Ebooks have revolutionized self publishing; opening the door to authorial success for anyone with a keyboard and an Internet connection. A myriad of marketplaces, each with their own special requirements, can raise some complications for the first-time digital author. So when first putting a title up for sale, it’s critical to make sure your ebook renders well across all devices. Save yourself from nasty comments criticizing poor formatting by easily avoiding these three big errors (learned through Vook’s own experience creating thousands of ebooks):
Error #1: Only designing an ebook for a specific device
Not all devices support the same styling features. For example, typeface is rendered on Kindle Fires (KF8) but not eInk Kindles (mobi). Text wrapping is supported on iPads and Nooks, but not on any Kindles. This chart covers how the major e-readers render common styling elements. If omitting any of these reduces the clarity of your content, consider tweaking your manuscript to ensure top-notch quality across all devices.
Error #2: Ignoring the limitations of reflowable ebooks
The standard ebooks right now are “reflowable,” meaning that the pages scale to fit different screen and font sizes by changing page breaks and paragraph widths. This ensures that the text is legible on all types of devices and screen sizes, offering the best reading experience. This flexibility, however, comes with some limitations: reflowable ebooks cannot support full-bleed images, text placed over images, and multiple columns of text. Remove these elements from the outset so that your manuscript isn’t dependent upon these features. (One side note: highly stylized children’s books, coffee-table books, and comics are often published in a “fixed-layout” ebook format, which preserves each page’s content but is costlier to produce.
Error #3: Adding unnecessary elements
Anchor links—links to other parts within the ebook—are used for footnotes, endnotes, TOC’s, and glossaries, but they create an arduous, costly process that can be reduced thanks to e-readers’ built-in capabilities. E-readers automatically generate a table of contents that can save authors hours of time building and testing TOC links. E-readers also let you search for terms, quickly guiding readers to glossaries and indices. Text wrapping, while aesthetically pleasing, is another formatting element that is tricky given the reflowable nature of most ebooks. Imagine a reader increasing the text size on a page with wrapped text. As the text gets larger around an image, the paragraph aligned with the image gets narrower and narrower, until all that you’re left with is a few words against the entire image.
All that said, these limitations aren’t as prohibitive as they may seem. They’re put in place to ensure that your readers have a smooth experience and, hopefully, keep coming back for more.
Matt Cavnar is VP of Business Development at Vook.