Publishing Everywhere

Kindle/ePub Publishing Methods

7 thoughts
last posted Dec. 6, 2012, 5:21 p.m.
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Collected thoughts on methods for publishing serial content from blogs to Kindles and other ebook readers.

These notes have now been fully baked and published at


There are several problems that need solving as part of each viable solution:

  • Conversion of content into ePub and mobi formats
  • Subscription tracking (optionally, payment gateways and management)
  • Delivery to subscribers' devices (preferably automatic, email notification is 2nd best)

Option: Leanpub


  • Conversion is easy, looks decent on all devices
  • Subscriber and payment management built in


  • Conversion does require additional steps to be added to publishing workflow
  • 10% fees (though not at all bad compared to Amazon)
  • Leanpub sells books, not periodicals, and so has no concept of "subscriptions" as such. The only way to handle subscription-like functionality is to handle it on a yearly basis, and have a book that is "updated" on a quarterly or monthly basis. There is no auto-renew; subscribers will need to be told to buy a new "book" after the current one is finished.
  • No automatic delivery to devices; subscribers do receive email notifications
  • Almost no control over typography for PDF versions.

Option: Amazon Kindle Publishing for Blogs


  • Automatic delivery to devices
  • Conversion is fully automated from RSS feeds
  • Subscribers lists and incoming payments are fully handled for you


  • Near-zero visibility into subscriber base, reports available are info-poor
  • Price is out of your control, royalties are low at 30%, payments are intermittent
  • Automatic formatting is really bad. There's no published spec for optimizing your HTML. In my tests on a blog which used fully-validated HTML5, whole sections of articles were randomly reordered, and headings were orphaned from articles by page breaks nearly 100% of the time.
  • No support for non-Kindle devices, not even using Kindle apps for iOS.

Option: Direct subscribers to third parties

Options include:

  • Instapaper + IFTTT (supports iOS, Kindle and Android)
  • Readability (supports iOS, Kindle and Android, but all articles must be sent manually, no automatic delivery)
  • Kindlefeeder (supports Kindle only)


  • Little to no time investment; subscribers manage themselves, and no need to add extra conversion steps to publishing workflow


  • Complete loss of "branded experience"; can feel hacky and/or require extra work on the part of the subscriber
  • Impossible to monetize
  • Small third-party services often have suboptimal reliability and/or unsustainable business models

Option: Manual Conversion + Sendy/Mailchimp + Stripe

Content could be converted using Sigil+Calibre or pandoc+Calibre. Sendy is self-hosted email sending software, Stripe for payments.


  • Ongoing fees are very small. On subscription payments, 2.5% + $0.30. Outgoing emails are $0.10 per 1,000 on Sendy; Mailchimp is free up to 2,000 subscribers, after that it costs between $8-$20 per 1,000 subscribers (depending on the plan, up to 10k subscribers)
  • Complete control over formatting
  • Fully branded experience


  • Potential dealkiller: it's unclear to me whether any of these services allow you to attach ePub/mobi files to your mass emails.
  • Managing subscriber payments, device preferences, support requests, could be a nightmare
  • Manual conversion of content could easily require adding several fussy steps to publishing workflow.

Revenue Comparison

Consider a blog that has 2,500 subscribers willing to pay the publisher's ideal price of $24/year ($2/month). Of these, say 70% are Kindle users and 30% use either iOS or nook. Here is the actual revenue realized from the available options:

  • Amazon Kindle Blogs: $6,237 per year, paid at irregular intervals. Only Kindle customers are served (1,750 of the 2,500), and Amazon controls the price, setting it at $0.99 instead of $2.00 per month. Readers experience poor formatting and irregular delivery.

  • Leanpub: $54,000 per year. Readers are notified by email of new content, which they must download to their devices ("Send to iPad" and "Send to Kindle" links are provided).

  • Self-managed: $57,507. ($60k less $2,490 in Stripe transaction fees (assuming no chargebacks), and $3 in mail sending fees.) For the extra $3,507, you must provide your own subscriber support and develop a highly fussy conversion mechanism. This option may not be able to provide automatic delivery to reader's devices.

At 100 subscribers per year + same proportions & ideal price, the figures work out to:

  • Amazon: $249.48
  • Leanpub: $2,160
  • Self-managed: $2,300