Mrs. PG has gone back to address some minor typos and a few other corrections in some of the earliest ebooks she published, beginning about eight years ago. Formatting the corrected ebooks has been a trip down memory lane for PG.
As previously discussed on TPV, PG has used Kindle Create to format the books Mrs. PG has published since KC’s first availability. He has found that Kindle Create is very easy to use and produces a nicely-formatted fiction ebook. Until something better arrives, that’s what he’s using for Mrs. PG’s books in the foreseeable future.
In connection with the above-mentioned republication, PG has pulled up the original ebook files which were published with Jutoh. In the process, PG has been reminded about what a powerful and elegant formatting program Jutoh was and is.
Eight years ago, PG was strongly affected by print book formatting (he had formatted POD versions of Mrs. PG’s books) and he brought formatted files and practices into Jutoh for preparation of her ebooks at that time.
Revisiting those early ebooks, PG found drop-caps, page-appearance related formats, etc., etc. He also found he had included some erroneous code in those ebooks that made a few parts of the books look a little off upon PG’s latest inspection.
One example of this was PG’s use of drop-caps at the beginning of chapters and in the body of chapters where there was a major change in scene, etc.
Drop caps have been used in books for hundreds of years for a wide variety of reasons. Here’s an example from 1407, before the invention of the European printing press.
Historically, they marked chapter breaks, with other visual cues denoting the beginning of another long sentence, etc. They were visual cues to permit the navigation of large and heavy volumes. PG seems to remember that some of the earliest bibles did not include anything like a table of contents.
The printing press resulted in the production of many more books, but drop caps continued. In the following printed bible c. 1480, the printer left space the creation of colored drop caps after the book was printed.
(For more on drop caps throughout history, see this Smashing Magazine article)
Back to PG’s formatting.
He realized that he doesn’t remember seeing many drop caps in the ebooks he’s read recently (although he may have simply overlooked them).
For further insight into current ebook formatting best practices, PG found a blog post by JW Manus, a long-time visitor to TPV, who does custom book formatting for indie authors. Here’s part of what she says in a post titled, Why Your Ebook SHOULD NOT Look Like a Print Book:
I’ve been noticing a disturbing trend of late: Writer/publishers who want their ebooks to look (and act) like print books–and print designers turned formatters who encourage it.
What those who try to force print design into ebooks seem unaware of is WHY readers like ebooks:
- Portability. (I can carry hundreds or thousands of books in my purse.)
- Availability. If a book is in digital form and offered for sale, then it is always in stock. If you finish a really terrific book and want to read another of the author’s books, just pop over to the retail site, buy the next ebook and keep reading.
- Reader-friendliness. If, like me, you have overworked and/or aged eyes, the ability to increase font size and line height is a godsend. If, like me, you enjoy reading outdoors, an eink reader completely eliminates page glare and the resulting eye fatigue. If, like me, you like to read in bed but your partner wants you to turn off the damned light, if you have a tablet or backlit eink reader or smart phone, you can turn off the damned light and keep reading.
- Social reading. For those who like being part of a club, you can connect your books to other readers and share highlighted passages and comments.
- Price. Unless the ebook is coming from one of the Big5 publishers, it’s probably inexpensive enough to appeal to even the heaviest readers. They are inexpensive to produce, cost nothing to stock and free/cheap to ship. They should be inexpensive. I bet I’m not the only reader who was priced out of the print market and stopped buying new books, but because of ebooks is now back to buying four or five new books a week.
. . . .
Publishers and formatters drop the ball for one of two reasons:
- They don’t understand how ebook reading devices work.
- Their priorities are skewed.
If you don’t know how reading devices work, you have no business formatting an ebook. Period. It’s not easy keeping up with everything. Trust me, I spend a lot of time keeping up with updates and changing devices and standards. I have four Kindles, an iPhone, and two computers on which I read and/or test ebooks. I use several programs to test out new techniques. My goal with every job is to produce an ebook that can be read on any device. If you don’t know how ereading devices work, you can format an absolutely stunning looking file in Word or InDesign or Scrivener only to have it completely fall apart or turn into an unreadable mess when it’s loaded onto an ereader. If you’re using Calibre to convert commercial ebooks, chances are you’re unaware as to why that’s a bad idea. The truly clueless seem to be the most proud of creating one-size-fits-all formats for print, epub, and mobi.
. . . .
Drop-caps. They’re pretty, I get it. Unless you are a pro and willing to te st your coding across a multitude of devices, delegate drop-caps to the print version. And don’t forget to test in landscape mode. The results can be… disconcerting.
. . . .
Text-wrapping around images. This is another element that can seriously bite you in the butt. It can work, but only if you know exactly what you are doing (and just because you can do it in Word or InDesign doesn’t mean you know how to do it in an ebook). Consider the many, many, many readers who use their smart phones as ereaders. What happens on an iPhone as it struggles to fit everything on the screen would be laughable if it weren’t so annoying to the reader. It can be pretty nasty when readers need a larger font size, too.
Link to the rest at JW Manus
In Jaye’s post, she includes a page capture of an ebook in which the drop cap looks fine in a Kindle Fire, but not in a Kindle Paperwhite.
So, PG removed the drop caps in the old ebook file when formatting the new one.