Sunday Mailbag

February 12th, 2012 | Posted in Mailbag

Q: Is your book The Mad Art of Caricature! ever going to be released as an eBook? If so, will it be available for the Kindle?

A: I’d like it to eventually be available as an eBook for the iPad, Kindle and Nook, but making that happen is problematic.

I have been researching ways to convert the book’s digital publication file to ePub (iPad) and PRC (Kindle/Nook) formats, and it’s not going to be an easy thing to do. There is no magic way to take the book’s Indesign master file and just convert it. That might work for a text-only book like a novel, or something that has only a few illustrations, but this is an illustration intensive book and the text directly relates to the illustrations in ways that preclude any simple conversion. There are currently three ways that this can be done:

  1. Redesigned for ePub– This method would create a regular eBook format that has text that is resizeable with changeable fonts, can reflow with resizing, and is fully searchable. In order to do this, I’d have to completely redesign the book from scratch, placing illustrations inline with the text like a web page and understanding the relations of the illustrations and text would be changed depending on the sized text the reader chooses. Additionally, elements like the captions of the illustrations would be almost impossible to control. In other words, I’d be putting together an entirely different book devoid of much of what makes the printed version work well. Not an option for me.
  2. Image-only format– This is the way that comic books and picture books are done, where each page is a static image. Text does not reflow nor can the type font be changed, resized or searched. While this retains the integrity of the original layout, it makes the book less easy to read (text is rendered as an image and subject to pixelization), nothing is searchable and the file size would be enormous (90 mb). Not ideal, but doable.
  3. Fixed-layout format– This is a newer form of eBook format, which is perfect for graphics-heavy books like children’s books or instructional books like cookbooks or textbooks that require graphics in a specific positioning with text. These books have fully searchable and “zoomable” text but retain the layout of the original print. This is the ideal way to go for my book, but right now only Apple offers the ability to use this kind of format in a non-fiction book. While Amazon has this type of format available, they inexplicably only allow children’s books to use it.

By far the easiest way for me is option two. That could be done easily and (relatively) inexpensively, and be available for all three formats in short order. I just question if people would be willing to have such a huge-sized file on devices that have very limited capacity for storage, and put up with the slow response that may also be a result of the file size

I suppose I should ask you, the readers who might be interested in an eBook version, what your preference would be? Is there a general interest at all in an eBook version? Leave your opinion in the comments.

One other thing, should I get an eBook version going, I would likely take the opportunity to add back in some material I edited out in order to make the book size more manageable. I had a section on drawing children, a bit on exaggerating expressions, several more examples of live caricatures and a section on coloring live caricatures with the airbrush that got left on the cutting room floor. I’m not trying to entice any double-dipping, but I didn’t want to cut that stuff in the first place and adding it back in is a plus.

Thanks to Earl B. for the question. If you have a question you want answered for the mailbag about cartooning, illustration, MAD Magazine, caricature or similar, e-mail me and I’ll try and answer it here!



  1. Bill says:


    Not really sure your book would work as an e-book, but as a card-carrying luddite, what do I know?

    I WOULD love to see you post the things you edited out here on your blog! Any chance you’ll do that?

  2. Robin Crowley says:

    I bet that if you go straight to Amazon’s executives and show them your book, they’ll immediately go for that 3rd option for your book, even if it has never been done before.

  3. Houston says:


    Have you considered printing it as a PDF and selling it that way? Many readers will view that format as well as all PCs and MACs.

    Just curious. Plus very easy to do as you can do a quick BING search for PDF Writers which will act as a printer on your machine. You just send the print job to that app and then choose the file name you want for it.


    • Tom says:

      Nope. I imagine it is inevitable that some asshole somewhere on the internet will scan my entire book and offer it for free downloading as a PDF on some foreign website somewhere, but I’m not going to make it that easy for them.

      • Houston says:

        Completely understood sir. I promise that asshole won’t be me.

        Thanks for the book. I love it and I am putting it to good use!

  4. Jose D. says:

    Tom I plan on ordering your book soon, and I would love ho have it on my iPad as well (in any of the three formats you listed). I would be willing to pay a little extra to have a digital copy included with the book, and I imagine I am not in the minority on that one.

  5. Kyle Maloney says:

    Your book is kid friendly enough, couldn’t they classify it as a kids book? Or is the requirement more strict?

  6. julio cesar naranjo says:

    Hi Tom its been a long time i quite my job last year and finally decided to create my own company, its been really hard but im very satisfied doing what i like and been able to practice all the comic stuff. I did a request to a cousin that lives in Boston to buy your book cause hes going to come in 2 weeks, can he buy it on a store or its only through your web page?. Take care Tom.

  7. Mike Solin says:

    Hey Tom – I haven’t seen you mention the new iBooks Author app:

    I’ve read good things from technical writers about the app, but I understand illustration is very different.

    Most of the tablets out there are iPads, so I’d think going iPad-first (not exclusive, just first) would be worthwhile.

    I’m trying to cut down on the amount of books that I own, but I make an exception for art. Just bought Bruce Timm’s book, can’t wait for it to arrive. 🙂

  8. Mike Solin says:

    Also, speaking as someone from a technical standpoint, 90 MB isn’t a huge deal anymore. The Kindle Fire has 8 GB of space, and the iPad has 16 GB, 32 GB, or 64 GB. The book doesn’t always have to be on your device – both Apple and Amazon allow you to redownload purchases, and you can sync the book back to your computer for storage.

    For reference, a few technical books I have in ePub format are as large as 30 MB! And the only illustrations they have are black and white screenshots, the rest is text.

  9. bob comeans says:

    Hi Tom, I’d come back for more in whatever format you make it available. I’d love to see what landed on the cutting room floor. Bob

  10. Josh UK says:

    Tom, I am on the go alot into and out of London, England. I enjoy caricaturing and very much admire your work and style. It has influenced my own style immensly. I travel light and carting around the amount of books I use as reference would mean I’d need a UHaul van. Having things at my finger tips on the iPad is great, I can skip to the page I want, Zoom, screen grab and save. Also the quickest/cheapest day to get your book through amazon takes 30days. Electronically you can theoretically have it in minutes. Bonus for people on the go. Great book from the snipets I have seen. Keep up the great work! Josh, London, Uk.

  11. Enrico says:

    is there any solution for the the worldwide shipping cost? It almost achieves the cost of the book, and it’s a pretty big problem for me (I’m from Italy). Any cheaper, even if slower, USPS delivery service exists?

    • Tom says:

      This is the cheapest method that I can process online. The actual shipping cost is $16.95, so including the packaging and label costs the $17 charge does not actually cover shipping costs. The only cheaper method would be US Post Fist Class International, which would vary in costs depending on the destination. To Italy it would still be about $15, take much longer and be much more likely to be damaged. In many cases it would actually be more expensive to ship it first class international rather than Priority international. I know international shipping is expensive, but there is nothing I can do about that. I am sorry.

  12. Dave says:

    While I’ve not yet needed to do this with my Illustrator-to-PDF-to-X work-flow, I believe your conversion can be done using XML. Converted from InDesign, your print-book becomes IDML, able to be re-flowed into any other XML-compatible format. EPUB supports XML, thus IDML.

    I am a big fan of Adobe Creative Suite interoperability, so I am paying attention to your problem here…

    What I found is a multi-stage hack. Take your InDesign files into PDF. Then convert your PDF to IDML. Then, convert your IDML into any other XML-based format. EPUB in your case.

    Maybe one of these brainy types
    could help you more than my blue-sky musings. Maybe they can write a script to do the conversion? (See Day 3: “Scriptability is at the core of InDesign.”)

    IF the XML data blocks don’t reassemble looking like the print version, it also seems possible to run an XML script from InDesign to InDesign– taking the image locations page-by-page from the print-book InDesign files, and place them into scaled positions based on the margin coordinates of the target InDesign template intended for iPad.

    From there, another script would convert your images to PNG– no lossy compression artifacts. Lastly, there is a drag-and-drop EPUB script, for relatively quick, hands-free re-formatting of IDML.

    That way, the conversion would be mostly painless, where you would only need to tweak the obviously bad results, and not spend time re-making each page.

    Good luck, Mr. Phelps!


New profile pic courtesy of my self-caricature for the Scott Maiko penned article “Gotcha! Mug Shots of Common (but Despicable) Criminals” from MAD 550

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