Last Thursday was my birthday. This year I gave myself a cool present. The eBook formats (Kindle and ePub) of my eCourse Disc Golf for Boomers et. al. are now for sale on Amazon and Barnes and Noble (BN.com) respectively. It would be nice to pretend that the work on this level of the eCourse is complete, but that is not the case. Now the marketing and promotion part begins. With many new authors self publishing these days,
If you build it they will come
works only in the movies if it works at all!
Three Cheers for Adobe TCS5/RoboHelp 11
Aside using the RH Project’s CSS instead of the default, RH 11 made the Kindle format almost out of the box. I first perfected the styles on the project side and published the ePub for release. The default CSS did not use the <p> correctly failing to put in the expected extra line. Note that RH asks for users to DL some files for ePub and Kindle publishing, but once installed everything works nicely!
The publication steps for both platforms are similar and straightforward but it still took almost a day to work through all of them. Both platforms have similar maximum royalty options with Amazon @ 70% and BH @ 65% with analogous requirements. For Amazon, the retail price must be between $2.99 and $9.99 to obtain the 70%. BN allows the 65% return with a minimum retail of $2.99.
Since this work is about a new concept and will serve as the base for an upsell to the full eCourse when completed, I set both prices @ $2.99. While the good news is a nice royalty percentage in both cases, the bad news is the one does not get paid until 60 days after the sales month closes. So my March sales will get to my Bank via direct deposit in June.
Note in the link table below the last part is the Amazon ASIN, a unique identifier.
Only one (rather unfriendly) link for this US based distributor.
BN is a test for the ePub market which is more fragmented with a number of platforms. I still plan to give away the ePub to friends and colleagues as the Kindle marketplace is where the real $ are, I hope.
All in all the ability to distribute work across a large portion of the world with no upfront costs seems worth the wait and distribution rules imposed by Amazon. Alert: Amazon has a Kindle Select program with more promo options but with a catch. Once you enroll, Amazon becomes the sole distributor allowing no other platforms to electronically deliver it, including my Dropbox. I did not enroll.
So far, I have 3 sales on Amazon.com with one very good review, but none on BN which just went live yesterday. For the rest of March, I plan to:
- Seek more reviews.
- Begin SM promotion on FB,Twitter etc.
- Make fliers for local promotion.
- Develop training materials for this part of the process.
Yesterday while shopping, a clerk in the local heath food market asked for the Amazon info. I scrawled a quick note and then went home realizing I needed some marketing materials for local use. After an hr. or so with the Amazon listing page, I came up with this image. After buyers add more reviews, I’ll use the full listing page and make it into a 1 fold booklet.
While still a work in progress, I am launching my eCourse Disc Golf for Boomers et.al. later today 1/21/14 with the ePub and 6 HTML 5 layouts for the following device types:
- Android Phone
- Android Tablet
Launch URL: eCourse Launch for HTML5 & more
Here is the launch link for the HTML5 layouts. If you’d like a copy of the (static) ePub format, please tweet me and I’ll send you a Dropbox link to it. All I ask in return is that you take a few minutes to complete the ePub evaluation questionnaire in return.
At this point the ePub contains the core content with text, links and images making this format what I’d call Layer I. The current phone layouts contain more interactive components including several forms and worksheets. Next I will add the audio notes to the HTML5 layouts which will complete Layer II which is smartphone centric. Finally, once I include the CP 7 mLearning modules the eCourse will be @ Layer III for tablet and desktop users.
This strategy of providing device specific versions of the eCourse leverages the functions of the devices themselves.
- Some searching
- Note making (unique to eBook)
- Hilighting (unique to eBook)
The Smartphone versions add:
- Audio notes
- Audio exercises (optional)
- More complete searching
- Interaction via Twitter widget
- Interactive forms
The Tablet/Desktop versions add:
- mLearning Modules w video
This layered development strategy allows the content to flow more naturally from the devices based on their different characteristics. From a commercial POV, learners may begin by purchasing the ePub (or Kindle) version from Amazon or an online retailer and the upgrade to an interactive version if/when need be. The eBook version is, in effect, a primer for the full eCourse.
In addition RH 11 can create:
- MS Word
- Native iDevice App
- Native Android App
Bottom line. If you want to create an interactive eBook, you can begin by building the static elements and then publish your Layer I as an static eBook. Afterward you may add the additional layers needed to support your eCourse objectives as needed. The SSL (Single Source Layouts) available in RH 11 provide developers and designers maximum flexibility in ePublishing formats.
My 1st eCourse is continuing to come together nicely. I have resolved an issue with the audio notes and discovered another benefit of the multiple formats. Currently, I have several formats online @ my server which I will share soonest. For now here are samples of Android Phone and Tablet layouts I took yesterday.
To achieve these effects, I had to use Adobe Dreamweaver CC to study the interactions between the mobile.css and HTML5 code As I have explained on several recent posts, my current development strategy is primarily visual. At times however, developers still must get under to hood while building prototypes. All these visually oriented tools from Adobe RoboHelp and Dreamweaver to ArtIsteer and CMS systems such as WordPress all rest on the same foundation of: HTML, CSS, JS, and jQuery/mobile. Therefore the ability read and interpret HTML w CSS and to a lesser extent .JS and jQuery is most helpful in the development of new systems or structures.
Building the new layout theme may be easier in the future, but again have these “under the hood skills” helps save development time and stress. Let me add one note of caution. Digging down a level from the visual space should be done very carefully, sort of digital brain surgery. In order to produce the samples above, I have only tweaked some of the color definitions from the default mobile.css. I may make a few more tweaks to a font color or size, but I intend to leave the rest of the layout as is. As a minimalist, this is consistent with the “less is more” principle.
Color Pallet and Branding Tips
Then I used Adobe Kuler to create the layout pallet below:
Finally I fiddled with some background textures in my imaging tool until something that was small in Kbytes, but helped to convey the concept of the eCourse. The weave texture seems to me to convey my intent, to create an eCourse with all the content “weaved” together into an coherent experience for uses with different styles and goals.
Android Phone Android Tablet
After I added some images and fixed some organizational issues, I realized that offering the eCourse in eBook formats has some additional benefits. Learners can begin with the ePub or Kindle with in effect a primer to the full eCourse since the eBook format will be static and lack the interactive elements. If that format suits their goals, e.g. do a survey of DG to see if they want to learn to play or not, no need to get the full interactive eCourse initially. Learners may opt to get the interactive versions if needed at any time.
All learners who start with any of the interactive versions will also get the ePub version FREE. Why? Because in an decent eReader they can highlight, bookmark and make notes turning the ePub in to a companion Study Guide for the full eCourse! RH produces the ePub version in under 10 sec so there is virtually no production cost.
Stay tuned the best will come in the next few days!
My Disc Golf for Boomers eCourse is coming together quite well. I will be sending a few Adobe and other TechComm friends a private link for Alpha reviews. If the next TCS release comes out in good shape, I expect to publish in a large number of online and offline formats sometime in Feb. 2014.
Meanwhile, it seemed s good time for a review of my development process for IDs, TechComm, and interested Educators. Here’s my overview of how I have gotten to this point in the development cycle.
- Initial research online saved via Google Bookmarks and Evernote.
- Monthly narrative main points also saved to Evernote.
- Narrative draft written in MS Word2003 (desktop Word required and FM not selected do to my impatience).
- Narrative imported to RH 10. (Several revs needed to get Word headings to map correctly into RH topics.
- Additional RH topics writing, editing re-writing, reorganizing, etc. and other development steps:
- TOC creation
- Output Testing multiple formats <= Current position
- Up to the server for peer reviews
Presently, I am building short audio clips and fiddling with conditional build tags which allow topics, content and TOC entries to be suppressed via that tricky Boolean logic we all love to hate. In accordance with my design decisions about e/m Learning content, only on Tablets and Desktops. All six of the HTML5 layouts display the correct TOC entries for consuming/or not the appropriate multi-media content. In addition, the SWF friendly layouts also work correctly These prelim results feel like breakthroughs in several ways.
- Project is consistent with my Design Decision #1 regarding device specific content display.
- Audio clips via 1 slide CP 6 projects allow for Virtual Instructor (yours truly ) guidance at important points in the content across all online formats & PDF.
- SWF friendly formats: AIRhelp & PDF are interactive but adding to PDFSWF files is manual post production step.
- Native app possibility for Smartphones should allow for “coaching audio” enhancements for Smartphone version.
- The ePub and Kindle versions include: Text w Index and Glossary, images and links making it perfect for a freebie or $.99 entry version.
As you can see above the Right image of Audio Note #1 is bordered which is part of the CP skin (added to .SWF at pub time) while the Left is not.
After New Years, there will be some Webinars and Google hangouts designed to teach IDs, Techcomm folks and Edtech types how to build their own eCourses using these very powerful yet affordable tools from Adobe and a few other enlightened vendors. If you have some interest in reviewing this concept there will be a Beta group you can join. Drop me a note on twitter or Linkedin and I’ll add you to the Beta list.
Happy New Year everyone! 2014 looks most promising for Technical Publishers.
Are you ready to touch your toe to the warming ePublishing waters?
Continuing the thread from my last post, I am currently using Adobe TCS 4 to build am eCourse that I will be able to publish in a wide variety of formats. Currently, I am testing 10 different formats in order to determine the limits of each. The links from the launch page are not public as this time, but I am working hard to sort out a few details at this point.
What is an eCourse? Why Adobe TCS 4.
In ‘08 while working on a large project for ATT, I had an interesting discussion with a colleague, Kevin Yeoman, who was both a Classroom Teacher and an Instructional Designer. At that point Adobe had released the specs for PDF file creation and had also upgraded the product to include both images and animations. At the time my team and I were developing “training streams” for ATT which included both online and classroom components. The notion to add multimedia to the PDFs in addition to links and the search capability seemed to expand PDF formats into what Kevin and I called a Course Container.
Fast forward to ‘10 and I began to use RoboHelp 8 with AirHelp output to hold all customer facing and knowledgebase documentation for the tech support team that I supported @ McKesson Pharmaceutical . The combination of multimedia support plus full search capabilities of the Air module seemed most promising. Add the fast desktop response time lead me to the notion of using AirHelp as a course container for eLearning and mLearning project.
Alas, shortly thereafter the Oracle of Apple decreed there shall be no flash on iDevices. Now almost 3yr. later HTML5 along with newer ePub 3.0 and Kindle formats, provide new options for my eCourse notions. .
My primary design decision
In a prior post I made an argument for basing the target device decision for eLearning and mLearning delivery on the display and interactivity requirements of the content. Since ‘10 when I bought my NookColor, I have liked the size and screen aspect ratio on 7” Tablets for CP simulations and movies. As the prime mover on this project, I decree, “There shall be NO CP on Smartphones!”
In effect, the various Tablet formats are my modal selections, meaning that I expect more learners to use these formats for eCourses than others. As with everything the truth will emerge from the data as opposed to any opinions voiced by the chattering class.
When learners get access to one of TCS based eCourses, they will have several flavors of the content to choose from. The core content consisting of the narrative text, relevant images and resource links will be available in all formats. The highly interactive simulations and assessments will only be available on.
- Desktops & Laptops
- Tablets via HTML5
- PDFs (read on desktops/laptops)
Since learners will have access to multiple formats, limiting content delivery in this manner does not seem to be a hardship. When I imagine a learner with a tablet, I seem them sitting in a corner, on their bed or easy chair, but likely in a study mode. On the other hand, learners viewing content on their smartphones are more likely on the move or killing some time waiting in in a queue for something. The interactive CP content requires a different level of attention and more active responses than the typical smartphone can support.
Unlike retailers who need users to be able to place orders from all devices and desktops, mLearning developers can more easily segment content delivery by device. If stakeholders insist that all content reside on all devices, the the developer is functionally limited to the specs and display characteristics of smartphone tech. For CP simulations this requirement seems a bridge too far! Soon developers will see my results so they can better see the excellent solutions to Learning development provided by Adobe TCS 4.
Cheers for 2014!