In episode 27 of this show, Finding Professionals using Reedsy with Emmanuel Nataf, you may remember that Emmanuel mentioned that Reedsy were in the process of developing a tool for creating, editing and formatting eBooks and print books, called the Reedsy Book Editor.
Today they have made it available to the public and are promoting it on a well-known startup app site, Producthunt. So being the naturally nosey person who jumps on the latest trends, here are my initial impressions of the tool.
It is still very beta so many of my criticisms and observations will no doubt be changed in time. Firstly I have to say that I am in general extremely impressed by the tool and I think that it will have a real impact on the self-publishing world.
In summary what it provides is a website where you can create a book in an environment similar to the blogging and social media site Medium and then be able to use it to typeset your final book and create a formatted eBook and print-ready PDF. Previously this would involve either purchasing a product such as Scrivener, paying a formatter or spending quite a lot of time hand-crafting ePub files. So this is potentially a game-changing service, especially as it is currently free.
For Reedsy it provides a great way to get people into their eco-system, so they can sell the Editing and Book Cover design services from their site more easily. It also will eventually allow editors and authors to cooperate using this, rather than e-mailing files back and forth. This feature has not been enabled yet so I couldn’t try it out.
Using the Reedsy Book Editor
The first thing I noticed was that it wasn’t that clear how to find the Editor. You need to go to ‘My Books’ and create a book. This makes sense in terms of the structure of the site, but I spent a while looking for a ‘Create’ button.
The next annoyance I came across was that there doesn’t seem to be anyway to import a book from something like Word or Scrivener into the editor, except by cutting and pasting chapters into it. While I know that it is intended for people to create the entire document in the Editor it isn’t a great way to encourage those of us who mainly want to use it for formatting services. I would guess this is something they are working on.
So I took my old Magpies and Magic book and created three chapters and cut and paste the contents into the Reedsy Book Editor, and then noticed another issue. I have sub-sections in my chapters and currently the Editor has no way of allowing you to split sections but the button is there but when you click it you are told it is ‘coming soon’. Obviously this won’t be a long-term issue.
So I just inserted dashes to create chapter breaks. I only uploaded 3 chapters as I just wanted to see what the formatted output would look like. I then went to Export and created ePub and Print PDF versions of the book.
You can format as both ePub and PDF from the Export menu. You can select from a series of templates; though there are only two available at the moment, that don’t look very different.
I ran the ePub output through the ePub validator and it passed, and also used the Kindle Previewer tool on the ePub and that worked correctly. The PDF version looked O.K in terms of its formatting, though I didn’t spend as long looking at that.
Something I don’t like is that the Reedsy Logo seems to be embedded in both the ePub and PDF version of the files. While I don’t mind the ‘typeset by Reedsy’ text in my book, putting the Reedsy on the title page seems a bit like Reedsy published the book rather than me. Also in the ePub version it does put ‘Published by Reedsy’ which I guess is just a bug.
Also it uses the name I used to set up with Reedsy on the title page : there doesn’t seem to be a way to change this to my pen name of Timothy Michael Lewis. I can see this being an issue for authors with multiple pen names.
Another thing I don’t like is that the currently existing ‘formatting templates’ assume that you have chapter sub-headings. This means that if you have a book that doesn’t have them (like Magpies and Magic) then you end up with very odd looking formatting. You get a number at the top of each chapter, which you can’t seem to remove. I’d prefer to just have either the option to place ‘Chapter’ in front of the number, or be able to drop the number and use ‘Chapter 1’ as the heading.
I hope that they allow a bit more flexibility in some of these features in terms of how the books are formatted, but even so the results produced are pretty good and I’m willing to assume these are really just teething issues.
It’s not yet perfect but certainly good enough for producing ePub (and from them .mobi) files that you could then edit away manually some of the oddities (as I explained in Episode 16 : Inside an ePub ), removing the need to buy Scrivener or use Draft2Digital to generate it from a word file.
In terms of the print version created, the inclusion of the logo and the issues with chapter headings might put some people off, but it is certainly a LOT easier to use than trying to paste text into a Createspace template.
Being able to create a print-ready PDF from a document I think is the real unique advantage of the service. If they keep refining it and give a bit more flexibility in terms of configuration then I think this could be a real game-changer for formatting in self-publishing.
You can use the Reedsy Book Editor by signing up to Reedsy.