“File Save As” eBook is not acceptable

We all know that there is a big rush to get print books out as eBooks, but there is no excuse for simply converting a print book to an eBook without looking at it to see how well it worked and more importantly designing it for an eBook to begin with.

I love eBooks, especially when I travel. No more lugging around pounds of books to keep me supplied with reading material for my more than 30 weeks of travel a year. These are some of the problems I have seen.

Non-fiction

  • Funny characters instead of bullets
  • Sidebars stuck in the middle of paragraphs
  • Missing images, just blank spaces
  • Index that is not linked
  • No table of contents!
  • Unhelpful TOC (Chapter 1, Chapter 2, etc.)
  • Images separated from their captions
  • What appears to be a form that straddles many “pages”/screens where the rules (lines) wrap strangely, nothing is lined up
  • Tables which are gibberish
  • And more!

Fiction

  • Missing the book itself. Honestly, no kidding! I bought a book that had the intro and no actual book! This was a reputable publisher and purchased from a reputable eBook seller
  • Two copies of the excerpt before I got to the book itself
  • Weird jumps in the text when the narrative switched characters (probably missing blank lines)
  • A character and role description where the character was on one “page” while the related descriptor was two screens later
  • Text which kept repeating itself

Before a book goes to print the press proofs are reviewed to make sure there are no problems. Quality assurance is a critical step in eBooks as well. Other problems can be avoided in the first place. Forms and tables could be images, care could be taken with chapter titles, sidebars can be logically placed.

Many publishers are concerned that by designing good eBooks you end up compromising the quality of the print materials. Not so! It isn’t an either or, it is both. It shouldn’t be print then convert to eBook. It should be content that outputs to print AND eBooks and other outputs as well (mobile, web, etc.). It takes analysis, design and frankly it takes modular XML (a subject for another blog). You can have the best of all worlds, but you have to plan for it.

In the short term, check your eBooks carefully for problems, your readers will thank you for it.

Ann is just putting the finishing touches on a new eBook “eBooks 101: The Digital Content Strategy for Reaching Customers Anywhere, Anytime, on Any Device.”

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