I was first turned on to FlightDeck by their very helpful – and free – guide to the differences between EPUB and Amazon’s KF8 standard, and the formatting choices that can ensure a good handoff from one format to the other. The Handbook it comes from is an extremely useful breakdown of the most important issues in formatting an ePub ebook – and remember that Amazon now accepts ePub files as feedstock for Kindle Direct Publishing, so an ePub format may be your most versatile first choice for creating your ebook. But FlightDeck offers considerably more than that.
A couple of things to note first on what FlightDeck is and isn’t. FlightDeck is a paid service, and it is not an ebook creation platform. Explicitly, FlightDeck is a Quality Assurance (QA) platform for ePub publishing, designed to deliver “clear, actionable information to get your EPUB 2 and EPUB 3 files ready for sale. From validation and best practices, to retailer-specific information and metadata editing, FlightDeck reduces your Quality Assurance workload and helps you fix file issues quickly.”
With Author Solutions-style scams in mind, I’m hypersensitive about any service that seeks to charge self-published authors. However, FlightDeck looks like it might be worth it. For one thing, the pricing plans look reasonable. For $15 per month you can process up to five titles per month, processing “a single title as many times as you need to in order to resolve its issues.” For $40 per month, you can process up to 25 titles.
Furthermore, FlightDeck “interprets and explains the standard errors and warnings, helping you understand what to fix and how to fix it. In addition, FlightDeck performs many other validation tests that you won’t find anywhere else.”
There are of course many ways to proof and check your own lovingly handcrafted ePub ebook, including just loading it into your own preferred ePub ereading app. If you’re a first-time self-publishing author, FlightDeck probably isn’t the service for you. But for a self-published author with multiple titles, or one looking to bring backlist titles online, or an indie publisher, or even a larger imprint looking to outsource certain key technical tasks cheaply, I can see FlightDeck working well. Caveat emptor, as always. But it looks like you won’t be risking much dough. And the free Handbook and information services are already a big plus, and helpful to the whole community.