Barnes and Noble’s Nook platform has been struggling since its inception, and the company has revamped PubIt! into a new publishing platform, Nook Press, in the hope of bringing more indie authors on board. The new platform allows authors to write online, share their developing content with a select group of peers, and then publish their book as an allegedly viable ePub. The platform is akin to that of FastPencil’s, which, if I understand correctly, partnered with B&N to develop Nook Press. The new platform even allows authors to download an uncrypted ePub for distribution on other sites (but only if you proceed to sell on B&N, which is the only point in the process at which an ePub is created).
While that sounds fabulous, a quick run through its new platform reveals a host of issues. To test the system, I uploaded a Word document that I prepared for my course on ebook formatting; the document, typical of an indie author’s unformatted work, does not make use of styles, the essential backbone of good ebook formation; and, unfortunately, as is typical of sites such as Nook Press, the formatting guidelines provided make no mention of using styles. The test document also contains internal links, footnotes, a bulleted list made using Word’s automated bulleted list tool, no table of contents, two different fonts, and an “unintentional” hidden hyperlink.
When you upload a document to Nook Press, the system attempts to discern your chapter breaks and splits the document accordingly. While the system found my first chapter heading, it was unable to find the subsequent chapters. And while there is the option to split the chapters anywhere you want, what is sorely lacking are instructions as to the need or benefit of doing so. So unless you already understand that splitting a chapter creates an automatic chapter/page break, you may leave your document as is, and the page breaks you added in your Word document using Insert > Page Break will be lost.
The other issue that immediately became present was the placement of footnotes. When exported to HTML, Word automatically converts all footnotes to endnotes, creating a cohesive set of notes at the end of your document, linked by hyperlinks. However, what happens when importing your Word doc into Nook Press is that footnotes are placed within the text immediately following the note. The result is a ridiculous looking ebook where footnotes appear as smaller text within the body of your document.
Other issues I found were:
- Internal hyperlinks did not work.
- Different fonts were not recognized.
- Word’s automated bulleted list tool uses Wingdings for the bullet, which are not recognized by ereaders. Thus, while the instructions tell you to use this tool, the result is that your bullets are converted to small hyphens.
Regarding the table of contents, Nook Press automatically creates one based on where it or you split your chapters (it gives you the option to name the new chapters created when you do). You can also rename an existing chapter, and if so you will be asked if you want to include it in your table of contents; you can use this option to exclude a chapter from the automatic table of contents. BUT you have to figure these things out on your own: there is no proper manual for using the platform.
Perhaps the most bizarre things about this new platform are what it does if you compose directly in it:
- It adds a space between all paragraphs. The only way to avoid this is to use the soft return (Shift+Enter), a technique few authors even know exists.
- There are no style options for paragraphs or headings. Instead, there is a default chapter heading style and if you do not like it, or you have subheadings, you have to format each paragraph or heading separately.
- Since there are no style options, if you did use styles in your original document there is no way to continue using them once you decide to edit in Nook Press.
As a tool for composing and creating ePubs, my opinion is that Nook Press is sorely lacking in options, and lacking in details as to how to use the few options that do exist. It is so elementary in its design that authors with anything more complicated than a novel with block paragraphs will find Nook Press unintuitive at best or at worst useless. Authors are still significantly better off creating proper ePubs outside the platform and using Nook as a retailer only.
By the way, although the Nook Press Terms and Conditions suggest the program is open to those outside the United States, that is not the case. As with the former PubIt!, the platform is only available to U.S. residents with a U.S. tax ID and bank account tied to a U.S. address.