Poet control freak meets e-publishing

December 14th, 2012

Okay, so it’s a control thing.

Poets like me really, really care about how their work looks on a page. Don’t mess with my line breaks, buddy.

Now e-publishing should be a big sparkly gift box with a bow on it for poets struggling to get their books out beyond the corner store. But we’re looking the gift horse in the mouth and complaining about its teeth.

Case in point: for years, I’ve written a poem every Christmas for friends and family. The staff Christmas lunch. How the dog might feel about the season. Christmas baking. Solstice turning points. Whatever subject I can find in the barrel. This year, I had the bell-bright idea of putting a dozen of them together as an electronic chapbook to sell as a little fundraiser for the Edmonton Poetry Festival’s school program.  Easy-peasy, I thought. A little formatting, maybe a day or two, and we’re up and away like Rudolph’s sleigh.…

However, I ran straight into E-pub and Mobi and their sisters. To you, dear reader, it may seem like an unfettered good that you can read text in point sizes bigger than Santa’s hat, or on eensie-elf cell-phone screens. But you’ll bugger up my line breaks. I’ve seen books of poetry in electronic formats and it ain’t pretty.

However, I did discover iBooks. (We’re talking early November here. Remember, I thought a day or two?) “Woo-hoo,” I thought. I could manage this – how many photo albums and stuff have I done in iPhoto? Could it be that different? And the program promised me the possibility of making the pages look pretty. Like everyone else, I have a few artsy shots of Christmas tree needles that accidentally came out better than my usual snaps. (Actually, they are pictures of a rosemary bush, but don’t tell.)

“Jump in,” the program seemed to say.

It was like jumping into a vat of Christmas pudding.

Three days later, the basic structure still eluded me. There’s a table-of-contents thing that I should have started with. The format is set up to do books with chapters, but poems make awfully short chapters. I had managed to set it up so the pages only open in landscape format.

But eventually, slowly, I got to the point where it did look nice enough. “Up we go,” I told the cat.

Then I discovered that it’s easy, sure enough, to upload free books. If you want to sell them, you have to get involved with the U.S. internal revenue service. Well, “IRS” may partially rhyme with “Christmas”, but the acronym invokes Clauses that I, for one, would rather not get involved with.

On the other hand, free books don’t make a great fundraiser. I turned to Regina McCreary of Human-Powered Design, a lovely girl who helped me get the sleigh back in gear – a human Rudolph without the red nose. Things hung around in Apple’s cyber-space for a while, but here, a mere twelve days before Christmas – Ta Da! My Twelve Poems of Christmas is up.

Of course, since iBooks only works on an iPad, you can only read it if you’ve got one of those gadgets. That’s the Apple control freak coming out. And you still have to read it in landscape format so it looks the way I want it to. That’s the dictatorial poet in charge.

It’s just the way it is. Sorry. You could always just make a donation to the poetry festival.

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