Sunday, May 15, 2011

Smashwords Quadruples Meatgrinder Ebook Conversion Capacity

On Friday we quadrupled the ebook conversion capacity of the Smashwords Meatgrinder.

Lately, the queue time has been running 30 hours from upload to conversion completion. That's unacceptable. Two years ago, it was 5-10 minutes.

Today, we're back to near-instant conversions. Upload a book formatted to the Smashwords Style Guide and watch Meatgrinder convert your book in real-time to multiple ebook formats. No other ebook publishing platform offers such rapid publishing and updating.

We now have the architecture in place to scale our capacity further as volume warrants.

The long queues were caused by an influx of new books, as well as an increase in regrinds from authors and publishers upgrading their books with improved formatting and navigation.

In addition to the increased throughput, we've made multiple improvements over the last few weeks to Meatgrinder's NCX generation for EPUB. EPUB is the format used by our retail distribution partners Apple, Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo and the Diesel eBook Store.

NCX stands for Navigation Control file for XML. Think of the NCX as a meta-Table-of-Contents, since the file and the navigation actually reside outside the book, but point back into it (What you know as an EPUB file is really a zipped combination of multiple files of which the .NCX is only one). A well-formed NCX adds useful navigation for your reader. See Step 20 in the Smashwords Style Guide for more on how to construct an NCX and linked Table of Contents at Smashwords.


Gary Baker said...

Great news. How long before 'approvals' are speeded up?

Unknown said...

A quick save, Mark--nicely done.

What's Smashwords' current goal for turnaround on reviewing books for Premium Distribution? I've had a title waiting for 7 days and am probably not alone.



Grace Bridges said...

Thank you! That's awesome. I'm with those other guys wondering about the premium approvals, but I guess you'd need 4x the staff to get those up to a similar speed...

Anonymous said...

Fantastic news!

Great to see you guys staying on top of things before they get out of hand.

I never thought I'd see conversions in near-realtime again.

I am very pleased to see this.

I may be in the minority but I don't mind a lag of a few weeks to get cleared to premium (the sooner the better of course but no big deal) but I like to see my work on deck in the smashwords platform as soon as possible in case it needs tweaking and to see if it looks right.

Annemarie Nikolaus said...

Great work.
Smashwords rocks!

I don't mind, if it takes - like now - about ten days or so to get into the Premium Catalog. I'd prefer much more, that the shipping gains more reliability. I.e. that shipped books enter indeed the retaile catalogs.
That point definitely needs improvement.
... And now you need to get other currencies in your system to better support non-American authors

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much, Mark! I remember the 5-10 minute wait from 2 years ago :P


Unknown said...

Nice work Mark!


Oswald Bastable said...

At meatgrinder's worst- it was a far longer wait for those rejection letters. (if they even bothered responding)

5Cats said...

Hi Mark,

The 4x speed up is awesome! Thank you for that.

I need your help and advice (for some reason my emails never seem to get through - maybe it is my browser).

I noticed that an ebook that had passed epubcheck before now fails with the NCX playOrder error below.

I had just amended a line and uploaded a new version today when this happened and tested with the last version uploaded which was approved for premium distribution.

I've done everything I could find on the checklist and gone through your style guide again, tried the following and must have uploaded 10 versions with varying fixes:

1. Check for TOC errors (but since it is a poetry ebook, there is no TOC so to speak but a list of poems).

2. Ensured there is no "Chapter" in the document.

3. Finally, purged the document and reformatted it.

None of them seem to fix the problem and I can't find a solution on Google.

When I check the epub in Adobe Digital Editions, the NCX seems to have added the words "Second Half" under the title under the left navigation. They are the only two lines.

ERROR: dark-dreams (6).epub/toc.ncx(15): assertion failed: different playOrder values for navPoint/navTarget/pageTarget that refer to same target
ERROR: dark-dreams (6).epub/toc.ncx(15): assertion failed: different playOrder values for navPoint/navTarget/pageTarget that refer to same target

Thank you for Smashwords! It's given many authors an avenue for publishing.