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The Oddities of Digital Books

At these tech conferences, you hear a lot about the enhanced ebook. There is the belief amongst some publishers that if they throw in some video and audio, we readers would be willing to pay more for a digital book. This might be true in some circumstances and I’m not discounting a market for enhanced books, but this is one area in which I wish publishers would learn how to walk before they started running. By that I mean, let’s perfect the plain old digital book. The following are a series of screen caps from Maili as she was browsing her Sony Reader and Kindle libraries of digital books. Click on the screencap to start a slideshow.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

60 Comments

  1. Nadia Lee
    Apr 17, 2011 @ 05:41:38

    Hear hear! It’s totally annoying to get messed up text. I don’t understand why they want to add videos and audio, and I’m not confident that “enhanced” stuff is going to be done right.

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  2. Ros
    Apr 17, 2011 @ 06:04:40

    I would be very happy to settle for proof-read ebooks. So many of the books I’ve bought have random spaces in words, or run-on words, or borked punctuation symbols – stuff that indicates quite clearly that no one has bothered to read through the ebook before selling it.

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  3. joanne
    Apr 17, 2011 @ 06:19:56

    Wow. Fortunately I’ve never seen that sort of thing in the samples or books that I have ordered. On any device.

    My one wish is that publishers would just give us one format for all devices and keep their ads and enhancements for their rah-rah yay-us conventions.

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  4. karen wester newton
    Apr 17, 2011 @ 08:10:54

    Most ebook formatting oddities come from using the exact same file that was used to produce the print issue for the ebook. Anything that was done to make the print look nice, such as inserting a hard hyphen into a word to control where it breaks, or using a non-breaking space, result in weird glitches in the ebook, like bad hyphen- ation and runtogether words.

    The solution lies in workflow. Publishers need to treat their books as data, and convert the authors’ word processing files to a neutral but richly tagged format, like XML or SGML so they can make edits and corrections in one place, and then develop conversions that output the XML/SGML files to the desired formats– print, ePub, Mobi, etc. Anything needed solely for print, like page numbers, is not in XML/SGML file unless it is tagged as being only for print. This is going to be a real leap for a lot of publishers, but it has the potential to make their books more valuable because new formats are not a problem, even for old books.

    Until they do that, editors will have to either proof and edit the files used for ebooks or put out crappy-looking books. A lot of them have chosen crappy-looking books.

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  5. Merrian
    Apr 17, 2011 @ 08:27:23

    I also think they need to move a lot of the non-story stuff to the back of the book. What worked/was OK in print is annoying in ebooks when you have to click through a dozen pages to get to the first page of the story.

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  6. Las
    Apr 17, 2011 @ 08:43:54

    Seriously, let’s proofread the damn things before we start with videos. Not that I have any interest in video or audio, anyway. I would never pay more for them, and if included I wouldn’t watch/listen.

    The only features that might interest me enough to consider paying extra would be things like deleted scenes or alternative endings, but that would depend on the author and type of story.

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  7. Susan Helene Gottfried
    Apr 17, 2011 @ 10:19:30

    The problem lies in the fact that books start as one file and are converted into many formats. Most of us who do it ourselves can’t afford someone to recode into XML, and for us to do it ourselves means time taken away from promotion and writing new books. It’s a delicate balancing act and often, we are unaware of how our books look in every single format out there. Smashwords alone converts into ten formats.

    Readers, please understand that we’re ALL doing our best, no matter who publishes us. This is the Wild West of publishing right now. There are a million bugs to work out, and we’re doing our best. Those extra spaces and words that are run together are entirely a function of the process that takes our book from a file (.pdf, Word, or whatever) and puts it into something your reader can make sense of. It’s not us! (Misspellings and bad grammar are, and I challenge you to find a book, no matter who published it, without either of these.)

    Hopefully the e-reader battle will shake down into one format (I’m pulling for .epub, myself) and then authors and publishers and the pros who have sprung up specifically to handle formatting issues will be able to fix all this.

    In the meantime, please remember: It’s the Wild West out here.

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  8. library addict
    Apr 17, 2011 @ 10:29:04

    Also, why put *** or the fancy line that denotes a section break which starts on a new page in the hardcover or paperback print version in the digital version when all the rest of the section breaks are just extra whitespace? Format all of the digital section breaks the same please.

    And I know it’s been said a thousand times already, but for older books which have been scanned to create a digital file, proofread, proofread, proofread. 1 is not I, ff is not ll, ] is not j, etc…

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  9. Janine
    Apr 17, 2011 @ 10:48:54

    I just figured out that if you click on the screen caps you can see enlarged versions, and as you click on each one, the next appears. Great job Maili!

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  10. Jane
    Apr 17, 2011 @ 10:53:28

    @Susan Helene Gottfried: It might be the wild west out there but the problem is that we are being asked to pay the prices of a first world product when we are getting sub standard product. Why should readers be patient while publishers get their products polished? If we are merely beta testers then maybe we should get the product for free.

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  11. Christine Pope
    Apr 17, 2011 @ 10:54:18

    @library addict: I think it has to do with the markup in the XML file. Usually when you’re exporting a book — say, if you’re exporting to Adobe Digital Editions from InDesign to create an epub file — you have to have styles set up to create a space before and after a scene break (or after a chapter heading). If you don’t, then you won’t get the proper spacing. E-books have to have some sort of characters in place to apply those styles to, which is why (right now, anyway) you see those fancy scene breaks. If they weren’t there, the scenes would just run together. I’m guessing it’s probably the same in Word, but I don’t use Word to create digital files, so I can’t really comment on that.

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  12. Nadia Lee
    Apr 17, 2011 @ 11:07:50

    @Susan Helene Gottfried: I agree with what Jane said. Why should readers have to pay for unreadable, poorly formatted ebooks?

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  13. library addict
    Apr 17, 2011 @ 11:15:00

    @Christine Pope: No, I get that. What bothers me is when you have 34 section breaks which are just plain whitespace and 3 which are the fancy line breaks (*** or lines). And the only reason the fancy ones are there is because that particular section break happened to start at the top of a page in the print version.

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  14. Keishon
    Apr 17, 2011 @ 11:27:32

    @Susan Helene Gottfried: I concur with Jane as well. These are not Wild Wild West prices publishers are extorting from us for their shoddy work. We also know or at least it’s perceived as much, that digital books are the disdain of publishing. So forgive me for not being as understanding toward publishers in their snail pace response to put out a better quality product in the midst of a growing demand for another (preferred) format.

    This post is very timely indeed as I’m currently reading an ebook, translated work, that has each chapter start 1/4th from the bottom of the screen. Strange. Also, thank goodness that my reader has an adjustment for font size XL option just to get it to readable–medium font size–reading condition otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to read the tiny, tiny, tiny font. Outside of Kindle, most ebook vendors do not refund or even fix files like this so we’re stuck with it. There are days when I wonder to myself: why do I even bother but like many other digital readers, we have been there and done that. We’re here to stay.

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  15. Jane
    Apr 17, 2011 @ 11:44:22

    @Keishon: One thing we’ve also talked about at these digital conferences is how pirated versions of books often have higher quality than the legal versions and are more standard in appearance and conformity. We’ve urged publishers to increase their quality because they should never allow pirates (or illegal versions) to be a) easier to access and b) of higher quality.

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  16. Elena
    Apr 17, 2011 @ 11:46:13

    @Ros:

    I’ve had books where all the chapters are gone, it’s just one file. Now that’s fun! It slows the reader down to a crawl (and in this case, it was an anthology of short stories, so I couldn’t go back to double check who wrote what at all).

    Yeah, they need to do some more proof reading.

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  17. Sunita
    Apr 17, 2011 @ 11:47:32

    The errors wouldn’t be so annoying if we weren’t paying exactly the same prices for e that we are for print and then getting a print book full of formatting errors.

    I agree that almost every book has uncaught errors. But leaving the formatting the same as a print book, and then charging premium prices? That’s adding insult to injury.

    ETA: @Jane @Keishon I swear I had better formatted books from the free files at Memoware back in the day than some of the stuff I get now. And I think the Agency pubs are the worst offenders. For a while Harlequin was having problems but those seem to have been cleared up since the switch to epub only.

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  18. Jane
    Apr 17, 2011 @ 11:48:45

    @Ros: I think Random House is the worse offender of this. I waver between being grateful that there is a digital version and sad that there is no quality control.

    I think that the digital publishers like Carina and Samhain do a better job of delivering a quality ebook (although there are tons of things i would change about the Samhain ebook including getting rid of the extra matter at the end which screws up how much of the book is left). But the print first publishers are really struggling with producing a quality digital book and it is those publishers that talk about enhanced books the most.

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  19. Jane
    Apr 17, 2011 @ 11:52:18

    @Merrian – there is some coding trick that allows a book to start at page 1, chapter 1. Harlequin uses it.

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  20. Kerensa
    Apr 17, 2011 @ 11:58:20

    @Susan Helene Gottfried: I don’t think anyone here is blaming the AUTHOR for the shoddy ebook conversions. However, I agree with all previous commenters that PUBLISHERS shouldn’t be allowed to get away with making me pay top dollar for subpar product.

    If I pay full price for an ebook, I deserve to get a functional, proofread file that is in its top form. A few mistakes here or there is forgivable. Shoddy formatting, typos, and obvious mistakes throughout are not – especially because that’s the sort of thing that stands out if you just SKIM the file once (not even go through “deep” line edits) before putting it up for sale.

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  21. Christine Pope
    Apr 17, 2011 @ 11:58:55

    @library addict: Oh, well, then that’s just someone being lazy and not checking the file properly before it’s uploaded. ;-)

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  22. Dana S
    Apr 17, 2011 @ 13:16:10

    Badly formatted ebooks annoy me so much. Just off the top of my head there are:

    Jo Goodman’s Marry me has a bunch of typos.

    Amanda Quick’s backlist (Dangerous was unreadable). Or any backlist released by Random House.

    Sourcebook releases of Georgette Heyer. Arabella has absolutely no italics, Charity Girl has multiple formatting issues, so does The Nonesuch. In fact, most of their Heyer books have either horrible formatting or really odd formatting.

    The Lord of the Rings Trilogy is riddled with typos.

    And publishers wonder why people pirate books.

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  23. Ridley
    Apr 17, 2011 @ 13:36:38

    Weird formatting is not the exclusive domain of legacy publishers. Lately, the books I get in epub from Samhain are set with font so teeny-tiny that I have to bump the size to L to be able to read it. I read every other publisher’s ebooks on S.

    It’s kinda frustrating.

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  24. FiaQ
    Apr 17, 2011 @ 13:38:44

    I regret I didn’t take more screen caps (there were so many!):

    1) no book cover. Just a grey pub-logo patterned background with author’s name and book title. This drives me crazy.
    2) odd formatting typos: € for K, $ for S and so on.
    3) tiny text. My Sony Reader has only three font sizes so when it’s at its largest, it’s still too tiny to read.
    4) editor’s notes left in. (I still can’t remember which book was this because I definitely would have taken a screen cap of those notes as proof.)
    5) illustrations skew pages in a digital book.
    6) illustrations too small to see in a digital book.
    7) illustrations don’t even show up in a digital book.

    I’m turning to Kindle more because Amazon so far is the only retailer that would refund a badly-formatted digital book.

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  25. Dana S
    Apr 17, 2011 @ 13:44:58

    @Ridley: Yes! I’ve noticed that too. I’ve been having to manually edit the css files.

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  26. FiaQ
    Apr 17, 2011 @ 13:51:07

    Two more!

    8) No table of contents or lack of hyperlinks in table of contents.
    9) bundled books or anthologies with no hyperlinked table of contents.

    @Jane:

    I think Random House is the worse offender of this. I waver between being grateful that there is a digital version and sad that there is no quality control.

    For me, top five offenders are Penguin, Random House, Dreamspinner, Harlequin Manga (typesetting is arguably the worst I’ve seen), and HarperCollins.

    The best ones are – which I admit still surprises me – Canongate and Gollancz.

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  27. pita
    Apr 17, 2011 @ 13:58:10

    There is the belief amongst some publishers that if they through in some video and audio, we readers would be willing to pay more for a digital book.

    Cough. Could we start with proof-reading our articles decrying the lack of proof-reading of ebooks?

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  28. library addict
    Apr 17, 2011 @ 14:01:59

    @FiaQ: The LIT version of Loyalty in Death I bought at Fictionwise (in the days before Agency pricing) has some strange instruction sheet at the end about Quark Application, PDF, and embedded fonts.

    Borders has been really good about refunding money for badly-formatted digital books. And the Sony Reader Store has been as well.

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  29. Jane
    Apr 17, 2011 @ 14:02:52

    @pita thanks for catching my errors. Good thing i am not charging 7.99 per post.

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  30. Brian
    Apr 17, 2011 @ 14:36:28

    @Susan Helene Gottfried: From reading your post I assume you’re mainly referring to folks who are self-pubbing?

    The problem lies in the fact that books start as one file and are converted into many formats. Most of us who do it ourselves can’t afford someone to recode into XML, and for us to do it ourselves means time taken away from promotion and writing new books. It’s a delicate balancing act and often, we are unaware of how our books look in every single format out there. Smashwords alone converts into ten formats.

    Of those ten formats most aren’t overly necessary and Smashwords often makes books look horrible with their ‘meatgrinder’. There is no reason an author who’s using Smashwords shouldn’t be aware of how their books look in every format. There are free readers out there for the various format so they could at the very least be given a spot check. The XML workflow is a good one, but not something every self-pubbed author really needs to worry about. A perfectly formatted ebook can be had using a word processing program and a few free tools.

    Readers, please understand that we’re ALL doing our best, no matter who publishes us. This is the Wild West of publishing right now. There are a million bugs to work out, and we’re doing our best. Those extra spaces and words that are run together are entirely a function of the process that takes our book from a file (.pdf, Word, or whatever) and puts it into something your reader can make sense of. It’s not us!

    It is you, or whoever is publishing your book if you can’t take a small amount of time to check for basic things like words run together which can generally be found quite easily. If I as a consumer can fix some of the crappy stuff I’ve bought in 15-30 min. then there’s no reason someone offering it for sale couldn’t have done the same.

    Hopefully the e-reader battle will shake down into one format (I’m pulling for .epub, myself) and then authors and publishers and the pros who have sprung up specifically to handle formatting issues will be able to fix all this.

    There really are only two formats that an author/publisher MUST offer anymore, ePub and Mobi/azw. Any others are a nice bonus, but not overly necessary.

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  31. Ilona Andrews
    Apr 17, 2011 @ 14:41:23

    With a publisher released e-book, usually it’s out of author’s hands. But I know that our editor at Ace at least puts in requests to have the ebook corrected if something odd happens.

    With a self-published e-book (not the same as e-published, but self-published, as in released by the author), the burden of formatting rests on the author. This bit me in the butt before, as I released something that wasn’t copy-edited, and it was a disaster. The fault is mine. When I put anything out as an e-release, it is up to me to make sure it is properly formatted.

    When self-e-publishing started, there were very few guides on how to format things. And the market place was also in a different stage. Now, however, there are guides and workshops. Nadia Lee above has a very simple and clear guide on how to format for both .mobi and .epub. I’ve used it; it’s solid and results in a clearly presented product.

    Honestly, speaking from experience, simple is best. Don’t illustrate, don’t use fancy squiglies to mark scene breaks, don’t load the book with the front page acknowledgments/bio silliness. Page for copyright, page for title, and off we go.

    That said, it is trial and error in some cases. It took me three releases to finally get to the point where I am confident in the e-book standing up to scrutiny. Now I just have to go back and fix the first few disasters. And – whether I like it or not – these few clunky releases did damage my credibility as an author.

    PS. And, just as a warning, running things through Smashwords sometimes results in badly formatted books. I’d strongly urge anyone who can’t format things themselves to bite the bullet and pay a couple hundred bucks for the conversion by a pro. The negative publicity that results from badly made books isn’t worth the savings.

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  32. Brian
    Apr 17, 2011 @ 14:51:29

    I’ve currently got six Harlequin books an one Samhain title all from Kobo that have various formatting issues. The Harlequin’s all have messed up/missing covers and title pages. Words run together and missing italics. The Samhain title is missing it’s italics too. The thing is I know, from samples off Amazon and B&N and from others who have the same books from elsewhere, that these errors are specific to Kobo. The books are fine everywhere else. Harlequin has sent Kobo new copies of the books twice (might be three times now) and they for some reason can’t manage to get them replaced (this has been going on since September). At this point Kobo has even marked the support ticket as closed/resolved even though it isn’t. Michael Tamblyn (EVP Content, Sales & Merchandising) has said he’d look into it multiple times and hasn’t either. Note: I was offered a refund at one point, but as the total cost for all seven books wasn’t very much (I used coupons) I’d rather they work out what it takes to get it fixed so maybe the next person hit with this problem has it go smoothly.

    I guess my point is while it’s ultimately the publishers responsibility since they’re the ones offering the books they aren’t always totally at fault. Something with Kobo caused/is causing the problem in this case. They’re older titles so I don’t know if something was done back when Kobo was called Short Covers and it never got fixed or what.

    ————————————

    Another recent case of bad formatting was Lindsay Sand’s ‘Hungry for You’ which had enough formatting problems to fill eleven pages in Word. Luckily I was able to dig up Erika Tsang’s email address and after a two month wait they’ve issued an updated version that appears error free. Thing is I had to pay more than I would have for the paperback for the privilege of doing their proofreading for them.

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  33. Jane
    Apr 17, 2011 @ 14:54:37

    @Brian I agree regarding the “two formats” an author must offer and that is epub and mobi. I don’t really understand why Smashwords requires 10 formats?

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  34. Moriah Jovan
    Apr 17, 2011 @ 14:57:35

    In 3 years as a freelance formatter, I’ve found that most of my clients (including publishers) have never read an ebook and have no desire to, so they don’t know how it looks and don’t care. They simply want their work to be in E–which is okay as long as they understand that it needs to look nice.

    However, it does lead me to conclude that the badly formatted books out there are also done by people who think of E as a burden, a red-headed stepchild, and a cash cow.

    It doesn’t affect them personally (or they can’t see/feel the effect), so it doesn’t matter.

    (And then there are the people who insist that their funky print formatting be recreated faithfully in E for devices that reflow and change font sizes and will not believe that it is simply going to annoy the customer. Well, that’s what PDFs are for.)

    As to Brian’s point about the free readers: There are a lot of things that don’t render the same way on, say, Kindle for PC that they do on the Kindle, so an author judging her formatting on that basis is likely to be deceived and still annoy a customer.

    ETA: I spend a lot of time talking to people and teaching them the critical basis points of how an ebook customer reads and what they expect to see.

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  35. Brian
    Apr 17, 2011 @ 14:59:06

    @Jane: I think they just offer them all because it’s no harder than offering two. It all comes from the one file the author submits to the meatgrinder. It would really be nice if they optionally allowed an author to upload hand made files. I know some authors who won’t sell on Smashwords because of this.

    Nine times out of ten if an author can get their book into a nice ePub file they’re set. Using KindleGen or Kindle Previewer will take care of the Mobi/azw file most times (not always).

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  36. Dana S
    Apr 17, 2011 @ 15:00:21

    @Brian: I’ve stopped buying older Harlequin titles from Kobo (and from Borders). I bought several older Helen Brooks and Susan Napier HP books from Kobo, and they all had the problems you described. I’ve called and emailed Kobo, but nothing ever gets done. They have horrible customer service, which is one reason I will not buy their ereader.

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  37. Brian
    Apr 17, 2011 @ 15:01:36

    @Moriah Jovan:

    As to Brian’s point about the free readers: There are a lot of things that don’t render the same way on, say, Kindle for PC that they do on the Kindle, so an author judging her formatting on that basis is likely to be deceived and still annoy a customer.

    That’s what the Kindle Previewer software is for (as opposed to K4PC). I know the desktop stuff isn’t always 100%, but it can often help catch the big problems and it’s quite clear that many of these files aren’t really looked over at all.

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  38. Moriah Jovan
    Apr 17, 2011 @ 15:01:39

    @Jane: They don’t require it. They’re all just options.

    The others are java (online only) and html (online only), neither of which render images or other specialized formatting correctly.

    Then there are PDB, LRF, RTF, TXT.

    Totally optional.

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  39. Kerry
    Apr 17, 2011 @ 15:02:44

    @karen wester newton:

    Thanks for explaining how the use of non-breaking spaces is what causes the run together words.

    I just read an ebook with that problem an couldn’t figure out the issue. I could work out the issue with the hyphens, but not the run together words.

    It’s still annoying, but at least now I know why.

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  40. Moriah Jovan
    Apr 17, 2011 @ 15:11:22

    @Brian:

    It would really be nice if they optionally allowed an author to upload hand made files.

    They did, at first. I broke the meatgrinder with my HTML. Twice. Took it down for an entire weekend. That’s how they know what it’ll take to enable that.

    ETA: The Smashwords meatgrinder is built on a Calibre foundation, FWIW.

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  41. Moriah Jovan
    Apr 17, 2011 @ 15:12:01

    @Brian:

    Ah, the previewer. Gotcha. I misread.

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  42. Moriah Jovan
    Apr 17, 2011 @ 15:14:51

    @Brian: The big publishers, I believe, put their EPUB through KindleGen to create the MOBI. It can end up a right mess.

    Some of this is Amazon’s fault, though, with saying, “Yes, you can use X file to upload,” but then the results are less than optimal.

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  43. Brian
    Apr 17, 2011 @ 15:28:30

    @Moriah Jovan: Yeah, KindleGen (prcgen) can certainly make a mess sometimes. I’ve used it quite a bit myself for coverting ePub’s purchased from small pubs so I could read them on the Kindle and generally had better results than the publishers own Mobi file, but yeah sometimes it’ll do weird things (which is why the pubs need to proofread).

    I’ve noticed a lot of small pubs using Calibre to make the files they sell too. As much as I love Calibre some of those are the ugliest files I’ve ever seen (it can take some work to use Calibre depending on source material).

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  44. Moriah Jovan
    Apr 17, 2011 @ 15:31:36

    @Brian:

    I’ve noticed a lot of small pubs using Calibre to make the files they sell too. As much as I love Calibre some of those are the ugliest files I’ve ever seen (it can take some work to use Calibre depending on source material).

    Which is why I refuse to use it in my shop. I can’t always tell what created a file until I crack it open, but Calibre’s at the heart of some of the worst I’ve seen.

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  45. Liz Mc
    Apr 17, 2011 @ 16:09:20

    I’ve come to believe that most publishers don’t see those of us who like/prefer to read electronically as actual “readers”: it seems we are not literate enough to notice or care about typos and formatting errors, and we need to be entertained/distracted by video, audio, and other people’s marginal comments in our books. No thanks. I just want a readable book. One reason I like my dedicated e-reader is that I can read without being distracted the way I am on my laptop.

    That publishers are incresingly thinking about how to cater to non-readers with multi-media products makes me very unhappy, because I fear publishers are about to dump readers for all those people who haven’t read a book since high school.

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  46. Sandir
    Apr 17, 2011 @ 16:35:12

    I wouldn’t pay more for an enhanced ebook because I feel ebook prices are too high as it is. Especially when ebooks are riddled with typos and formatting issues. Cookbooks are the worst in that respect and I’ve just stopped buying them.

    Every time I’ve contacted a publisher or author about a poorly formatted ebook they’ve either demonstrated zero knowledge of ebooks or they’ve blown me off.

    Amazon does have a way to report poor formatting and typos – on each ebook listing you scroll down to the blue Feedback rectangle at the bottom of the page. I’ve done that before but the ebooks I’ve complained about (one cookbook had 15 typos in just the recipe names and 5 typos in just one recipe) have not been corrected and updated. sigh

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  47. Mike Cane
    Apr 17, 2011 @ 16:53:33

    Yes, I’ve run into that at least once. No one is paying attention to it, no one cares. So, based on that thrilling Sample, did you finally buy? Hahahaha

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  48. Ros
    Apr 17, 2011 @ 18:24:36

    @Susan Helene Gottfried: Susan, I’m sure you’re doing your best. I am less convinced that Harlequin are really doing their best. They sell a LOT of ebooks and they charge the same price as for their print books. I think they could at least do customers the courtesy of checking the formats they sell on their own site.

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  49. Kelly Bishop
    Apr 17, 2011 @ 18:54:30

    I’ve had my Kindle 2 for almost two years now. I have seen a lot of typos/formatting errors. Some books were unreadable they were so bad. In all that time, I’ve only gotten ONE message from Amazon that a book had been updated (presumably for corrections, although Amazon didn’t say so.)

    The one error that annoyed me the most was in J. D. Robb’s Immortal In Death (Spoiler follows if you haven’t read it). The book is SUPPOSED to end with Eve heading out the door to get married. Well, when I bought the ebook, it didn’t end there. Instead it continued on with several pages from the first chapter of the next book, Rapture in Death. Anyone who read the ebook who hadn’t read it before in print would end up a little confused.

    I emailed Amazon about it. Hey easy fix, just put in a few blank lines and add the words “Excerpt from the next book in the series”. Nope. Amazon told me that they had contacted the publisher and they weren’t going to do any updates at this time. So Amazon just refunded my money & deleted the book from my account. Not what I wanted.

    I wouldn’t mind the errors so much if the publishers would FIX them. But for some reason, they don’t think they should have to bother.

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  50. karen wester newton
    Apr 17, 2011 @ 19:05:17

    After reading everyone else’s complaints, it occurs to me that I should pass on a recent example of part of the problem: publishers simply don’t care about the ebook. I bought a Kindle book that was published by a small press. It had a real problem with run-together words (in one case, the two words bumped together made a naughty word!). There were a few instances of bad paragraphs (blocking indenting) but the run-together words were the most ubiquitous problem. One entire line of text had no spaces! As I read, I annotated the book to note the problems, using the Kindle annotation feature. Then I emailed the publisher offering to tell theme exactly where the problems were. They wrote back, noting that errors did tend to creep in to new workflows and that some devices didn’t display things as well as others (yeah, right, it was my Kindle’s fault). And then they suggested that if I wanted a nice looking copy of the book, I should buy the trade paper version because it has nice typography and graphics!

    I know it’s not the author’s fault, and as much as I enjoyed that book, I am strongly tempted not to buy another book from that publisher again.

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  51. Kaetrin
    Apr 17, 2011 @ 19:19:37

    @Brian:
    Yes. What Brian said.

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  52. Joy
    Apr 17, 2011 @ 19:21:48

    I get the “stripped cover” mmpb warning in e-books, too, sometimes, which amuses me, probably more than it would amuse me if it took up a whole page of a 24-page sample.

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  53. Nadia Lee
    Apr 17, 2011 @ 20:45:33

    @Ilona Andrews:

    Nadia Lee above has a very simple and clear guide on how to format for both .mobi and .epub. I’ve used it; it’s solid and results in a clearly presented product.

    Thank you. :)

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  54. Andrea K Host
    Apr 17, 2011 @ 22:39:26

    With the books I’ve been purchasing lately for Kindle (primarily cosy mysteries), I’ve noticed that in most cases the traditional front matter has been shifted to the end, or they’re using the [start] HTML code which means the book is opening after the front matter. Either works for me.

    I shake my head at the enhanced ebook drive. Fine for non-fiction, and perhaps children’s books, but for the average novel I’m interested in “just the text, Ma’am”. It’s funny that there’s some publishers who want to hang the ebooks with all these extra bells and whistles, and others who won’t even embed the cover graphic.

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  55. De
    Apr 18, 2011 @ 00:40:24

    @Ridley:

    Yes! I’ve started running there stuff through Calibre and converting epub to epub before sending them to my reader. If I HAD to, I could read them on large, but I’d have a headache from it. I just convert and don’t even try.

    I used to not have that problem with there stuff, so it’s a newer thing.

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  56. Estara
    Apr 18, 2011 @ 06:32:06

    *ROFFFFFFFFFFFFFFL* Maili, that was PRICELESS! And so true, too.

    @De: I second this ^^ – with my bad eyes I’ve set base font size at 14 points and enjoy reading without having to increase font on the reader itself.

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  57. Anne Ardeur
    Apr 18, 2011 @ 12:53:35

    This really annoys me. I have a ton of badly-formatted ebooks on my Kindle and in my Calibre library – some of them are galleys/ARCs, which I can *maybe* excuse because they’re not quite the finished product yet, but the ones that aren’t… ugh.

    Most publishers would never dream of issuing a print book in the same state as some of the ebooks I’ve seen, why is there a different (or complete lack of) standard for ebooks? Formatting and legibility is just as important in the small screen space of an ebook reader as it is on a paper page.

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  58. Sandia
    Apr 20, 2011 @ 08:35:39

    The most recent bad offender I read was Lover Unleashed. I had pre-odreded the ebook at $14.99 and the typos were horrible throughout the book. The first word in the chapter would be butchered. I couldn’t tell what was JR Ward trying to be hip and what was actually a typo. I was so annoyed I actually wrote a review.

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  59. Jane
    Apr 20, 2011 @ 08:58:59

    @Sandia With ebooks, I’m always worried that I got a corrupted version or something.

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  60. Sandia
    Apr 20, 2011 @ 13:12:05

    @Jane: I used to fear that it was just me before. But the more I read comments on Amazon or even this thread and the similar comments on SBTB, the less concerned I feel about being jipped. Everyone’s getting jipped.

    ReplyReply

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