yet some very big names in publishing absolutely don’t take them seriously. Some of these clueless imprints either refuse to release any part of their catalogs digitally, or worse, are happy to charge customers $9.99 for a completely misshapen file.
Here are just a few of the defects I’ve seen in eBook files that I paid for:
(3) Books with no indentation or skipped lines when starting a new paragraph.
(4) Books with many skipped lines between paragraphs, essentially putting each paragraph on a new page.
(5) Books with indents that run half of the line width, nearing a full two inches.
(6) Books with random paragraph breaks, often in mid-sentence, that don’t correspond to the paragraph breaks in the printed version.
(7) Books with images placed in random locations in the text, often pages away from where they’re meant to appear.
(8) Books that are not fully justified, but are instead left- or right-justified.
(9) Books with hard carriage returns inserted that use narrower margins than the device, so that they look like they were originally written in verse, a narrow poem running down the left side of the screen, even though they were not.
I can honestly say that I’ve bought more misshapen eBooks than properly formatted eBooks; it seems to be the norm for the Kindle store. Even the world of open content/open software, like Gutenberg.net, often falls down with its files.
It’s beyond me that companies in particular can’t get files right and are willing to sell them in essentially unreadable condition. First off, it really makes them look cheap and incompetent—in most cases, these are just HTML files after all, either compressed (mobi) or DRMed (azw) into other formats. Second, they’ve charged me money for a broken product. Third, my general remedy is exactly the sort of thing publishers claim to want to prevent—I immediately copy the file to my PC, crack it wide open, fix it myself, and copy it back to my Kindle.
At the end of the day, this is going to separate the men from the boys in the publishing world to come. Publishers and authors who do or who demand high gloss in their eBooks really stand out, and at least in my case, it generates repeat sales. I’ve got nearly 500 eBooks on my Kindle, and I’m not alone—Amazon.com sold more Kindle eBooks than paper books during the holiday season that just passed, and the Kindle device itself is their single top selling product.
Publishers that can’t take eBooks seriously will increasingly be the ones sitting in their luddic corner, complaining that technology is killing the book and publishing in general. Publishers that realize readers are dying to buy and read their favorite authors digitally will rake in the bucks in the meantime in a new publishing world that can be driven—in ways that the old one never could—by the immediate impulse buy.
As an aside, magazines are busy closing their doors. If anyone goes the way of the dodo, it may be the magazine, a format whose primary advantage was its form—a form radically outdone by the web.
Three of our magazines have closed up shop in the last couple months, not all of them in the Condé Nast family.
Final aside: the 16:9 aspect ratio is really not the greatest for desktop computing. Sure, it’s nice for showing Hollywood films if you spend your life caring deeply about such things, but for actual text-based work of the type most computer users do, it’s the opposite of the ideal display.
Longer lines are harder, not easier to read, and the lines in a word processor or web browser maximized to a 16:9 aspect ratio get very long indeed.
I was looking for “screen partitioning” software the other day, something that would let me create virtual desktops not on virtual screens, but on a real screen. I’d love to be able to “split” the screen into two halves and have a window maximize button only blow the screen up to the width of the half of the screen it’s on.