CD-ROMs and eBooks

I mentioned in an earlier post, the problems we faced when a print book contains a CD-ROM and we are producing an ebook. Clearly, one cannot include a CD-ROM with an ebook. Finding a viable solution to that issue was a priority for us.

We have two distinct categories of CD-ROMs bundled in many of our printed books:

  1. The paper-forms-driven books with CDs that we publish are exclusively in the legal category: divorce and wills kits, in particular, are quite unusable without the forms.
  2. The CDs in our Start & Run and Business 101 series books typically contain a mixture of forms together with resource materials like links to relevant Internet sites. The content of the CDs is definitely useful to the reader of the book, but generally not essential — the book can be read and understood without reference to the CD content.

The first group of books will not be released as ebooks. Many are already available as digital download “kits” instead, in which links to open the forms are embedded in the instructions.

The second, and much larger group will be handled differently. We have taken the CD content and rewritten it in a format (html5 and css3 for the curious) which allows it to be opened on any computer with a modern web browser and operating system. These bundles will work on most versions of Windows, all versions of Apple OS X, and all versions of GNU/Linux.

We still cannot bundle these new kits inside an ebook, so we will offer them for sale separately on our website, with the author of the book being paid a normal royalty on those sales.

This is not a perfect solution, but it will allow consumers who read one of the business ebooks and wants the content from the CD to obtain that content in a useful format.

The Road Ahead

My expectation is that the rapid onward march of technology will allow us to embed forms and other collateral materials directly into ebooks within a year or so, in ways that will allow the materials to be useful to the consumer.

There is however a caveat: monochrome ebook readers like the basic Kindle, the Kobo Touch, and the various readers from Sony have always been designed for simple, linear reading, and I think it doubtful that they will change.

So the challenge will be, besides the multiple ebook formats we confront today, we may also find the need to have two classes of ebooks: those for the simple monochrome reading devices, and those for the more computer-like color tablets and smartphones.

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