If you’re writing a nonfiction ebook, including images in your book can help readers to better understand concepts you’re describing with words. Sometimes, images are an economical way to convey information because they can take the place of a page of written instructions. Images also give readers a bit of a break from reams and reams text.
When selecting images for your book, only include images that add to the reader’s understanding. In other words, don’t decorate your book with images just because you can. Images take up a great deal of file space, and most ebook distributors have a file size limit for an ebook, so use them judiciously.
Using images in your book requires a bit of extra tech knowledge. But you can manage this tiny learning curve with a bit of know-how and a free image editor like Paint.net.
*Note: the instructions that follow require you to work with your images outside of your ebook file. If you’re writing your book in Word and you’ve inserted your images into your Word document, take them out and store them in a separate folder, titled Images. You can re-insert them into Word after you’ve made the required adjustments in Paint.net, or some similar photo-editing software.
Here are the basics for preparing images for ebooks:
1. Decide on an image format. Most images can be saved in a variety of formats. JPGs, PNGs and even GIFs are the recommended formats for ebooks. Line drawings look best when saved as PNGs or GIFs and photos look best when saved as JPGs.
|Save line drawings as PNGs|
|Save line drawings as GIFs|
|Save pictures as JPGs|
2. Edit your image (optional). I’m not an image editing expert, but I do know that taking a picture in good light or finding a quality image can reduce the amount of image editing you need to do. I also know that the tiniest tweak in image-editing software can sometimes make a big difference to the appearance of a photo. If you’re a bit of a hack, like me, you’ll keep things simple by cropping, sharpening, and maybe adjusting the light levels of your image.
I like to use Paint.net for image editing because it’s free and simple to use. I’ve also experimented with GIMP (also free), which I’ve heard is a lot like Photoshop. GIMP is an excellent tool, but I’ve found that it’s a Mercedes when a Volkwagen will do.
Here’s how to do some simple image editing in Paint.net:
- Cropping: Click on the Select Rectangle tool (see the image on the right) on the Tools bar: Image>Crop to Selection (video)
- Sharpening: Effects>Photo>Sharpen
- Adjusting light levels: Adjustments> Brightness/Contrast
3. Resize your image. Ebook distributors have restrictions on how many pixels wide and how many pixels high your image can be. Most distributors can accommodate an image that is a minimum of 300 pixels wide and maximum of 800 pixels high. Check your distributor (Amazon or Lulu, for example) for exact image measurements.
To adjust your image size in Paint.net: Image>Resize and fill in the desired pixel width. Your image will keep its height and width proportion if you have the Maintain aspect ratio box ticked, reducing the chances of a distorted image with that “stretched” or “squashed” look. Play with the height or width so that your image is within your distributor’s pixel range.
4. Compress your image. Compressing your image reduces the amount of file space your image will take up. This is important because distributors have restrictions on how big a picture file can be. True, compression slightly reduces the quality, but really high quality images are not as necessary for ebooks as they are for print. You can compress a JPG image in Paint.net by setting the image quality to about 75%. Go to File, Save As, insert a file name and a menu will pop up. Set the Quality slider to 75%. For a PNG, set your image resolution to 72 ppi: Image>Resize>Resolution.
5. Insert your image into your book file. If your book is in Word, insert your image by going to Insert>Picture. Make sure that it’s left-justified or inserted “inline.” If you’re using Jutoh to convert your ebook, this image will travel with your book document when you convert from Word to Jutoh. Otherwise, it’s also possible to insert your image directly into Jutoh.
That’s it! With the right tools and some simple instructions, including images in your ebook is a snap.