Panamerican Peaks Presentation

Starting the presentation

Last weekend I gave a public presentation in Salzburg, Austria about the Panamerican Peaks project. It was my first overseas presentation in German language.

Poster of presentation

The event was well advertised. The venue was a large theater called “Die Bachschmiede”, which featured my presentation on their online event calendar. Two newspaper articles had been published a week and a day prior to the event, based on a phone interview with the editors and my free sample book. The talk had been included in the catalogue for this venue several weeks in advance. There were even some posters printed and distributed. I had notified family and friends – those who could make it got to sit in the front row.

The event was well prepared. Over a period of about 6 weeks in December and January I had translated my book and published the German version in the Apple bookstore. In addition, I translated my keynote presentation, some of the voice-over of my videos and added some Salzburg specific anecdotes to my presentation materials. I also visited the venue the day before the event to test the iPad connection and familiarize myself with the stage and the general facility layout. Again, presenting from the iPad with the iPod Touch as a remote control worked very well and it’s very convenient for travel.

Media Test at presentation venue

Last but not least, the event was also well attended. About 125 people in the audience listened to two segments on cycling and climbing, with an intermission and lots of Q&A in both segments. I enjoyed the fact that there were lots of questions from the audience and almost all stayed to the end for a good 2.5 hours.

Audience at Bachschmiede

At some level I am surprised that it is still a lot easier to get people to pay for an event than to pay for the book on the iPad. Wouldn’t you rather get the book with all the details?

Add comment January 25th, 2013

German version of Panamerican Peaks now available

Today Apple published my German version of the Panamerican Peaks eBook in the iBookstore here. The book has the same title in German.

Die deutsche Buch-Version ist jetzt im Apple Buchladen erhältlich.

Die deutsche Buch-Version ist jetzt im Apple Buchladen erhältlich.

It took about 5-6 weeks of intense work to get this book translated. Here is a screenshot with some statistics right out of the (free) iBooks Author tool I used to create the eBook on my MacBook.


Structure and media content (~300 photos, 12 videos) remain the same as in the original English version. I changed the voice-over in the 2 min introduction video, but otherwise the videos are the same as before (and as on YouTube).

I realized that a good translation requires time and effort. You can’t just translate word for word, but you need to find proper expressions conveying the same story as used by a native speaker. Units need to be adjusted, such as °C into °F, $ into €, ft into m, or miles into km. Dates and numbers are written slightly differently etc.

On average, I managed to translate only about 2 pages per hour. The good news is that in the process of doing so I also optimized the original. Whenever I noticed typos, redundant or missing aspects of a story I also changed the original.

Page flow, hyphenation, page and column breaks, initial table contents, landscape vs. portrait orientation – all needed to be tested and fine-tuned. At the end I also created a free Sample version of the German book, which now includes the entire Preface. This 67 page free sample book is also available in PDF format on the Book page of the website here.

iBooks Author turned out to be a very capable and useful tool for this task. I had both the English and German version in two windows open side-by-side on my large 27″ monitor. I had only minor issues with it. German hyphenation rules are a bit tricky and don’t seem to be supported 100%. I didn’t have some special characters on the US-English Mac keyboard (such as ä, ö, ü, or ß), so it was tedious to insert them.

The Find & Replace command is not quite as powerful as that in Word. For example, to replace numbers (say 15,000 into 15000), it would have been great to have had a pattern matching mechanism with wildcards etc.


My biggest complaint is that I don’t seem to be able to change the built-in layout descriptors (section, chapter, map, gallery, video) to German. They are automatically created and hence manual changes in the text are overwritten by the tool. There is also a bug which mangles the Section titles in Portrait orientation.

But all told, I am quite happy to have finished this translation project. It gave me new appreciation for the amount of work involved. I hope, (some of) the 100 million German speaking folks in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland will enjoy the book.

Add comment January 8th, 2013

Panamerican Peaks book now on sale in 50 countries

Apple recently announced some upgrades to its authoring and reader apps and expanded the reach of its iBookstore to 18 new countries, most of them in Central and South America. This means that whereas up to now the book was only for sale in two of the countries I visited (Canada, US), it is now available in all of them!

Panamerican Peaks eBook is now on sale in 50 countries

Apple sold 100 million iPads in just 2.5 years. (It took them 4 years to sell that many iPhones.) Together with the new iPad mini, the new 4th generation iPad and the discounted older generation iPads this certainly broadens the target audience. And the new iPad mini will have the exact same resolution as the iPad 2 (1024 * 768 pixels), so the reading experience for the book will be identical in both portrait and landscape orientations.

I also decided to do an introductory promotion: Throughout the month of November the price will be discounted to just $2.99 (from $9.99). In European countries that’s just €1.99 and in the UK £1.99.

I am also working on translating the book to German. This coming January (Jan-19) I will give a presentation in Salzburg, Austria. By that time I want to have a German version of the book available for the roughly 100 million German-speaking people in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

Lastly, I am looking to translate the book to Spanish and possibly Portuguese. Most of the Panamerican countries are Spanish-speaking, so being able to offer them the story in their native language would make a big difference. If you know of anyone who has experience in this kind of translation, please comment below or send me an email in the Contact section.

Add comment November 1st, 2012

My old iPhone – keep or recycle?

Over the years we have accumulated several old iPhones and iPods in our household. Today I was collecting those to sell and recycle them at Gazelle, a great service I had once used in the past. One of the old iPhones is my trusted iPhone 3G which I brought with me on the Panamerican Peaks journey.

As I opened the tight protective plastic cover to clean the phone I noticed some dust falling out. It may have just been some dirt from Bolivia or elsewhere in South-America. All of a sudden I have decidedly mixed feelings about parting with this old phone. I think back to all the times I had been using it.

iPhone 3G that had accompanied me along the entire Panamerican Peaks journey

All the places this phone has seen. More than 20.000 km on the bike, a multiple of that distance by bus and airplane. All the mountains it has been on, all the places it has stayed overnight. To me, it has quite a unique and personal story to tell.

Hundreds of phone calls to friends and loved ones, although I had also often used the little Dell Netbook with built-in camera to Skype (iPhone 3G didn’t have a front-facing camera for FaceTime yet).

Thousands of times used the web browser and other apps to look up important information. One example where all of the iPhone capabilities came in particularly handy was after arriving in Santa Cruz, where I needed to find a hotel room and a bike store near to one another, call the bike store for office hours, and use the built-in GPS and map app to guide me there.

Hundreds of hours of listening to music while cycling. I even listened to the songs I had played most often on this device while writing my book to get myself in the same mood as when cycling across thousands of km of Pampa in Argentina.

Hundreds of daily notes typed sitting in my tent after long, eventful days. Most of the peaks and rides pages on this blog contain those daily notes more or less in their original form. And those notes have been invaluable while writing the book to reconstruct the sequence of events and remind me of specific details.

Hundreds of photos taken with it. Of course my main photo camera was the waterproof Olympus and later Panasonic Lumix. But it was good to have a backup or just take a quick fun shot and email it to friends without having to transfer it to the laptop first. I still remember taking photos from the summit of Mt. Logan, just in case I would somehow lose the photos of the other camera. My wife received so many emails with food photos that she could tell how under-nourished I was from the frequency of food photos. (Of course, when you’re always hungry then a full dinner plate becomes one of the highlights of your day.)

One other particularly memorable evening was in British Columbia where I stayed at a family’s home near MacKenzie Junction North of Prince George. As we were sitting outside their gas-station / convenience store in the evening, I showed off the iPhone to their three kids. They took turns listening to songs, taking pictures and playing games on the smartphone they had never touched before. Before I went to sleep that night I purchased a particular song I had in my head courtesy to the family’s WiFi connection. I fell asleep happy after hearing that newly bought song a few times.

So now I find myself thinking twice about whether to part with this device. On the one hand, all the songs, photos, notes, apps, etc. are saved and available on my newer iPhone 4 and elsewhere. But on the other hand, there is something nostalgic about this particular device which makes me wonder whether I should send it back to recycle for a few dollars.

What would you do? Do you have any gadget or item which is essentially useless but you can’t part with because of all the things it reminds you of?

2 comments August 18th, 2012

Self-publishing to Apple bookstore

Over the last couple of weeks I finished my book and successfully published it to the Apple bookstore. This post gives a recap of the steps involved in that process.

Path to self-publishing on Apple bookstore

Creating Content

The first step is obviously to create, select and edit the content of the book. During the actual trip I tried documenting my experiences via the following:

  • Taking about 10,000 photos with digital camera (Olympus and Panasonic)
  • Taking daily notes with riding or climbing stats (on iPhone or NetBook)
  • Shooting about 200 video clips (Flip Mino)
  • Uploading photos (to Picasa) and videos (to YouTube)
  • Writing posts on my Blog

In the months after coming home I refined some of the above material. Using iMovie I created ~ 5 min long movies based on video clips, photos and map animations, typically with some iTunes song in the background and a bit of explanatory text or commentary. I shared those videos on this Blog and on my Panamerican Peaks YouTube channel.

I loaded all photos into Aperture on our iMac and tagged and rated them. That allowed me to organize them by topic or as required. The ‘Smart Folders’ feature of Aperture comes in handy here, as it allows to set up filters and select a subset of photos without having to copy them. For example, if I wanted photos rated 4 stars or higher related to camping, or photos of mountains in Central America, I just needed to create another Smart Folder. This was very useful for example for the Panamerican Peaks Synopsis video which features quick photo sets by topics (cycling, climbing, camping, etc.).

Google Earth proved to be a very useful tool as I could easily create maps of the trip based on the recorded GPS coordinates from my SPOT tracker. One can even retrace the trip in often astonishing detail thanks to Google Street View. For example, in many places along the Pacific Coast I can look at campgrounds or road-side restaurants where I stopped during my journey. I even created a video illustrating the climbing route on Mount Logan from within Google Earth.

The heart and soul of any book is of course the story and the text used to tell it. I created multiple chapters using MS Word because I am so used to it, but one can of course use any modern text writing tool. In addition, I created some slides for presentations I gave last summer using Keynote.

Book Layout

Once all the ingredients were available, it was time to compose the actual book. As I had decided to build an eBook for the iPad I used Apple’s new iBooks Author tool on my MacBook Pro. This meant choosing the layout and including the text and media. iBooks provides a few interactive widgets and accepts all widgets that can be installed into the OS X dashboard. This in particular allowed me to link to the various YouTube videos. I could always get a preview of the book copied out to my attached iPad 2.

After many weeks of busy work putting the finishing touches on the book and adding various edits from a few trusted friends I got to the point where I needed to figure out how to get the book published in Apple’s bookstore. There are two steps required here:

  1. Creating a developer account with Apple via iTunes Connect
  2. Managing one’s content via iTunes Producer

The creation of the account is fairly straightforward through the web browser. To get started, I visited Apple’s Content Provider FAQ page and filled out an application. One submits basic information such as name, address, tax ID, credit card information, and ties it all to an existing Apple account. It can take a while. I never received the account validation email I was promised. So after a few days I started inquiring in Apple’s support forum. This had happened to others. Finally I just tried connecting via web browser to and it worked – I had an account to publish from.

The packaging of all material and uploading is done via the free iTunes Producer app on the Mac. iBooks Author exports the book in .ibooks format, which becomes part of the iTunes Producer package. One can also provide a free sample for the book. This can be any subset or variation of the full book, unlike with Amazon’s bookstore, where the free sample is always the first N pages.

Next, one needs to provide additional metadata such as book category, description, author name, optional sample screen shots etc. One also has to provide an ISBN (International Standard Book Number) for the book. These can be obtained from publishers or directly purchased from Bowker. This stems from the need to catalogue and identify physical books in inventory or libraries, but seems a bit anachronistic for electronic books. The prices for ISBNs are very high, especially for small volumes (1 for $125, 10 for $250, 100 for $500, 1000 for $1000). But since Bowker has a monopoly in the US you don’t have a choice in that matter. This expense seemed to be the only marginal upfront cost to publishing the book (aside from the tools to create the content).

Finally, one can determine the pricing and the markets where the content is to be sold. Apple follows the agency model of book publishing: As author you get to set the price. As distributors they take a share of your proceeds, here 30%. (By contrast, in the wholesale model you sell to the distributor at a discount, say 50%, of the suggested retail price; the seller has sole discretion to set the price.)

Book Review

Much has been written about the very restrictive terms and conditions Apple puts on authors using their iBooks Author tool. Essentially it locks you in as an author to sell only through Apple. For many authors that is not an viable option. It also allows Apple to reject your work at their sole discretion. So as an author you are completely at the mercy of Apple’s review process.

Apple is also strict with enforcing certain rules regarding the content it allows you to sell. For example, your book cannot contain any links to YouTube videos or Amazon books. They rejected my first revision with YouTube links and suggested to embed all videos. This would have bloated the download size of the book by more than 1 GB. As a compromise, I created short 1 min teaser versions of all videos and included those. At the end they display a screen to go to the companion website (this Blog) for the full versions.

After 3 revision cycles and about a week later I finally had my book on sale in 24 countries around the world, for $9.99 or the equivalent in Euro or other countries’ currencies.

Book Marketing

Publishing is not selling. Here are some of the things I did to promote my own book:

  • Email – Customized note to Hotmail contacts (~ 300 contacts)
  • Twitter – Tweets and direct messages to influencers for retweets (~ 2000 followers)
  • FaceBook – My daughter posted on her wall (~ 1000+ friends)

Sending the emails was not without hiccups. I used MS Word and Outlook to do a mail merge with text blocks and individual text from an Excel spreadsheet. First, the Mail Merge Filter condition dialog has a bug which replicates the last AND condition and adds it as an OR condition. This screws up your filter and ends up selecting lots of folks you didn’t mean to. I found this during a test with the first 5 addresses. (I sent them each an apologetic email explaining this.) Then after I did the filtering all in the spreadsheet it worked and Outlook cranked out the emails. After a short while, Hotmail decided that my account had apparently been hacked and used for spam, so they locked my account down! In a way this is good, but I didn’t consider my carefully crafted and personalized emails spam. So I had to change my password and unlock my account again.
The email was very effective. I got lots of positive responses and a few folks decided to buy right away. I had sold my first copy. Every journey of 1000 miles starts with a single step.

I noticed a spike (4x average) in the views of my Blog and Book page. I also offered promo codes for free book download to influential twitter users if they would retweet the book announcement to their followers. Within a couple of days a handful of them accepted the offer and retweeted, which exposed the tweet to a total of 20,000+ followers.

I had emailed the Apple bookstore, and to my delight they actually featured my book in their Travel & Adventure category.

My book featured in Apple’s bookstore, Travel & Adventure section

Book Sales

With all these promotion efforts I couldn’t wait until the next morning to see the sales numbers. (iTunes Connect updates their sales numbers only once a day.) I hoped to see the sales numbers go up. After all, I had reached hundreds, if not thousands of people, most of which either know me or are somewhat interested in adventure. The result? Tiny sales numbers. To date after one week I have sold 14 copies, with a maximum of four (4) copies per day. At my $10 price and the 70% I keep this amounts to just under $100 for the first week. Not exactly enough to retire on.

I’ll revisit this topic at some point in the future when I have more data. Obviously, the iPad is just a fraction of the entire book market with Kindle, Nook and other devices. (Although, the iBook looks much better on the iPad than on many other readers, in particular the smaller black & white e-Ink display Kindle readers.) The selection of titles seems comparable on Apple’s and Amazon’s bookstores, about 1.35 million each. (See a spreadsheet of my recent sample here.) Travel & Adventure is only a small fraction of the book market. But more importantly, most of the people reached by my promotions don’t engage to the level of actually following the links, downloading the sample and finally buying the book. From my experience, one needs to reach more than 100 people for every one book sold. Fellow adventure traveller and author Andrew Hyde – whose book coincidentally is featured just above mine in the screen-shot above – has recently written about his book sales here. His stats show a similar small fraction of sales to views. I just don’t have the millions of Twitter followers to generate meaningful sales this way!

Add comment June 21st, 2012

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