Formatting eBooks is very different from formatting for print and has different requirements. When formatting a book for print you know exactly what the end product is going to look like. As an example, for a print book you will know:
· The size of the pages in inches or millimeters
· The size of the font
· Line spacing, indent and margins
· The number of pages
· Where exactly each chapter starts and ends
Since every printed copy of a specific book looks exactly like the others, you can format your work with that in mind and optimize as much as you can for readability. As a formatter you have full control of what the reader will actually see and experience throughout your print book.
This is quite different for eBooks.
In the case of eBooks you know pretty much nothing:
· The book might be read on a small phone or a large tablet changing the size of the page itself and how much text you can fit on it
· The reader might want to pick different font sizes and styles based on her or his personal preference
· The reader might pick different column layouts or multiple columns per page
· The concept of a “page number” loses most of its meaning due to all the factors above
AT this point you might ask “why should I spend any time formatting my eBook?”
Most eBook readers, like the Amazon Kindle devices, will allow the reader to control these aspects of the reading experience providing the user with unprecedented control compared to the traditional paper medium. Readers will expect your eBook to behave in a certain way when changing font sizes or font faces.
On the side you can see an example of the text appearance dialog for Amazon’s Kindle Fire HDX. From here you can control the text size, the background, the margins, line spacing and the font face. In some Kindle apps you can also control the number of text columns per page.
Common issues with a poorly formatted eBook are fonts not resizing or font face not changing despite the reader changing the settings, problems with font color like a white font on a white background, problems with pictures being too big or too small, etc.
This is in my opinion a bad experience. Some books might have a need for fixed formatting, with a specific font and font size. In those cases it’s really important to understand that the reader might be confused and due to the extremely large number of devices and screen sizes, you might run into formatting issues that actually make your book harder to read. Not something you generally want.
Formatting an eBook is a crucial aspect of the publishing workflow and needs to be taken seriously to make your product look professional and provide the reader with a great reading experience.
The formatting workflow looks something like this:
· Preparing the content for formatting
· Assembling the book content: cover, front matter, content, back matter
· Adding content navigation
· Adding the eBook metadata
· Testing the eBook
After successfully testing the eBook you will have your content ready for publishing.
Next article will start looking at how to prepare your content for formatting and make your life easier. See you soon. If in the meantime you have any questions, feel free to hit me on Twitter @robertoruggeri
About me: I am a technology freak, that’s pretty much it. I spent pretty much all my life in Information Technology. I started working for Microsoft in 1998 and I am still there making up the future of Xbox. When I am off work I play videogames, but every day that goes on I feel more like a videogame collector, I wish I could play them all. I am an amateur photographer, a Canon guy really, and a comic book collector, X-Men FTW! You can find me on twitter, Xbox and PlayStation Network and I have some photos up on Flickr if you want to connect.
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