I’m thrilled to report it’s now possible to DIRECTLY download the enhanced/multimedia version of my eBook, “Playing with Media: simple ideas for powerful sharing” to iPads, iPhones and iPod Touches and open it immediately in the iBooks application! Remember bulk pricing discounts for the eBook are available if you’re interested in purchasing ten or more copies for your school or organization.
This may not sound like a big deal, but for the past six months (since my first eBook went on sale at the end of July 2011) buyers have had to download the EPUB to a laptop or desktop computer and then use iTunes to sync the eBook back to an iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch using these instructions from Apple. It is SO much easier, however, to directly download an EPUB to an iPad and open it immediately in iBooks.
For those who are interested, I’ll briefly recap how I’ve been using the e-commerce site E-junkie.com to sell my eBook and how the option to remotely host files on Amazon S3 has provided this “direct download to iPad” option which was previously unavailable.
E-junkie is a great e-commerce website with extremely reasonable processing fees for electronic sales. E-Junkie costs are far less than the 30% of gross sales which Apple takes on iTunes. Amazon takes 30% of gross sales for transactions in 5 countries, and 70% of gross sales for other countries. Barnes and Noble takes 30% of all U.S. sales as well. I’m not sure what B&N takes for other international sales. By using e-junkie to sell my eBook, I’ve not only reduced my electronic transaction costs for sales but also enabled people in ANY country worldwide to purchase my eBook. Both of these facts are big deals. I’m very pleased with E-junkie and highly recommend it to anyone interested in selling electronic files online.
Initially when I setup my E-junkie account, I opted for the $15 per month option which provided 250 MB of storage. I directly uploaded all three versions of my eBook (enhanced EPUB, standard EPUB, and Kindle .mobi version) and made those eBooks available for purchase and download. The problem I immediately encountered, however, was that the EPUB downloads from E-junkie’s servers were “missing something” so they could not be directly opened on an iPad using the iBooks application. If someone tried to download my eBook on an iPad from the E-junkie email they received after making a purchase, the file just ‘disappeared’ in their iPad file system in Safari. Safari never provided a prompt asking the person if they wanted to open the EPUB file in iBooks or in another application. This was a mystery which remained unresolved for me until this week.
Dean Shareski‘s daughter published a nice EPUB eBook recently, and when I tried to download it directly on my iPad I was thrilled to find out I could! This got me thinking that the E-junkie website must not “do something” to the EPUB files I’d uploaded which tell the server the correct file type. I’m not 100% sure how this works, but when we upload files to a server generally an application on the server assigns meta information to the file which “tells” other programs (including web browsers) how to handle that file when they load or download it. I contacted E-junkie support and they claimed there wasn’t anything they could do, the problem was with the iPad. The situation remained mysterious and unresolved.
In the process of publishing five different, sixty minute video screencasts/podcasts this month focusing on different “Playing with Media” tools and strategies, I learned E-junkie supports secure, time-expiring download purchases for files which are remotely hosted. This requires an $18 monthly account with E-junkie, however, rather than a less expensive option. Thanks to James Deaton, who convinced me to install and configure the free “W3 Total Cache” WordPress plugin many months ago, I had an account with Amazon S3 already established. S3 provides extremely affordable file hosting, and can handle large files up to 5 TB in size. As an experiment, and because the file quality was SO good, I wanted to publish the iPad-quality versions of my screencasts created with Screenflow software. These files are over 1 GB in size, however, and my ‘standard’ web hosting account kept timing out when I tried to upload them there. Amazon S3 handled them all fine. In some cases I had to try my upload more than once, but I didn’t have the same “timing out” issues I’d had with my web host using FTP.
Remotely-hosted files sold via E-junkie work in a very clever way, as explained on their website. The first time someone purchases a file, E-junkie downloads it to THEIR Amazon S3 account and creates a custom, secure, and expiring link for that customer to use. The next time, before downloading again from your site E-junkie checks to see if the file has been changed. If there haven’t been any changes, E-junkie doesn’t download again from your site but instead uses the archived version downloaded previously. In this way, E-junkie substantially reduces the file transfer transaction costs borne by sellers. This also keeps the original download link for your EPUB file (or other files) secret from other people, since buyers just receive their own, custom E-junkie download links in email.
In the process of using Amazon S3 and E-junkie to host and sell my podcasts this month, I noticed Amazon S3 provides opportunities to assign not only specific permissions to different files but also different kinds of meta-data. This was the ‘a-ha moment’ for me. It turns out Amazon S3 recognizes the EPUB file as special and auto-magically assigns the correct meta data to it when an EPUB file is uploaded. E-junkie’s default file hosting system didn’t do this, and that is (apparently) why my EPUB files hosted by E-junkie wouldn’t open directly on an iPad.
Here are the steps I followed when uploading my EPUB files to Amazon S3. First, after logging into Amazon Web Services, create a new “bucket” or folder for your files and click UPLOAD.
Next, choose to add files to your S3 bucket.
Before uploading, click to SET DETAILS for your file.
Skip the special storage features and click the PERMISSIONS option. In addition to your own, full file permissions, to provide a download link in E-junkie you want to assign EVERYONE the right to open and download your file.
After setting that permission, UPLOAD your file. When it’s finished, click the file and choose PROPERTIES to view the direct URL / web link which you can share in E-junkie as the “remote file download link.”
Those are the upload steps for Amazon S3. Thanks to the remote file hosting option of E-junkie and Amazon S3’s clever file upload metadata assignment procedures, I’m THRILLED direct downloads of my eBook to iPads are now possible.
If you’re interested in selling electronic goods online (including direct advertising on your blog, as I’ve been doing since September 2011) I strongly encourage you to check out E-junkie. After this week’s discoveries I’m more satisfied with their services and pricing than ever!
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