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Nieman Journalism Lab
Pushing to the future of journalism — A project of the Nieman Foundation at Harvard

Now available for download: Nieman Lab in ebook form

It’s “The Future of News As We Know It,” an EPUB compilation of the Lab’s best in June — and an experiment in quick-turn ebook publishing.

Here at Nieman Lab, we’re always interested in new platforms for our work — both because we like people to read what we produce and because we think it’s important to experiment in some of the same ways that the news organizations we cover do. (Also, we’re very nerdy.)

So I’m happy to say that you now have a new way to learn what we’re learning at the Lab — ebooks.

Now available for (free) download is The Future of News As We Know It (*as of June 2012), a compilation of our best work from June. It’s in EPUB format, which means it’ll work in iBooks on your iPhone or iPad, on Nook, on Sony Reader, or in just about any other ereader other than the Kindle. (UPDATE: There’s now a Kindle version — see below.)

And yes, it’s an R.E.M. pun.

Ebooks are exploding — I spend a ton of time reading them on my iPad — and there are some people for whom a collected, collated package of news, commentary, and analysis is going to be more appealing than remembering to check in to our site every day or following along on Twitter. This is for them.

I pulled this together both because I think there might be an audience for it and because I really wanted to learn about EPUB, which is becoming the lingua franca of ebook publishing. EPUB is mostly extremely unforgiving HTML and CSS, so it wasn’t too difficult a process, but I learned a ton in the process of building WordPress exporters and automating a lot of the backend-code creation. If people are interested, I’d be happy to share the tools and methods I built along the way.

In any event, I’d love to hear from Lab readers about how this looks, what kinds of improvements you’d make, whether you’re interested in an ebook format for our content, and anything else that comes to mind. (I’d also love to hear from anyone reading on a non-Apple platform, since I’ve only tested it extensively on iPad/iPhone.) Get downloading!

[Update, 1:20 p.m.: I've added a version for the Kindle. It's not quite as lovely as the EPUB version — since the eInk Kindles have much less powerful design capabilities — but it works. Give it a try!]

[Additional update: Here's a sample of what this looks like, in case you don't have iBooks.]

Q: How do I install this ebook in my ereader?

A: For iBooks on your iPad or iPhone, any of these methods will work:

— visit this webpage on your iDevice and tap the download link; it’ll suggest opening it in iBooks,

— emailing the EPUB to yourself and opening that email attachment on your iPad or iPhone, or

— moving the EPUB into your Dropbox folder and then opening it from the Dropbox app on your iDevice.

For other EPUB readers (Nook, Sony Reader, etc.), follow the directions that came with it.

For Kindle, you can load it onto a device by USB or by emailing it to yourself at your Kindle email address.

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  • Dr Ernesto Priego

    This is incredibly cool. Back in April we at The Comics Grid released a free epub and PDF ebook compilation of our first year of articles. It was also “an experiment in quick-turn ebook publishing.” The reaction (given our academic field) was slightly underwhelming, but we also received very good feedback from loyal readers. The fact the Lab has done this now makes us feel less lonely, and definitely inspired again. Congratulations!

  • Dr Ernesto Priego

    By the way, I found it impossible to open it using an Android device and Calibre on my Mac. There’s a way to create a generic ePub that can be read well in non iOS devices. Can you share a direct link to download the .epub directly, not via amzn? 

  • Patrick Hogan

    I had to install a new ereader app (Aldiko), but I was able to get it working fine on my Nexus S Android phone.

  • Earlydigital

    Hi… reading on Adobe Digital Editions/Mac/Lion. Looks like some pictures might be missing. It flows well and the hyper-linking is solid

  • Rob Tornoe

    I can’t open it on my Kindle Fire due to it’s ePub format. Happen to have it in a pdf format that is downloadable?

  • Kcflynn80

    Downloaded it to a Windows 7 system, converted with Calibre to MOBI format, and copied it onto a Kindle.  Works great! Links and graphics work OK (but the Table of Contents could use a little formatting…it all kind of runs together.)

  • Joshua Benton

    Thanks, Ernesto! I wish the tools for epub to pdf were better; I’d like to be able to easily push this out as pdf too. On the to do list…

  • Joshua Benton

    Great — thanks for letting me know! Android always worries me for anything cross-platform.

  • Joshua Benton

    The Amazon link is just the epub. There shouldn’t be anything uniquely Apple-y about it. It opens fine for me in Calibre on my Mac (and actually keeps the custom fonts and layout) — can’t test on Android, unfortunately.

  • Joshua Benton

    Yeah, I see the same thing — it opens and works fine but maybe 20-30% of the images are missing. Can’t for the life of me figure out why that would be. Thanks for the report!

  • Joshua Benton

    Thanks for letting me know! I ran an earlier version through kindlegen to convert to .mobi and it worked but was ugly as all hell. But I just did what you said and the Kindle version looks pretty good! I’ll add it as a link above. (It is missing some images, though. The iBooks EPUB still looks best.)

  • Joshua Benton

    Hey Rob — A PDF is actually not easy with the way I’m doing this. If I were laying out the book in InDesign, say, then exporting to both EPUB and PDF would be easy. But I’m building this in code, writing exporters from WordPress (and a lot of regex) to take advantage of the fact that EPUB is basically just HTML/CSS. There are some plum ugly epub-to-pdf solutions out there, I think, but my understanding is they produce something righteously ugly.

    BUT…I did just upload a Kindle version. Check it out in the story update above…

  • Perry Gaskill

    For what it’s worth, I downloaded the epub file onto a PC and opened it after installing a Firefox add-on called epubreader. Seems to work just fine and dandy.

  • Max Fenton

    Could you add a “Send to Readmill” button to the post, please?

  • Mike Downes

    Dumb question, but I have a win7 there a version for that? Regular pdf? Thanks, Mike

  • Vitoarasworld

    who needs downloading where the only thing that makes sense are your notes in your diary which memory and retrieval of info make easy and cheap oh as for four decades in making you got a treasure better get smart to know what to do and put into practice.

  • Cody W.

    What’d you use to make this? I’ve been considering using Apple’s iAuthor but am curious as to the work that went into this. It looks really nice.

  • jonathanstray

    I, for one, would be interested in a post on how you did this. Is there a place for such a level of nerdiness on the lab? And if not here, where?

  • Joshua Benton

    Oh, there is such a place. I’m just officially on vacation, so it may take a day or two. :)

  • Joshua Benton

    Hey Max, I have a minor hatred of buttons — any reason it’s necessary to read in Readmill? I checked it out in Readmill and it works fine — you can just drag and drop at the site, no?

  • Joshua Benton

    Not a dumb question! For some reason, no one’s taken the lead in making a really nice EPUB-reading experience for desktops/laptops. (We Mac users anxiously await the inevitable iBooks for Mac.) Some options:

    - There’s an open source program called Calibre you can download for free to read it. Calibre itself is kinda ugly and clunky, but it presents EPUBs really well (or at least it did mine).

    - On the Mac, Nook for Mac opens EPUBs and displays them well. I haven’t checked out Nook for Windows but I’m sure it does the same thing.

    - There’s Adobe Digital Editions, which is also free. Our ebook works for me in it, but someone else reported a problem in another comment, so YMMV.

    - There’s an add-on for Firefox called EPUBReader that lets you read them right in the browser. There’s also one called MagicScroll for Chrome. Haven’t tried either of them out.

    I’m sure there are other options on the PC side that I just don’t know about.

  • Joshua Benton

    A lot of elbow grease! Trust me, iBooks Author will be a lot easier to use than what I assembled, but I think there’s a niche where my way makes sense. All in an upcoming post.

  • Max Fenton

    Thanks, Joshua. It’s just a matter of four or five clicks. Not a big deal, if you prefer without buttons. Definitely reading this in Readmill and not iBooks, either way.  

  • noname

    How can I open it when I only have mac and no ipad/kindle whatnot?

  • Mike Downes

    Thanks, forgot to say, I have Kindle for PC .. winder if that works?

  • R Thomas Berner

    A PDF would have been nice. 

  • Joshua Benton

    FYI, the missing images were a screwup on my part — the difference between a mime type of image/jpg and image/jpeg. (The correct answer is image/jpeg, by the way.) It’s fixed now if you want to redownload. iBooks is apparently more forgiving of the error than Adobe DE.

  • Joshua Benton

    It looks okay in Readmill, but not perfect: it force justifies everything instead of respecting ragged-right, and it overrides the body font. Otherwise, looks better than any non-iBooks I’ve seen.

  • Joshua Benton

    See my response to Mike Downes above, but Calibre or Nook are probably your best bets (both free).

  • Judy McGovern

    Look forward to more on this Josh. Kindle version is every bit at good as Kindle subscriptions to The Atlantic and CJR.

  • Thomas Mead

    Best. Idea. Ever.  +1 loyal reader.

  • J.D.

    Interested in your tools and methods, as we are releasing our first eBook faculty handbook this Fall. I’m struggling with which format, tool, converter…okay, I’m struggling with everything, as there seems to be no clear “way” to do this…so any advice is appreciated. 

  • Joshua Benton

    That should work — Kindle for Mac does.

  • Tom Laskawy

    Josh, I’d love to get access to the tools you used to build this! What’s the best way to get in touch about it?