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Make your own eBooks with Inkling's free digital publishing kit

San Francisco eBook publishing startup Inkling has released a new set of collaborative online digital publishing tools to try and coax book publishers to fully move their content into the Internet age.

The new software suite, called Inkling Habitat, will be the first online, collaborate, free, and open digital publishing environment for professionals.

Matt McInnis, CEO of Inkling, showed off some of Habitat's capabilities at an event in New York this week. The online software appears to compete with the likes of Adobe's Digital Publishing Suite and even Apple's iBooks Author. Like Apple's product, Habitat is free, although it sounds slightly more geared toward professional publishing houses, particularly those in education.

Inkling, which has an iPad app of the same name through which it sells interactive eBooks, has sold textbooks predominately, although it focused on designing and building the interactive experience - not the publishing. With Habitat, the company is shifting its business to give publishers the ability to design their own finished products in-house.

Digital books created with Habitat won't be limited to being sold through Inkling's app, however. The content can be exported to any standards-compliant EPUB platform. And titles developed using Inkling Habitat will be able to use the Creative Commons license as well to keep their intellectual properly open for others to build upon, a crucial component in education in particular.

McInnis also announced that Inkling has developed a Content Discovery Platform, which essentially makes books developed with Habitat more SEO-friendly and, therefore, more likely to show up in Google search results. For example, searching a question or phrase in Google could turn up a single page or chapter of an eBook that answers it. The user would then be able to preview the page and decide whether to purchase the book, or even just part of the book that she wants, and download it to an iPad or iPhone (Inkling will be adding support for Android devices this year, according to McInnis).

While a lot of Inkling's releases to date have been textbooks, the company has seen some success with travel guides publishers, including Frommer's, and the company is beefing up its relationship with more consumer-focused readers. DK Publishing, HarperCollins, Lonely Planet, and Rick Steves have signed on, too.