Bowker Launches New eBook Conversion Service

  • Question: How can you tell that the next tech bubble has arrived?
  • Answer: This is a good sign:


Bowker, a US company best known for managing ISBN for books published in the US and for publishing bogus market research reports, now offers an ebook conversion service.

Bowker is expanding upon their existing partnership with scam POD publisher iUniverse to add a new ebook conversion service provided by Data Conversion Laboratory. Priced at a mere $1.85 a page, or what looks to be over twice the going market rate for converting a novel, authors can get their manuscript converted into Epub and Kindle format.

In exchange for all that money Bowker will hand you the ebook files; no distribution services are included. That price is only good for low-complexity titles, and Bowker specifically excludes titles with “heavy formatting, lists, tables, question/answers, math, block quotes, boxed text, and sidebars.”  That means you’re limited to fairly basic books with not much more than text. You are also required to submit a PDF; they won’t even take a DOC file.

Yeah, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that for most people and for most titles this will not be a good price. A number of conversion services, ebook architects among them, quote a much lower price for basic conversion services similar to what Bowker launched today. Many of those other services will offer you the same quality guarantee as Bowker, so it’s not like paying more will necessarily raise the quality.

I should note that I am specifically referring to novels and other ebooks with about the same level of complexity. When it comes to nonfiction, that does not include much beyond memoirs and history books. Nonfiction titles are often more complex and might require certain specialized services like creating an index. Pretty much every conversion service charges more for nonfiction than they do for fiction, with prices going even higher than Bowker’s quoted $1.85 a page.

BTW, I’m not sure exactly how Bowker defines a “page”. That detail isn’t clear (and Bowler won’t explain it), but the webpage for this new service discusses the ebook conversion in terms of the size of a paper book. That doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence.


Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.


  1. Richard Pipe12 February, 2013

    I agree with this analysis except try five times the going market rate! This is a rather incredible rate. Good luck to them if they find customers

    1. Nate Hoffelder12 February, 2013

      My first draft of this post described the price as being over 3 times the market rate. I pulled back because I didn’t want to overshoot.

      And TBH I’m not sure I’d trust the services that are only a fith the price. There is a point of diminishing returns.

  2. Rob Siders12 February, 2013

    If Bowker only accepts PDFs, then the definition of a page is clear.

    1. Nate Hoffelder12 February, 2013

      I’d be happy to send them a PDF with an 85″x110″ page size. The book would require 5 pages, i think.

      Seriously, it’s not clear. For all we know they have their own definition that doesn’t match with an 8.5×11 PDF.

      1. Rob Siders12 February, 2013

        Fair enough, but if someone sent me a PDF that was 85″ x 110″ and asked me to work up a quote, I’d figure they were being too clever by half and ask them to send me one at 8.5 x 11. I realize that they should probably spell things out better, but I see a lot of manuscripts and just about everyone works with their software’s default settings, save for font choices.

        If you ask me, setting prices based on page count is dumb. Set it based on word count… that number doesn’t lie.

  3. Robert12 February, 2013

    Calibre converted a PDF to EPUB for me in about 8 seconds, with tables…for free.

  4. Tony Hursh12 February, 2013

    They work from a *PDF*? For the love of God, WHY?

    1. Nate Hoffelder12 February, 2013

      No clue. Whenever I have to work from a PDF I usually convert to RTF (this often works the best) and then to html before making the ebook.

  5. Mike Cane12 February, 2013

    You forgot Bowker also did this:

    Bowker Plans To Bleed Writers, Kill Agents

    I never followed it. Does it even still exist?

    1. Nate Hoffelder12 February, 2013

      I forgot that one, yes.

      It looks like the site is still live:

  6. Paul Salvette12 February, 2013

    Why on God’s green earth would you only take a PDF as the source document for an eBook conversion? A PDF as a source should be a last resort since you can get broken paragraphs, extraneous hyphens, etc. Also, not sure what author would pay this much for eBook conversion. Bowker continues it’s existence in an alternative universe.

  7. Will O'Neil14 February, 2013

    I’m really missing something here. Why would anybody pay anything at all to get a simply-formatted ms converted to e-book form? If you’re publishing on Kindle, by far the biggest e-book platform, Amazon will do it for free, and more or less the same is true of B&N. Otherwise, use Calibre. If you understand a little bit about the medium and format your MS Word document accordingly, the results are perfectly OK. And if you tweak Word’s filtered HTML a little in a freeware HTML editor you can add features.

    Is there some magic these services apply that I don’t know about? I certainly don’t see a lot of wonderfulness in the formatting of most of the e-books I read.

    1. Nate Hoffelder14 February, 2013

      An ebook that is made by a person will generally look better than the automated conversions. I know mine did.

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