Categories
Publishing

Publishing on Google Play

While Amazon KDP is the current market leader, it might be worthwhile to also publish your book on other platforms. One alternative (only for e-books at this time) is Google Play, where people can buy directly from their pre-installed “Books” application on their Android smartphone (or online on their computers).

This is an excerpt from Better Books with LaTeX the Agile Way. You can get a copy here.

While Amazon KDP is the current market leader, it might be worthwhile to also publish your book on other platforms. One alternative (only for e-books at this time) is Google Play, where people can buy directly from their pre-installed “Books” application on their Android smartphone (or online on their computers). The advantage of Google over other competitors is that many people already have a Google account and have added their payment information so that shopping online is seamless. Another point for Google is that fewer competitors offer their books there (compared to Amazon). This is partly due to the more complex initial setup and upload process which we will be discussing in this chapter, step by step. On the other hand, Google offers prominent display of your book on the Google search results page (see Figure 22.1).

Figure 22.1: Google Play books are displayed prominently on the Google search results page.

To publish your e-book on Google Play, you need to have or sign up for a Google account (ideally a separate account for business) on https://www.google.com, register yourself as a publisher, and make your EPUB file ready. Signing up for a Google account is straightforward, so we can move on to registering it as a publisher account.

If you already have the e-book on Amazon KDP, make sure it is not (or no longer) in the “KDP Select Program,” which prohibits the release of the e-book (or large parts of it) on other platforms.

Registering at Google Play

Google sets some limits on people registering as a publisher (or a self-publishing author). The first step is to fill out the form at https://play.google.com/books/publish.

This is generally also the address you can return to if you get lost during the publishing process.

Click on GET STARTED NOW which leads you to a login page (if you are not already logged into Google) and then to the entry page (Find new fans. Sell more books). Click on online interest form (https://support.google.com/books/partner/contact/playbooks_partner_program_interest_form) and fill out the Google Play Books Signup Request Form. The fields are all straightforward: fill in your info, and then press Submit. This submits a request to Google which will put you into a queue.

Please note that because publishing on Google Play is still in development, the links could change. If you encounter a broken link, let us know and we will get you on the right page.

Note that it now takes additional time for Google to confirm the data you have entered. You can set up your book(s), but you cannot publish until your account is confirmed by Google. This activation took, for me, about a week.

Creating EPUB Files for Google Play

To prepare for the EPUB conversion, make sure that your LaTeX code

  • does not use special characters (like colons) as the ID of entries in the bibliography, and
  • does not use the \url{} command for emails or other non-URLs.

Calibre ⋅  Calibre is an HTML to EPUB converter tool (see https://calibre-e-book.com/download) that also allows you to edit the metadata of the EPUB, add a cover image, and set the parameters of the conversion.

There are many free software tools to convert your HTML file into an EPUB file for Google Play. I recommend using Calibre. After download and installation, start the E-book management program which shows your current library. To add a book, click on Add books, browse to your directory where you have extracted the zip file you downloaded from Overleaf, and select the HTML file. On the right side, you will see a default picture for the cover (we have not assigned any yet), as well as a list of formats. As we have not yet converted the file to EPUB, ZIP is the only format we have.

Next, left-click on your book entry, and click on Convert books. On the top left, you will see the input file format (ZIP), and on the top right, you will see the output format (EPUB). If another output format is shown on the top right corner, click on it and select EPUB. All that is left to do is to fill in the meta data and adapt the page setup—all other items are good at their default setting.

On the right-hand side, you need to enter the title, author(s), publisher, series name, and series number. You can skip the large text field below—the book’s description can be filled out on the particular platform where you release the EPUB file and might need several revisions there.

As Google has no inbuilt cover creator and as you cannot download the cover file from Amazon, create (or re-use) a cover file as previously discussed in Chapter 21. Next, click on Page setup on the left, and select Tablet from the Output profile list. This disables image scaling for the conversion, and the images will instead later be scaled according to the device the reader is using to read your book. While this increases the size of the EPUB file, it allows your e-book to be read on any device.

Then, click on Search & replace. This looks a bit cryptic, but we need to fix how TeX4ht builds its links in the file. Insert the following string into Search regular expression:

 
 
<a id="\w[0-9]-[0-9]+doc"></a>  

Leave Replacement text empty, and click Add. Clear the Search regular expression field and now enter:

 
 
<a id="chapter\*\.[0-9]+"></a>  

and click Add again. These two regular expressions will remove faulty links that will otherwise show up as errors on Google Play.

Finally, press OK, wait for the conversion to be completed, and click on EPUB to open the e-book reader to see if the conversion was successful. Now you have an EPUB file we can later use to upload to Google Play’s e-book platform and release it.

After you have added your book the first time, you can simply re-use this meta data and the cover image for new versions of the book. For this, right-click on an existing entry, select Edit metadataCopy metadata, and then right-click on the new entry, selecting Edit metadata, and Paste metadata. You will probably import your book several times while learning how to work with Overleaf and LaTeX, so this feature can be helpful.

Adding Books to Your Catalog

Once approved, you can visit https://play.google.com/books/publish again. Click on GET STARTED NOW, make sure you are logged in with the right account, and you will arrive in the “Partner Center” window. Click on Book Catalog and then on Add book.

Select Sell ebook on Google Play for the “Select a sell option.” If you are not keen on having yet another platform where people can buy your books, you can also select “Offer a preview on Google Books only” and link to your website or Amazon instead.

For “Select a book ID,” you can either use the same ISBN you used for your e-book, or use the automatically generated one from Google (GGKEY, a unique key like the ASIN on Amazon) which you can get for free.

If you are releasing multiple editions of your book (for example, due to updates) on multiple platforms, you might want to think about acquiring ISBNs and assigning one ISBN to each edition. This helps you keep track of what edition you have released where, and makes it easier for authors to cite, or for readers to review, your work.

Next comes a series of forms that are similar to the ones to set up your book on Amazon KDP. If you have already entered your book on KDP, you can copy and paste most of the information (title, subtitle, description, publication date, page count, format, about the author, series, genre, etc.). For the content, you can upload the PDF and EPUB files, providing both a download (or preview) of your printed book version and the format optimized for e-book reader devices. You have also more flexibility regarding pricing: you can set up specific countries and time periods where prices apply.

After you have entered all the meta data and uploaded the PDF or EPUB, the file is automatically scanned for issues (this might take an hour or two). If you encounter any error messages, re-read Chapter 22.2 or let us know at mail@lode.de. But if you have not made any significant changes to the template, your file should be ready to be released. If you have just set up your account, you might still have to wait a while.

The book will show up at https://play.google.com/books of your Google account (or in the books application on your smartphone).

Once released, you can find your book by going to https://play.google.com/store/books and search for the title of your book. That is it!

Troubleshooting

Instead of waiting for Google Play to process and check your EPUB file, you can also use an EPUB validator like http://validator.idpf.org/. The downside is that it is more strict than the Google Play validator—the output of Calibre will tend to identify issues that are accepted by Google Play:

  • Error while parsing file “value of attribute ‘id’ is invalid” The id of one of your bibliography entries contains a special character.
  • Referenced resource could not be found in the EPUB. This issue shows up if your \url commands are erroneous (for example, the given URL does not start with “http”).
  • CSS selector specifies absolute position. This is an issue of Calibre and cannot be fixed but has no effect on the actual e-book displayed on a device.

For reasons of optimization, Calibre splits the HTML file into parts. Thus, the line numbers shown both by Google Play as well as the EPUB validator relate to those split files, not your original HTML file. To access those split files, go to the Calibre output directory, right-click on the EPUB file, and unzip it with WinZip (or another similar unzip program).

If you encounter further errors, you can also refer to Google’s checklist of how to make a book available online: https://support.google.com/books/partner/checklist/4489282. If all else fails—and while not recommended—you can also convert the PDF version of your book directly into an EPUB file. The downside is that it will look just like a small PDF and will be hard to read, as it is not adapted to a device’s specific size, resolution, or page orientation.

This is an excerpt from Better Books with LaTeX the Agile Way. You can get a copy here.

Leave a Reply