Zinepal Online PDF and eBook Creator Blog

zinepal.com pro accounts now available

Just a quick blog post to let everyone know that zinepal.com pro accounts are now available. All existing users have received a free Pro account until December 1st. Thank you to everyone that has already purchased their Pro account for future use.

At the moment I am working on rejigging some of the zinepal.com internals. This means there likely won't be any new user-visible features for the next little while, but once I'm done it will be easier and quicker to add features in future.

I'm doing this work in preparation for launching a zinepal.com API. The API will enable developers to call zinepal.com as a web service and turn HTML content into PDFs and eBooks. This will make it possible to easily integrate zinepal.com functionality into other web sites.

That is all for now. More to come in future.

back to work

I'm back from vacation and coincidentally it has also started raining on the west coast. Looks like I'll have more time to spend on zinepal.com in the coming months.

Thank you to everyone that took the time to respond to my poll about zinepal.com pro accounts. I appreciate all the insightful comments. On average most people thought that $6/month is a fair price. I will use this as a guideline and also offer a discount when you pay for a year in advance. The first month will always be free to new users.

I've started working on the payment integration and hope to launch the pro accounts in November. At that time all existing accounts will receive a one month grace period until their functionality will be limited to the free feature set. During the grace period you will be able to pay for more pro account usage time. Even if you don't pay right away, all your account settings will be saved. If you then upgrade to a pro account at a later time, everything will be as you left it.

That's it for now. Stay tuned!

coming soon: zinepal.com pro accounts

To help me cover the cost of running and developing zinepal.com I've decided to introduce zinepal.com pro accounts in the near future. The idea is to charge a small fee for some of the premium features of the site while keeping the basic functionality available for free. Check out the pro account page to find out the exact difference between the free and pro accounts.

To find out how many people would be willing to pay for a pro account and what you think is a fair price, I have set up a web poll. If you like using zinepal.com and think you may be interested in a pro account, please take a minute to let me know what you think is a fair price. It would be very helpful to get feedback on this.

Right now I plan to offer the pro accounts on a monthly fee basis with a discount if you purchase for six months or a whole year in advance. As for timing, I will be out of town for much of October, so I don't expect to start with the pro accounts until sometime in November.

In other news, I've created a zinepal.com users group over at Google Groups. The Help page now provides a link to that group. I think this is a better way of running the Help section and hopefully users will be able to help each other, as I don't always get around to responding to e-mails right away.

quick update

I haven't written a blog entry in a while, so here is a quick update. September saw another good increase in traffic with a few nice articles written about zinepal:

It's always great to see zinepal in the news and it keeps me motivated to work on it. Along with the articles came quite a few e-mails asking about my future plans for the site. I haven't worked on it too much over summer, but here is a list of features that have been requested frequently and that I hope to add soon:

  • zinepal.com API so you can integrate the PDF and eBook creation functionality with other web sites
  • one column layout and custom paper sizes
  • cover pages and table of contents

Recently I also finished a small update that fixes a few bugs in the PDF generator that caused zine creation to fail. Hopefully that is the last of them and the generator should be more reliable going forward. I've also made it possible to add links to advertising images and updated the PDF generator to use a higher resolution for images.

Finally, the site has seen a pretty big increase in traffic and I had to upgrade the hosting plan. To offset some of the costs of running the site I'm planning to introduce zinepal.com pro accounts soon. More on that in another blog post later this week.

zinepal on lifehacker

Last week saw a spike in traffic when an article about zinepal.com appeared on the lifehacker front page. Everybody likes traffic, but unfortunately the site went down for about an hour after the initial wave of hits. I need to spend some time profiling to see if I can find a specific problem that triggered this, but most likely it's just that the server running zinepal.com is pretty small. If traffic keeps increasing I will have to upgrade to a bigger and better server.

Speaking of increasing traffic, after the lifehacker article there were two other nice blog posts about zinepal.com:

Other than the recent press things have been pretty quiet around here. There are a few features queued up that I need to finish, so stay tuned. Once it starts raining in Vancouver in fall I will be more productive.

lots of eBook improvements

Most of the people writing about zinepal.com always describe the ability to create PDFs from web content. But zinepal.com has also been able to create Mobipocket eBooks for quite some time. Mobipocket is the eBook file format used by the Amazon Kindle and other eBooks readers. It has been around for a long time and is proprietary in nature. Initially zinepal.com didn't support including images in the Mobipocket eBooks, only text was included. Now zinepal.com has been updated to also include images in Mobipocket files. This is a nice improvement, since the Kindle does support grayscale images.

Another new feature is support for the ePub file format. ePub is an open eBook file format created by the International Digital Publishing Forum. It is the eBook file format used by the Sony eBook readers, such as the Sony PRS505 and Sony PRS700. Owners of Sony eBook readers and other ePub compatible devices and software should be very happy about this new feature.

In summary, zinepal.com now supports the following file formats - with text and images in all of them:

  • PDF for printing, e-mailing and reading on your computer
  • Mobipocket for the Amazon Kindle and other Mobipocket compatible software/devices
  • ePub for the Sony eBook readers (PRS505, PRS700, etc) and other ePub compatible software/devices

If you are using an eBook reader please leave a comment to let me know how it's working for you!

two nice blog posts about zinepal

Here are two nice blog posts about zinepal.com:

  1. How a realtor is using zinepal.com to create monthly newsletters
  2. Nice interview with me about zinepal.com (towards the end of the blog post)

If you have a good example of how you are using zinepal.com please post it in the comments!

out of stealth mode

It looks like zinepal.com is finally completely out of stealth mode. There's been a lot of blogging and twittering about the site in the last few weeks and traffic has gone up significantly. It all started with a blog post by Warren Ellis about zinepal.com and then it took off from there. A lot of the traffic also came from European and South American blogs and Twitter users. It's interesting to see a lot of zines being created in Spanish, Italian and French.

I'm pretty excited about all this traffic and the many zines that are being created. It's nice to see a lot of users returning a few days later to create more zines. That is the really important thing, that zinepal.com provides a real benefit so that people will continue to use it in future. Between responding to e-mails and fixing a few bugs I've recently also added the ability to edit the content of individual stories and apply story formatting. Now you can finally insert page and column breaks! You can also change the fonts and colors of each individual story.

Since it's summer I've been pretty busy with other activities, but the last few weeks have really motivated me to keep working on zinepal. I think the most important thing at the moment is to further polish the site and work out the remaining kinks. That is my plan right now and I've collected a good number of issues and suggestions that I want to address over the next few weeks. Adding support for images in eBooks is also on the list.

If you have other suggestions for what I should focus on please let me know!

busy behind the scenes

There haven't been many user-visible updates to zinepal lately, which doesn't mean that I haven't been busy. I've spent quite a bit of time cleaning up and tweaking a few things on the backend. You may have noticed the new rich-text editor for the zine introduction. This is the first result of some work to improve the zine creation process. Over the next little while I will be adding support for editing any story in your zine. This will let you fine-tune the automatically formatted content for display in PDF and eBook format. It will also be possible to decorate each story with different fonts, colors, borders, backgrounds, etc. In the end you will be able to create a much more engaging and customized zine.

A few other tweaks added recently: support for more delivery days (now only on weekdays or weekends), more fonts (Impact, Comic Sans, etc.) and scaling of story title font size relative to story text font size. I think polish like this really improves the overall zinepal experience. Some of these changes were requested by users, so if you have feedback, please send it my way.

In other news, zinepal.com has been selected as one of the participants in the 2010 Wireless & New Media Showcase. This is an initiative spearheaded by New Media BC, WINBC and the 2010 Commerce Center to showcase leading BC new media companies during the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. I'm very pleased that zinepal.com has been selected to participate in the initiative. Participants will work together to create a showcase and service based on the latest wireless and new media technologies. The aim is to provide visitors, delegates and media attendees with an enhanced experience at the games and "wow" them with a unique showcase and services based on made-in-BC technologies. Stay tuned to find out more!

advertising for your zines

Last week I added a new feature to zinepal.com: custom images in the page footers. What this means is that you can now insert different images in the footers of all pages. An image can either span the entire page or you can have one image in each column. The idea behind this is that zine creators can now insert advertising into their zines. This is already being used successfully with the kitsilano.ca zine.

The size of the images is either 2" x 7.7" for the entire page or 2" x 3.75" for one column. To determine the size of an image in inches you have to look at the pixels-per-inch or dots-per-inch resolution of the image. Most good image editors will allow you to view this information and also resize images to the size in inches that you need. If you are looking for a good image editor to use on Windows, I can recommend Paint.NET. It's easy to use and works very well.

Along with the advertising feature I've also added zine "templates". Templates allow you to save all the settings for a zine and then later on apply them to another zine. This makes a lot of sense if you spend time customizing a zine with an introduction, logos, fonts and advertising. Just save it as a template and later on you can easily reuse the settings.

You can find both of these new features when you create your zine. I've also added tabs to the user interface on the zine customization page. It makes things look a little bit cleaner and less crowded.

Finally, I should mention that kitsilano.ca has now printed 1000 paper issues of their zine for the month of April. They have been distributed all around the Kitsilano neighbourhood here in Vancouver. This is very cool and I'm excited to see zinepal.com used like this. Hopefully it's a great success and they will print more issues in future.