Bootleg eBook Preview: Shadow Unit

There are pictures under the cut, yes.

Shadow Unit is damn good horror/science fiction/fantasy combined with the gritty reality of real spycraft a la Sandbaggers—or, if you’re more up-to-date, Queen & Country. And so, like with many things I love these days, I wanted it on my Kindle to look at whenever I want (among other things, the Kindle has increased the amount that I re-read). There were complications of course.

Shadow Unit is an odd serial work: the kind that can only arise in a hyperlinked environment like the web. Its structure isn’t just a linear story. For example, there are hidden easter egg links that take you to “deleted” scenes, extra story bites, back story, even character sketches. There’s even a PDF script book somewhere in there.

In other words, Shadow Unit not something you can just straight-out textify without losing a vital part of its personality.

One thing that the MobiPocket format is especially good at is capturing a super-linked work—in particular because it’s based off of HTML with some extensions, and also is essentially a directory archive that can store separate image files and HTML text, all zipped up together. This is perfect for, say, reference works that live and die on the index, or anthologies of stories; something like Shadow Unit fits right in.

So I decided to create a “bootleg” eBook for Shadow Unit and distribute it for free—and naturally DRM-free. The final copy will be ready by Sunday, I think. It’s mostly ready right now, but I have some kinks to work out.

Don’t worry, I’m not violating copyright; the creators—Elizabeth Bear, Emma Bull, Sarah Monette, Will Shetterly, Amanda Downum, and Stephan Shipman are using the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license. As long as I’m not selling it and I provide attribution to them, it’s alright. I’m also going to be using the same license.

There is an extra addendum to not alter the prose, which I also complied with.

Among the things I learned during this process:

  • eBooks take some thought to lay out professionally, even if you’re just aping it like me. Which makes sense, since digital “printing” is still printing, just with different considerations and angles;
  • putting together an eBook that draws even somewhat heavily on linking is even tougher than just a normal eBook like I did yesterday;
  • making the Shadow Unit eBook is a bit like putting together a TV show DVD, with so many fussy details and extras to get right.

I think I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: I have lots of respect for publishers.

But anyways, on with the current features—and pictures!—below the cut.

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