music (with the exception of streaming music services, where it is certainly fair to use DRM, since you don’t own the music, you merely rent it).

I was reminded of this today, as I was trying to resolve a problem with Amazon and my Kindle books. Back in 2009, I bought my first Kindle. I was living in France at the time, and paid to have it shipped from the US. I then wanted to buy Kindle books on it from Amazon UK, since it was easier that buying from the US (the Kindle device and Kindle books wouldn’t be sold in France for many years). Amazon’s support told me that I could not use my existing Amazon UK account to do this – perhaps because I wasn’t in the UK – and told me to create a second account.

I did so, and have been using two accounts since then. But this has gotten complicated. Not only do I need to sign into two different accounts, but I don’t get all the benefits of Amazon Prime on my Kindle account (my Prime subscription is on my main account; I’ve added the second account, and I can get free shipping, but nothing else: no Kindle Lending Library, no Prime Video, etc.).

I contacted Amazon recently, asking if there were a way to combine the two accounts. By email, I received two different replies to my question. One said that, sure, they could combine the accounts; the second said they could refund the books and I could buy them again on the main account.

When I finally got someone on the phone to discuss this, it turned out that a) they actually couldn’t combine the accounts, and b) they couldn’t refund the books (I have 350 purchases, about thirty of which are public domain books).

This wouldn’t be a problem if these ebooks didn’t have DRM. I would be able to simply download them to my Mac, then send them to the Kindle account of the main account. But Amazon offers no solution to this issue; a problem that they created back in 2009. (I could switch my “main” account to the second account, but that would introduce a host of problems, because that account is used for Amazon affiliate links, Audible, as well as being linked to accounts in the US and France.)

Lots of publishers sell ebooks without DRM; Take Control Books, who has published my books, doesn’t use DRM at all. I’m sure there’s some piracy, but this is outweighed by providing a smooth customer experience to the people who buy our books.

If music has managed to shed DRM, why have ebooks resisted? Part of what caused Jobs to issue his statement was a European Commission investigation into interoperability of digital files; why have there been no similar investigation regarding ebooks?

It’s annoying, and frustrating. You get locked into a platform, and can’t change. With 350 books purchased, I’m not going to switch to Apple’s iBooks, Nook, or any other service. I’m hostage to Amazon’s DRM for what, granted, is not a simple problem – my having two accounts – but one that the company should be able to fix.

How eBooks lost their shine: ‘Kindles now look clunky and unhip’ – The Guardian

Here are some things that you can’t do with a Kindle. You can’t turn down a corner, tuck a flap in a chapter, crack a spine (brutal, but sometimes pleasurable) or flick the pages to see how far you have come and how far you have to go. You can’t remember something potent and find it again with reference to where it appeared on a right- or left-hand page. You often can’t remember much at all. You can’t tell whether the end is really the end, or whether the end equals 93% followed by 7% of index and/or questions for book clubs. You can’t pass it on to a friend or post it through your neighbour’s door.

Let’s see… You can bookmark an ebook, search for anything you want, and you can see how far you are from the end of a book, though I agree that in books with lots of notes this percentage is deceptive. You can share books with your family using Kindle Family Library, but it’s true you cannot just give or lend a book to a friend.

Yes, ebook sales are slowing down, because publishers saw them eating away at print book sales and raised the prices of ebooks. But are they? This article, which is talking about the death of ebooks and the resurgence of print, says that, “Digital book sales overall are up 6%.”

Once upon a time, people bought books because they liked reading. Now they buy books because they like books.

No, I doubt it. People are still buying books because they like to read. It’s not like books have become some sort of fetish object.

Ebooks are very practical. If you travel, if you read long books, if you like reading books with a font that’s big enough, and for many other reasons, ebooks and great. I own thousands of books, and I read on my Kindle regularly; probably about one fourth of the books I read are ebooks.

They’re not dead, they’re not going away, but they were more popular when they were cheaper. But publishers decided they’d rather sell print books, so they raised the prices of ebooks to make them less attractive. Duh.

Source: How eBooks lost their shine: ‘Kindles now look clunky and unhip’ | Books | The Guardian

Kindle Oasis Is a Reality Check for Design Snobs – Khoi Vinh

Would it be so hard to make these devices and this software not ugly? Given Amazon’s resources and willingness to invest heavily in all kinds of crazy technological baubles, it seems well within the company’s reach to ship a Kindle that looks like it costs more than the cover price of a hardback bestseller to manufacture; it probably wouldn’t take much more effort to make sure the typography engine features a halfway decent hyphenation and justification algorithm, too.

Designer Khoi Vinh makes a good point. While he says that the new Kindle Oasis is an improvement on the design of the Kindle, he highlights how Amazon simply refuses to spend the time and money to make the display more like a book. The company did release a new font, called Bookerly, last year, which is well-adapted to reading ebooks. But hyphenation and justification are awful.

Interestingly, I came across this article in the Guardian today that says that, according to a study by Kobo, “three quarters of the most active readers are women over 45.” Many of these readers prefer genre fiction – notably romances – and appreciate the ability to change the font size to something more readable than what many paperbacks use.

I agree that the variable font size is one of the best features with any ebook device. I need reading glasses, but I prefer reading my Kindle with a large enough font that I don’t use the glasses. It’s pretty big, and I need to turn “pages” more often, but it’s more comfortable.

Source: Kindle Oasis Is a Reality Check for Design Snobs + Subtraction.com

Why There Will Soon Be a Huge Rise in Ebook Sales

Following a price-fixing conviction against Apple and major publishers, the Supreme Court refused to hear the case, which means the lower court’s antitrust ruling stands. As such, Apple will have to pay $450 million, and five major publishers will pay another $166 million. ($50 million of this is going to lawyers.) As this Bloomberg article points out:

Apple will have to pay out $400 million in refunds to e-book customers, which they can only use to buy new e-books. The total revenue to publishers for trade e-books in the United States for the first ten months of 2015 was just a bit more than $1.1 billion, so Apple’s settlement could be a significant shot in the arm for the languishing industry.

The author doesn’t include the $166 million that publishers are paying, and I’m not sure how this money will be distributed. But even if there’s $400 million that will be spent on ebooks – and, while many people may never spend what they get, others will spend more than what they get, because their share won’t be enough to buy a book – this amount will inject a huge sum of money into the publishing industry.

Unfortunately, it comes at a time when ebook prices have gotten ridiculous, as the Bloomberg article points out. New books are often in the $12 – $15 range, and older ebooks often cost more than paperbacks. The publishing industry is killing off ebooks, by pricing them out of the market, and it’s a shame.

Nook cooked as DRM continues to punch paying customers in the face

Nook is dead in the UK, and customers who bought books thinking they might actually own them are now being told they might be able to still access some of them once the Nook store implodes, due to a partnership with “award-winning Sainsbury’s Entertainment on Demand”.


…this again showcases how DRM merrily punches in the face consumers who try to do the right thing. If you spent money on Nook books, chances are you’ll lose at least some of them now. Had you torrented those books, you’d still have copies.


Purchasing digital shouldn’t be a glorified extended rental. It’s no wonder many people now opt out of paying for media at all.

Yep. Once again, DRM screws users. Google can tell you how to get rid of DRM on some kinds of ebooks. Not that I’m suggesting it, but to make sure you can read the books you paid for, it’s worth considering your options…

Source: Nook cooked as DRM continues to punch paying customers in the face | Revert to Saved: A blog about design, gaming and technology

Publishers’ Neglect of Ebook Quality is Frustrating

I bought a few Kindle ebooks by J. G. Ballard last night. I read many of his books back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and with a movie version of High Rise coming out soon, I thought it would be a good time to read some again.

The first one I started reading is The Atrocity Exhibition (Amazon.com, Amazon UK), which, while not Ballard’s best book by far, is an interesting surrealist look at car crashes. The introduction by William Burroughs shows the link between the two authors; Ballard was very much influenced by Burroughs.

But I’m frustrated by the poor quality of the text. There are typos every couple of pages. It’s really sad that publishers just do quick scans of print books and don’t proofread them at all before selling them as ebooks. Here’s an example:

Kindle typos

The typos haven’t been that close together in most of the book, but you can see that this is the kind of scan-o – words that are read wrong by OCR software – that is not uncommon. The first word should be “die” and the second “that.”

Harper Collins, the publisher of this book, is one of the world’s leading publishers. If they can’t expend the resources to have one proofreader read through a book, then they don’t deserve my business. Perhaps they’re just trying to crowd-source the proofreading. If you’re not aware, you can select text in a Kindle ebook – on a Kindle device or using the Kindle app – and signal typos. Amazon says that they’ll check them, but I don’t think they ever do. The reviews for this book on Amazon UK show that people complained about typos in this book years ago.

I’ll be asking Amazon for a refund. And I’ll continue to do so in the future every time there are more than a couple of typos in a book. (Yes, as a writer, I know that there are always typos, so I’m willing to accept a few.)

France Required to Increase VAT on eBooks

If you live in the European Union, you may not realize that when you buy ebooks, you’re paying a high rate of VAT. In the UK, where I live, there is no VAT on books, as as well as magazines and newspapers. In France, the VAT rate on books is a reduced rate of 5.5%.

For the past three years, France has applied that reduced VAT rate to ebooks, but, as Le Monde reports today, the European Court of Justice has determined that this is illegal, and is requiring France to restore the 20% VAT rate.

This is simply ridiculous. Most countries that have VAT tax books at a lower, or null rate, because of their importance to society. It took years for the French to lower the VAT rate on ebooks, and they should be allowed to keep it there. It’s a shame; it makes ebook prices higher, or margins lower, and will stifle the growth of ebook sales.

In the UK, with 20% VAT on ebooks, this means that a book that costs £6 could cost only £5 if there were no VAT, as there is for printed books. For those who are on a budget, the extra cost of VAT can limit the amount of books they can buy. This also applies to ebooks purchased for school, which add 15% to their cost, which is patently unfair.

How To: Edit Ebook Metadata in iBooks

This is why I like comments or this website. I posted an article today, saying how I want to be able to edit metadata for ebooks in Apple’s iBooks app. And a commenter chimed in, explaining how it’s done.

In iBooks, go to List view. Click on a title; wait a second, then click on the Title, Author, Category or Collection. It will become highlighted, and you can change the contents of these fields.

Ibooks change metadata

It’s tricky to get the timing right. If the second click is too soon, it will be interpreted as a double-click, and either open the book or begin downloading it if it’s in the cloud. Wait too long, and it doesn’t work. You’ll have to figure out how to get it right.

Once one field is selected, you can press the Tab key to go to the next field.

If you can edit metadata, then why doesn’t Apple make it easier, offering an Info window, as in iTunes?

h/t Guillermo Carvajal.

iWant: The Ability to Edit Metadata in the iBooks App

Update: there is a way to edit metadata.

When Apple introduced the iBooks app, and moved ebooks from iTunes, it introduced an annoying constraint. You could no longer edit the metadata of your ebooks. You can’t change the author’s name – which you might want to do to display authors in last name, first name order. You can’t change titles, which you might want to shorten. You can’t change “categories” – or genres – which are often different from what you use to organize your books.


It’s actually ridiculous that Apple doesn’t let you do this. Since your ebooks are more-or-less hidden, you can’t even easily take them out of iBooks and tag them with other apps.

Apple lets you change almost any tags for other media files in iTunes; only books have these limits. There’s no logic to this at all, unless it has to do with the fact that some books can stay in the cloud (see above; two books have cloud icons on their corners), and changed tags could confuse things. Unlike in iTunes, where you can turn off “iTunes in the cloud,” you can’t deactivate this in iBooks.

Those who have a lot of ebooks, and who don’t buy them from Apple, know that they can tag their books in Calibre before adding them to iBooks. But it shouldn’t be this way; tagging is a basic operation that should be available for all media files.