Eating a little bit of crow…

Yesterday, I got a little mouthy (see this post), which will surprise no one.

I was sent an EPUB file that had embedded fonts that rendered perfectly in ADE. I cracked the file open and what did I see? Perfection. The file wasn’t bloated, it was neatly organized, the CSS sheet was reasonably tidy for its detail, and the detail was compact. It worked and it worked beautifully. I can see how it’s done.

In Sony Reader, it MOSTLY rendered the way it was coded (still no full justification).

In FBReader, it did NOT render the way it was coded AT ALL.

I then cracked open The Proviso file that BookGlutton made. It was a lot leaner; granted, I didn’t have embedded fonts, but it still rendered nicely.

Then I cracked open the file of Stay I had made as an experiment using Atlantis, and it was lean, albeit not as lean as The Proviso because Atlantis broke out each chapter as its own file.

Both The Proviso and Stay look “nice” in ADE, Sony, and FBReader (insofar as anything looks nice in FBReader). That’s right. They look nice. Not spectacular. They do not have Teh Pretteh.

And you know what? That’s okay. I can see that Teh Pretteh EPUB file would take a whole lot more work than I’m willing to invest in either time to hand code or money in software that will do it automatically. I simply see no return on the investment of the extra time for Teh Pretteh with the tools that are available now. I have no doubt that those tools will become available in time.

I’m selling a $40 736-print-page book in 8 ebook formats for $6. The print version is Verra Pretteh, as is the PDF file that comes in the e-book file your $6 buys you. But let’s be real. People who seek out and read e-books—especially on an iPhone, SmartPhone, Kindle, or dedicated reader—are doing it for the content.

After basics: full justification, paragraph indents, line spacing, chapter breaks, a hyperlinked table of contents (and other hyperlinks, if necessary), and those conventions of book reading that move the reader seamlessly through the text, anything else is a waste of time.

Why? Because at the price point that is acceptable to an e-book reader who believes that e-books are cheap to produce and should, then, cost a whole lot less than print books, either A) hand-coding Teh Pretteh or B) purchasing the software that will run Teh Pretteh yields little to no return on investment.

So mea culpa for saying it can’t be done.

No mea culpa for saying it’s a waste of time to do it.

For now.

8 thoughts on “Eating a little bit of crow…

  • June 27, 2009 at 10:42 am

    I’m a reader — avid — and one of my gripes with e-format is when it is so plainly formatted. I want the text clear, paragraphing obvious, but not infantile in its separations, and I want the author’s intended significance, whether that is italics, bolding, or some other text-based characteristic, like section spaces, like hanging indents, like margin illustrations or beautifully decorated drop caps.

    Here’s the kicker when it comes to hard copy verses e-format, tough: I can read e-format quicker…probably because it’s easier to skip the parts I find boring and move on to the next best section. However, I find hard copy to be a more relaxing, leisurely pastime. Since I’ve read for decades and decades, mostly hard copy, I find it odd that I can move through an e-formatted novel faster than a real world book.

  • June 27, 2009 at 10:43 am

    Posted so I get notified, since I forgot to check the box.

  • June 27, 2009 at 10:52 am

    italics, bolding, or some other text-based characteristic

    I suppose I should have clarified. I take those for granted, i.e., that’s just part of my process to include those because it is PART of the text.

    , like section spaces, like hanging indents,

    Yes, and paragraphs that are set off (like, say, news articles that the characters are reading). I believe that, too. Any way you can signify the author’s intent without driving yourself crazy with fancy formatting is what needs to happen. I don’t consider section breaks and set-off text to be “fancy.”

    Dropcaps are usually the book designer’s call, not the author’s. Again, they’re Teh Pretteh that I don’t think has a high return on investment of time.

    Margin illustrations . . . When you’re getting into books with margin illustrations, now, that’s a whole ‘nother animal.

  • June 27, 2009 at 11:03 am

    Well, I find in e-format that hanging indents disappear. I was completely confused in one novel I read in e-book format until I went and bought the PDF instead and saw the hanging indents. Whatever happens in the “translation” to mobi or kindle or sony reader with hanging indents isn’t nice. I suppose there must be a way, but it’s too obvious that whoever converted the novel I was reading into e-format missed the how-to details.

  • June 27, 2009 at 11:07 am

    I can tell you what happens. It’s not QA inspected. Each different e-book format takes a slightly different protocol. What works for one won’t work for another. You have to go through each format to find the mistakes and fix them.

    Kindle formatting is hit-or-miss because the person who uploads it could upload a perfect document and it would come out crappily. You have to really know what you’re doing to get a K to look right.

    What worked for me was formatting the HTML file for MOBI, then plugging the MOBI (because that’s what the K format is) into the digital upload platform. Comes out nearly identical. You just have to make sure your MOBI file is as perfect (and STREAMLINED) as it can be.

  • June 27, 2009 at 11:29 am

    You might think about writing up an article on the subject for authors. You seem to have a good, substantial handle on the process.

  • June 27, 2009 at 11:32 am

    I’m in the process, but got distracted. (I blame the ADD.)

    I’ll be the first, though, to admit that my “experience” is by trial and error, and because I can’t seem to locate the right kind of help/instructions for my learning type.

    However clumsy or inefficient it may be to a professional, it DOES work, so I can say that, at least concerning my own process, I know what I’m doing.

  • June 27, 2009 at 11:52 am

    Great. That will certainly help folks in need. And “organic” help is usually the best.


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