What’s the least you have to spend on electronics to produce a book?
Many writers who happen not to own the latest and greatest of personal computers ponder the question. Writers on the CreateSpace board days ago asked, “What is the cheapest laptop I can buy that will run everything I need for publishing on CreateSpace?” and “Will a chromebook do everything I need to publish in CreateSpace?”
There are benefits to spending more than the minimum if you can afford it.
Faster computers with more memory will help speed the process, and the best software can be a good investment. You may have special software needs if your book is unusual in design, or relies heavily on artwork or special layout. Many people will find a new midrange Windows laptop computer, at about $300 to $700, a practical price. Bear in mind that some of the software you may need, such as Microsoft Word and anti-virus programs, could double that cost.
If this is your first book or if you’re planning complex or artistic design or layout, you’d probably be better off spending the money working with a good professional designer (thereby making use of their equipment).
Most books, including nearly all adult fiction, have simple design needs, and word processing doesn’t require much computing power.
What are the must-haves for your computer?
Get you online. It should come equipped with a web browser (like Internet Explorer or the newer Microsoft Edge, or Safari or Firefox or Chrome) to allow you to visit and interact with websites, and exchange messages including email. You need this for everything from research to most kinds of marketing, as well as transmitting your book files for production.
Produce a file in the .doc or .docx (Microsoft Word) format. Documents in this format are the preferred way to submit files for many types of e-Books (for Kindle, Apple, Nook and others) and some print books. A text saved in .doc format is the first step toward publication.
Microsoft Word will produce documents in these formats, of course. If it isn’t already there, you don’t necessarily have to shell out for a new license. Sometimes older versions can be found online for discounted prices, and they’ll given you everything you need (as long as you don’t go back too far, of course).
Several other word processing programs will convert documents from their own format to the familiar .doc (or even .docx). If you don’t have Word, you can pay a monthly fee to use Office 365, which is the Office suite (including Word) online. There’s also the simpler, and free, Googledocs, which lets you save your documents in several formats including Word. It will work for writing text, but not well enough for design.
Outside those corporate worlds, there are other lightly-marketed options.
Another free and definitely useful option is LibreOffice, which includes a batch of programs similar to Microsoft Office – and for free. For almost a decade I’ve used LibreOffice more than anything else for my writing and book work. It does most of what Microsoft Word does, and it can read Word (.doc) files and create them as well. LibreOffice works in Windows, Mac and Linux operating systems.
Next: More low-cost and no-cost options.