Brand new Vellum picks a fight for prettier (e)books

E-books are a lot of things. Convenient. Good for the environment. Usually cheaper than printed books. One thing they’re rarely accused of is being good-looking. Ugly books is what 180g is declaring war on with a completely revamped, 2.0 version of Vellum. Oh, and in the process, they’re adding support for making wood-pulp books, too. Fancy.

There’s no real shortage of software that can generate e-books. Hell, if you are a particular sucker for punishment, you could probably convince Microsoft Word to gargle out something that could be turned into a giant stack of faxes, bound together and generously be called a “book.” The problem with Word and most other e-book-creation software is that they are almost universally completely hopeless. Terrible user experience, and mediocre output at best. The problem is, it’s for e-books, so nobody really cares. Except those of us who do, that is.

The software makes it easy to create box sets, too, if you’re a particularly prolific word-writer

Vellum’s previous version has been out for a few years, and there are plenty of e-books that have been created using the software already. The biggest change for today’s 2.0 launch is that the package now supports creating books for print, too, with an integration for on-demand printing services like IngramSpark and CreateSpace.

Vellum 2.0 can create print-ready files for e-books, even if you’re not a massive print nerd (like yours truly). Taking an e-book for an outing into meatspace includes knowing about margins, trim sizes, font sizes and page numbering, and creating front matter, headers and footers and page-numbered tables of contents. You also need to do typography geekery such as widow prevention (avoiding single sentences on a page) and spread balancing. Sounds dirty, no? I like it. Either way, Vellum takes care of all of that, plus converting images to print-ready black and white. Best of all, you can proof it all using any PDF reader — such as the Preview app.

The company’s pricing scheme is interesting, with two tiers available: a $200 tier for e-books only, or a $250 tier for both electron-powered books and books: Deforestation Edition. If you want to upgrade from one tier to another, you’ll be charged $100, so it may be worth doing a bit of planning ahead. Once you have a license you can make as many books with as many pen names for as long as you like.

Vellum is only available for Mac, with no plans in the pipeline for other platforms. A bit of a setback if you’re a Windows or Linux jockey, but for the Mac fans among us, you’re golden.

As you can tell, I’m a wee bit excited about Vellum. Why? Well, if you’ve ever had the displeasure of putting an e-book together, you’ll have experienced the excruciating pain of making sense of any of this — it’s a huge pain in the rectum, finally resolved by an elegant piece of software that takes most of the hassle out of the process.







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