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So What Do You Do, Joshua Tallent, eBook Formatting Expert?

The eBook architect talks steps to making an eBook and why he'd rather go for that tablet

By Dianna Dilworth - November 23, 2011
In technology, it always pays to be ahead of the curve. And ignoring the eBook tidal wave in publishing today is akin to believing that Friendster is the only social network.

Thankfully, Joshua Tallent is on the right side of digital trends. Having started as an eBook developer back in '02, Tallent later launched eBook Architects to help authors and publishers navigate this new retail world and get their books onto all the must-have reading devices.

"When the Kindle came out in 2007, I saw the opportunity to help authors format their books as eBooks. At first, it was just a part-time way to make extra money, but about nine months after I started doing it, it turned into a full time job," he says. "I hired my first employee last year. A couple of weeks ago, I hired employee No.11."

Ahead of his appearance at's Publishing App Expo, Tallent talks jobs in digital publishing, which tablet is his true love, and why there is still no single eBook format.

Name: Joshua Tallent
Resume: Started as an eBook developer for Wordsearch and later founded eBook Architects. Author of Kindle Formatting: The Complete Guide."
Birthday: February 12, 1979
Hometown: Austin, TX
Education: Studied history at University of Houston
Marital status: Married, two kids
Media idol: "None, I try not to idolize anybody."
Favorite TV show: Law & Order
Guilty pleasure: Reese's Peanut Butter Cups
Last book read: Entreleadership by Dave Ramsey
Twitter handle: @jtallents

Since this is such a new business, potential employees may not have eBook formatting on their resume. What kind of skills do you look for?
We require that the developers that we hire have a base knowledge of HTML, but a lot of the eBook formatting skills are learned on the job. I'd rather hire someone who is more of a moldable mind than someone who is fixed in their ways. We have people from many different backgrounds.

For authors and publishers thinking about making an eBook, at what phase of a book’s production do you like to get involved?
It would be great to get involved early on and sometimes that happens, but [for]the majority of projects that we have done we get the files when the book is about to be published or a manuscript is about to be submitted. Typically we get a PDF file from clients, but sometimes we get a Word document or an HTML file.

Once you have the files, how long does it take for you to make an eBook? And what format will this eBook be in?
The biggest issue that we have is the workload, but once your project gets into our system it takes about three weeks to create. We always make an ePub and a Kindleo file; those are the standards. We can also do fixed layouts for iBooks, enhanced eBooks and some special formatted eBooks, but in general our clients just want the ePub and Kindle format so that they can sell in the main eBook retailers.

"It is not a single format to rule them all."

Book publishers are not always known for the technical savvy. It doesn't help that the main eBook retailers don't all conform to one standard eBook format, and they have to create different files for different bookstores.
It is not a single format to rule them all. Most publishers are starting to figure out that this is a big deal. They want to put out eBooks and have it not be frustrating. A consumer says I want an eBook; I go to Amazon or Barnes & Noble or Apple and then read it that way. Amazon is 70 percent of the eBook market because they are doing it well. They make it easy for consumers. Barnes & Noble holds second place because they focus on the customer experience. That is what is going to sell eBooks. Kindle and ePub will be the main formats because of this. It's only when you get into children's books and enhanced eBooks that other formats come into play.

These special formats read better on tablets. How do tablets change the landscape for the e-reading experience?
There is a lot of hype around tablets, but I still think that a black and white e-reader is the best device to read a book. I don't think there is a comparison between e-readers and tablets. They are different things; I don't equate the two. I have an iPad, but I don't use it for reading that often. Most of the time I use it for other kinds of things like watching videos, surfing the Web and playing video games. Tablets have the benefit of being multimedia devices, but they aren't the best way to read eBooks. Dedicated e-reading devices are a better experience for reading, and they lead to greater consumption of eBooks.

"I don't think there is a comparison between e-readers and tablets."

What do you think of the new tablets by the eBook sellers?
The Kindle fire is a good idea for Amazon, because they have the ability to sell that content. They have videos and music, so it makes sense for them to build out that ecosystem. Barnes & Noble and Kobo tablets make less sense to me, since neither one are focused on selling movies, videos or music. There are benefits to having an LCD screen for video in a book, but most eBooks don't have video and Barnes & Noble barely has an app store. When Barnes & Noble came out with the Nook Tablet, the whole thing was tied to Netflix and Hulu. In a sense, I don't see the purpose because their experience is so tied to books. However, the only caveat would be magazine content or children's books; the new tablets do create a better reading experience for this kind of content. And there is a lot more content coming out around these areas lately.

I'm sure you have an array of e-readers to run tests at the office, but what is your preferred device to read eBooks on at home?
I like the Kindle. I like the ecosystem. I can read on my Android phone, or my iPad or my Kindle and all of my reading is synced in real time. I'm planning to use the Kindle Fire. I think Amazon has the best customer device experience. Some people like to bash Amazon, but personally I like them. I am pretty sure that I will be able to read the books I buy today in 10 years. Just because you go to Barnes & Noble and buy an eBook doesn't mean that content will live on for decades.

NEXT >> AvantGuildSo What Do You Do, Nina Lassam, eBook Marketing Evangelist?

Dianna Dilworth is editor of eBookNewser and a GalleyCat contributor.

© WebMediaBrands Inc. 2011. All Rights Reserved.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. The foregoing is the sole property of WebMediaBrands Inc. The opinions and views expressed in the interviews and/or commentaries are solely those of the participants and are not necessarily the views of WebMediaBrands Inc., its affiliates or subsidiary companies.

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