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An essential part of the eBook conversion process that is often skipped is the final testing on the devices it was intended for. Many publishers, whether it’s due to lack of budget or expedited time to market, avoid this step, which can lead to content problems. The best way to resolve this isby setting up a device lab to conduct detailed testing across multiple platforms. Not only will this help maintain quality standards across your eBooks, it will also give your staff the opportunity to learn through a “hands-on” approach and become experts in addressing customer support needs down the road.

Below is a chart that outlines the primary types of devices and some example products in the marketplace. A good practice is to purchase at least one in each category to get the best outcome, evaluate each and choose according to your market strategy and which platforms are important for your readership.

Device Type Examples
Dedicated eReader Kindle, Kindle Touch, Kindle Keyboard, Nook Simple Touch, Nook Color, Sony Reader
eReader Tablet KindleFire, Nook Tablet
iPad iPad, iPad2, iPad3
Android-Based Tablet Motorola Xoom, Samsung Galaxy
Smartphone iPhone, iTouch, Android-Based Smartphone, Blackberry

At Sheridan Books, our device lab consists of: (1) Kindle Keyboard, (1) KindleFire, (1) Nook Tablet, (2) iPad2, (1) Motorola Xoom, and our employees are all equipped with a variety of smartphone devices. This collection of devices gives us a wide range in technical capability, eBook file compatibility, and variations in screen sizes to complete full testing and analysis of the eBooks we produce. Our team members sign out these devices on a daily basis and we encourage our staff to take them home and explore their capabilities outside of eBooks.

An added complexity when testing eBooks is the number of applications available for tablet devices like the iPad or Motorola Xoom. Below is a chart that lists many popular choices available and which platform(s) they are compatible with. It is important to include these various applications in your testing plan to ensure quality standards are being met.

Tablet eBook Applications

  Device
Application iPad / iOS Android
Aldiko   X
Blio X X
BlueFire Reader X X
iBooks X  
Kindle X X
Kobo X  
Mega Reader X  
Nook X X
Stanza X X

Replacement Strategy

It is important to establish a replacement strategy for the products in your device lab. New devices will continue to surface and existing models are changing faster than most budgets allow. When choosing what devices to replace or purchase, you should look for key technology enhancements that will impact your current eBook strategy. For instance, the new model of the Kindle Touch recently released, but the main improvement was 3G connection services. Since this change does not affect the way you do business, it’s most likely not necessary for you to purchase the device. On the contrary, the recent release of the iPad3 includes a new high definition display, which provides support for more vivid graphics. While this is a positive change for the reader experience, images in your eBooks may become degraded or fuzzy. You might consider adding the iPad3 to your device lab to ensure the quality of your images in your eBooks.

Desktop Testing Applications

In addition to testing on different devices, there are several desktop applications that you can download to test your eBooks. These applications provide a quick and easy way to test out small changes and can provide access to individuals who are not able to reach the content on a dedicated device. While they provide easy access to content, these programs do not give you the full user experience and should be used sparingly or for spot-checking. Below is a list of common desktop/laptop applications for reading eBooks.

Application OS X Windows
Adobe Digital Editions X X
Calibre X X
Kindle Desktop Application X X
Sony Reader Library X X

The best way to empower your organization to produce quality eBooks is to put the devices in your hands. Following these guidelines in creating a device lab should help set the standard for your testing plans and you move towards content perfection.

Comments or Questions? Please leave a comment below or contact me at marie.ketner@sheridan.com.