From Amazon’s runaway success with the Kindle platform to Apple’s new iBooks Author tool to help writers create interactive eBooks for their iPad iBooks store, eBooks are the story of the day for digital media. If you’ve ever considered writing a book or creating a new magazine, you’ll want to find the best tools to get your content published in the best way possible.
Calaméo is a digital publishing platform that allows you to publish documents not only for viewing on the web, but also for viewing on any iOS device. They offer native viewing platforms for iPhone, iPad, and the web. The only problem is, you’ll have to stick with their platform rather than selling your creations on any eBook store. Does it have enough to make an author that committed to their platform? Let’s take a look and see.
The first step in getting started with Calaméo, as with most sites, is to create an account. You can register directly with the website, or you can sign up with Facebook. Once you’ve created an account, you’ll be taken to your account page. You can do a few things directly from this page: you can view your publications/their comments, edit your account settings and check out the featured publications.
Perhaps the most important thing that you can do from your main account page, however, is to create a publication. This is the heart of the application. Click on any of the buttons that say Create a publication to get started. You’ll first have to write your document in another application, perhaps a native app like Word or your favorite web app for writing. You can then save the file and upload it in a variety of formats to Calaméo.
Once the file has been created and uploaded, it’s time to format the document. This is the point where you title the publication, and choose how it will be categorized. Every publication must be given a document format type (e.g. brochure or magazine) and a category (e.g. news or science).
You can also tweak your document from the extra options on the bottom. Under More options, you can enter a description, content rating, date of publication, and more. Sharing options allows you to change the options on things like comment publication, document printing and copyright information. Finally, you can change skins/themes, add background images and turn sounds on and off from the Personalize your publication settings. Once you’re finished, you can hit Upload and send your file to Calaméo with all the settings tweaked just as you want.
Browse Publications and View Your Own
While your document is uploading, why not take the time to browse some of the other publications on the site? The browse tab offers you a way to check out publications beyond the featured ones. On the browse tab, you have the option to either look through all of the publications that have ever been uploaded, or you can sort by a few different categories. The first is to search by category, so you can select from options like sports or arts & design. You can also browse by format, so looking for only books or only newspapers, for example. Finally, you can browse by publication language. The most common languages are listed, but you can choose any language from the drop-down menu.
While you’ve been browsing, your publication was uploading. Check on it, and once it’s done you’ll be able to check out your publication. The page “Your Publications” presents a list of all the publications you have created and uploaded successfully. This is also the location for all editing, table of contents and general publication management.
Clicking on the publication takes you to the page that the public sees when first viewing the publication. This is the page where, depending upon the options selected when publishing the document, the reader can read, download, share, send or favorite the publication. If you allow printing, that is also an option on this page. As the document owner, this is where you can again make some edits to the document. You can change viewing options, edit links and add a table of contents to the document. Readers can communicate about the publication via comments on this page.
Perhaps the most important part of a document is the actual reading of the publication. Reading mode is where readers get to truly enjoy the content of the publication, whether it is static words and images, or a media-rich publication. Calaméo’s reading experience is very nice, and easily makes up for some of the things that were lacking in the rest of the site. It gives you an elegant place to showcase your magazines and books in full-color, looking much more like a real print copy than a simple Word document.
After publishing, you need to get your reader base up. Calaméo offers a handy list of links and ways to share. They provide links to go the overview of the publication, or to go directly to reading it. There is also a way to embed provided code on your website to create a “mini-calaméo.” This is a miniature version of the document that can be viewed directly from the page. Once you share these links and get your readership up, you should check out the statistics page. This is where you can see how many views and reads you’ve gotten.
Social Interactions – Groups and Communities
Once you’ve gotten into viewing and reading some publications, or want to get more traffic to your publication, you should check out the various groups and communities that Calaméo has to offer. There are many groups available to join, and you can create a new group about the books that interest you. This is a great way to build a community around your books and interests, with group discussion boards and more.
Premium and Platinum Upgrades
Calaméo also offers premium accounts for more publishing features. Starting at 12 €/month, these accounts let you upload longer ebooks, customize your logo and viewer, remove advertising, and get more advanced insight on your audience. When you’re just getting started, the basic account has plenty of features to get your writings shared with the world, but if you’re planning on publishing a lot of content with Calaméo, you may find the upgrades worthwhile.
All in all, Calaméo is a fine product. It’s not anything especially great, however. It did a decent job of what I asked of it. It uploaded the document, made it viewable and let me read and share it. However, it wouldn’t be my top choice for a publishing site. The advertisements were overwhelming and invasive. Rather than having limited ads tucked away at the bottom and sides, Calaméo often had ads that I would mistakenly click on trying to do an edit. Additionally, I don’t entirely care for the user interface. The site can be a bit difficult to navigate and it’s not often that great to look at.
That being said, I really enjoyed reading the publication on the site. The viewer is very nice except for the excessive advertisements. The fact that they have a great platform for viewing documents on iOS devices is also a benefit for them. This isn’t always present with sites created to publish documents on. In the grand scheme of things, it’s a fine site to use for free, but I don’t know if I would ever pay for a membership at their prices.
There’s a lot of options for publishing eBooks, and while Calaméo seems to be a fine fit for free publishing, they may not be the best choice for professional publishers. We hope to continue to see it improved over time, and for now, if you’re needing an easy way to publish those PDFs you have laying around, it just might be the tool you need.