This is a crop of my original scan of the studio photograph, of Nan Britton in 1917, that begins Chapter 11. Note the dingy paper (gray in grayscale, it is actually yellow-brown), the differently sized ink dots, and the lack of picture contrast.
The same picture, after I finished “photoshopping” with Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo X2. Resized to fit your screen.
A Note From Tom H. Richardson
Normally this blog is for me in my persona of Tom H. Richardson the author. There is no blog for me as Thomas Richardson the publisher, because normally who cares what a publisher thinks? Well, this one time, lots of people want to know what the publisher thinks.
In January 1998, the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal broke. To me, the whole thing became a nonstop sideshow. So many pretentious, despicable people—Monica (much of the time), Bill Clinton, Ken Starr, Linda Tripp, the House Republicans, and the Senate Republicans. Only Hillary Clinton and Chelsea Clinton wound up not looking like fools.
Sometime in 1998 or 1999, I got the idea of writing a humorous unauthorized biography of Monica Lewinsky. To accomplish this, I started frequenting eBay, buying up tabloid newspapers and magazines in which Monica was written about.
Years later, I gave up the “Monica unauthorized biography” project, without a word written. But by then, I’d read a reference to “the other presidential sex scandal.”
The day I first learned about Nan Britton’s book, I was still hitting eBay regularly. So I soon had my very own printed-1927 copy of The President’s Daughter.
In some ways, the two women’s stories are very different. Monica was forced to tell the truth, in prurient detail, and DNA testing proved that some of her claims were true. On the other hand, there was no such thing as DNA testing in 1927, and there was not a shred of paper documentation to prove Nan Britton’s claims.
Nan Britton had only one way to prove her claims: She wrote an autobiography that showed lots of photos of Warren G. Harding, lots of photos of her daughter Elizabeth Ann, and then asked in essence, “Can’t you see the resemblance?”
The President’s Daughter has an unusual copyright status. It was published in the United States several years after January 1, 1923, a fact which usually means that the work in question is still under copyright now. But because Nan Britton in the 1950s forgot to renew her copyright till too late, The President’s Daughter has been public domain in the United States since 1956. Meaning that beginning in 1956, anyone who wanted to, could have reprinted the book.
But to my knowledge, only one person before me has attempted to reprint The President’s Daughter.
Why has nobody else reprinted the book? I suspect it’s because of the book’s forty-one photographs. In the original book, the photographs don’t look too lifelike, because of 1927 printing technology. I suspect that any prospective reprinter realized that his version of those pictures couldn’t look better than the 1927 pictures, would only look worse, so why spend money printing books that bookbuyers would think look awful?
Recently I decided to reprint The President’s Daughter, but as an ebook, not a print book. Reprinting as an ebook would make those forty-one photographs be digital images within the ebook, which I was sure I could make look better to a reader than ink-printed photos in a second-generation print book.
How I Created The The President’s Daughter Ebook
There were four tasks involved in converting the 1927 hardback book into the 2013 ebook—
1) I scanned all the ink-printed photographs, then I photoshopped the scans to create good-looking image files.
2) I scanned all the text pages, OCR’d the scans, and created a text-file version of the book.
3) I converted the text-file version of the original book into an ebook, writing-in links to the image files in the process.
4) I created a front cover.
I took a lot of photographs when I was a teenager, and much time has passed, so those photographs have discolored. Beginning in 2000, I started scanning my photographs and using Paint Shop Pro software to restore the images. I had a lot of photographs to fix, so I got a lot of practice, and thirteen years have passed; by now I have gotten pretty good, I think.
Even so, it took every photoshopping trick that I had ever read about, discovered, or learned the hard way, in order to turn forty-one 1927-technology halftone-screened, ink-printed photographs into decent-looking graphic images.
I couldn’t make those forty-one photographs look decent in a reprinted paper-and-ink book, for the technical reasons discussed above. But in an ebook, those photographs look satisfactory, and I am satisfied.
The key tricks that made the graphic files not look awful—
1) I made the initial photograph scans at 600 dpi, compared to 300 dpi for the text pages.
2) After I had used a histogram to make the supposed-whites look white and the supposed-blacks look black, I used Gaussian Blur to blend all the ink dots together. The Gaussian Blur avoided a moiré effect when I reduced the image size.
Scanning the text pages of the 1927 book presented its own special challenges. Three things I learned the hard way—
1) I couldn’t get good scans unless all of the page lay flat on the scanner. Which meant picking up an Exacto knife and slicing every text page out of the book.
2) In the window that showed the OCR-generated text, I needed to set magnification at 200 percent, so that I saw the text that’s actually generated, not the text I expected to see generated.
The problem here was homovids—words that looked nearly the same as another word, and both words were in a spell-check dictionary. Words like clear and dear, modem and modern. If my OCR software generated a homovid, I needed to spot it immediately and fix it right then.
3) I caught a lot more mistakes if I proofread one page at a time than if I proofread a chapter at a time. One reason that by-the-page proofreading was better, was that I could eyeball both the image-page and the generated-text page. Flaws in the image-page, I learned, usually cause flaws in the equivalent place on the generated-text page.
I established Hypo To Helio Books in August 2011, and before I took on The President’s Daughter, I had built ten ebooks (including one for my sister).
By now I know of two ways to build an ebook.
1) I start with a Word 2010 DOCX file, convert that to an HTML file, and then I rip out all the junk that Word 2010 insists on putting in the HTML file. Then I tweak the file to make it HTML5 compliant.
2) I start with a text file, and build it up to an HTML5 file.
Since by then I had the entire The President’s Daughter book already in text-file, I went with Choice Two and built up the file. I used Notepad++ text-editor software to do a lot of the bulk conversions.
Either way, once I had my supposed HTML5 file, I ran it through HTML5-validator software to ensure that it was indeed HTML5 compliant. Once I had an HTML5-compliant file, I duplicated it. The duplicate file was tweaked so that I could build an EPUB-format file, I used Calibre software to actually build that EPUB-format file, then I used EPUBCHECK to validate the EPUB file I had created. EPUBCHECK ensured that the EPUB file was technically flawless.
By now, with The President’s Daughter being my eleventh ebook, the ebook-creation part of the project was fast and straightforward. By now I’ve created a “cookbook” on how to build an ebook, and I’ve found a number of effective shortcuts.
The biggest time-saving tricks that I’ve learned about creating an ebook are these—
1) Every visual effect in the text, except for plain-vanilla paragraphs, should be an unaltered use of some text style; and
2) Text styles should be reused from one ebook to the next.
With the ebook created from the text file and the forty-one graphic files, all that remained was creating a cover. Once again I used Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 for the graphics manipulation. I built my cover by using two public-domain pictures—the photo of Elizabeth Ann I got from The President’s Daughter, and the painting of Warren G. Harding I got from Wikimedia.
The Harding painting had discolored slightly with age before it was scanned, so I did a three-color-histogram tweak on the painting-picture, to make the skin colors look right again.
I wound up buying and destroying two different copies of The President’s Daughter. I used a 1927 printing for its text. A 1931 printing, in which each photo was printed on slick paper, was the source of my scanned photos.
All in all, I’d say it took between 100 and 130 man-hours to go from slicing the first text page out of the 1927 book, to proofreading the final EPUB-format ebook using Adobe Digital Editions.
Why I Created The The President’s Daughter Ebook
I did it for three reasons.
The first reason was technical: I wondered whether I could convert a text-and-photos hardback book into an ebook without outside help, and I wondered how long it would take me. The answer I eventually got was: Yes, I could do all this by myself. I hired zero outside help, either to do production work or to consult with me. Furthermore, I asked nobody for free help or advice. As I stated just above, I was able to do the entire conversion in 130 man-hours, maximum.
The second reason was political. The Monica Lewinsky sex scandal was a sideshow, but it was a sideshow that cost Al Gore the election. When September 11th happened, the White House response was different than if Gore had been president. And everything that has happened in the USA after September 11th would not have happened, or would have happened very differently, had Gore been in charge in 2001. Would we have an NSA scandal now, in a Gore-won alternate history? I doubt it.
So the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal was a sideshow, but it turned out to be a sideshow with historical consequences. The conduct of Nan and Warren, as described in her book, sheds light on the actions of Monica and Bill; and the reverse is true. In short, Nan Britton’s book takes on historical importance after September 11th that her book didn’t have before.
The third reason I created the The President’s Daughter ebook? When I look at photos of Warren Harding and photos of Elizabeth Ann, I see a resemblance. A few parts of Nan Britton’s story, I don’t believe at all, and some parts of her story make me not like her as a person; still, I believe most of her story. Thus I think Nan Britton’s story deserves to be told to a 21st-century audience just the way she told it in 1927.
The title of this essay is a very obscure in-joke. In 1928 Nan Britton published a booklet titled, “How And Why Nan Britton Wrote The President’s Daughter.”
The President’s Daughter by Nan Britton—buy the book!