With the high printing and distribution costs involved in
the self-publishing of books, there is another alternative that
is beginning to emerge and is worthy of investigation. That
alternative is virtual books. They are sometimes referred to as
electronic books or diskbased books.
Because of the ever-increasing use of computers in the home
for business and personal use, and because of the costs
mentioned above, the writing and publishing of electronic books
is becoming more practical for many applications.
So, what is an electronic, or virtual book? A simple explanation
would be to say that an electronic book is a computer floppy disk
on which is contained a disk-reading program and a text file The
actual contents of the book). Depending on the type of
disk-reader used, the person reading the "book" can start at the
beginning, the middle, the end, or any other place, page,
chapter, section, etc.
Disk-reading programs are also called text organizers or
Depending, again, on the type and complexity of the disk-reading
program used, the author can present to the reader a table of
contents or a list of topics from which the reader can select,
with just a few keystrokes; and instantly access the desired
The slow alternative to reading a long text file without a good
file viewer is to scroll through the text from start to finish.
At best you can jump ahead or back one page of text at a time,
but you will have no capability to preselect a certain page,
word, line, topic, or any other unique location.
So how is it done? Easily! The book or other work is
composed on a text editor rather than a "full-blown" word
processor. As the book is being written, the author includes
special short commands that are "read" by the file viewer.
These hidden commands enable the person reading the book to
move around the book just as if he were reading a printed book.
Other commands allow the reader to pull up menus, access
help windows, answer questions, mark certain selections and
accomplish other tasks.
A variety of text organizers or file viewers, and text
editors for composing the work, are available from computer
software dealers who distribute "share ware". Share ware is a
form of software marketing whereby the user is allowed to try
a program before buying it. These shareware programs are
copyrighted material and the user is obligated to pay for it if
he used it beyond a reasonable evaluation period. The cost of
"registering" or paying for these tie viewing and text editing
programs ranges from $8 to $100.
This author used the $8 version of the IRIS hypertext file
viewer and the MS-DOS text editor already included with DOS
5.0. That's a total cost of $8.00 to get started because IRIS
cam be distributed with your electronic book "royalty free".
That means you may write an electronic book using IRIS as the
viewer; sell the book at any price with IRIS included so that
it can be read, and not have to pay any royalty to the author
of IRIS. The "SEE" file viewer, while not having as many
features as IRIS, can also be used royalty free.
Here's a few reasons why publishing electronic books makes
1. Less expensive than conventional publishing. To get the
price of any printed book below $1.00 you would have to have
five to ten thousand printed. The price of your test
electronic book can be less than $10.00, counting the cost of
purchasing a file viewer. After that, your only expense per
copy is the cost of the floppy disks. Mail order supply houses
sell them for as little as 19 cents apiece for 5.25" DSDD
disks in lots of 500 or 1000. If you only buy 100, the cost may
be 25 cents apiece.
2. You can edit or change the contents of your unsold books at
any time! New informs lion can be added or obsolete data can be
removed using the text editor. You would, of course, have to copy
the edited version of your work to the other disks.
3. Produce only the books you need: Assemble each book only
when an order comes in for that book! It only takes 2 or
3 minutes. This also solves the editing problem mentioned above.
By having only a "master" book, you only have to make
additions or deletions of text to one book.
4. If large quantities are needed for any reason, commercial disk
duplication companies can turn out large numbers of your book at
a very reasonable cost Still far less than conventional printing.
5. There are several disk-book libraries and publishers to help
you find a market for your book. Dealers of share ware and retail
programs are now including sections in their catalogs for
6. Mailing costs are greatly reduced. Your book on a 5.25
inch disk can be mailed alone in a 6 x 9 inch envelope for one
test class stamp. It is usually more practical, however, to use a
protective disk mailer, and to include associated documents with
your disk. The disk mailer provides much more protection for your
disk-book, but raises the weight to the next postage unit.
A short list of text editors, tie viewers, and sources is
Two sources for file viewing and text editing programs are:
3755 Avocado Blvd #110
La Mesa, CA 91941
Public Brand Software,
PRO. Box 51315
Indianapolis, IN 46251
This list of programs and sources is by no means all-inclusive
and are used as examples only. The author's use of particular
program is not a recommendation of one program over another.