View Full Version : Line Spacing Problem


AuthorGreg
07-12-2012, 04:53 PM
Well, I don't know how many share my opinion, but the Nook Simple Touch, which I bought for reasons that will soon be obvious, is a whole new ballpark for displaying ePubs. It just doesn't flow text as tidy and neat as other Nook models, and nowhere near as good as any Kindle does.

I went to Barnes & Noble a couple of weeks ago, and while in there I realized I had always relied on the Pubit! online previewer or the Nook desktop reader to verify my work. So I downloaded some samples of my own work. On every Nook in the store my stuff looked just like it does on the Kindle. But when I got to the Nook Simple Touch, I was horrified to see some really terrible stuff: Em dashes that had been converted to en dashes was one thing that troubled me in particular.

But it got worse.

On any line where an italicized word appeared, the line height of that line increased by a factor of close to two. The only way I found to combat that was by increasing my line height by 150% using HTML (via the Calibre exploded directory). Doing that really only disguised the problem a little bit. If a Nook Simple Touch reader increased the line height setting to the highest level, none of the line heights expand UNLESS that line has an italicized word on it.

So I bought a Simple Touch and downloaded dozens of sample books. Most have this problem figured out. When the line height is increased on the Simple Touch, ALL of the lines increase in height. But again, for me, only lines with italics increase.

I've already addressed em dashes in another thread, but really, this thing with line spacing is driving me even more batty. Mind you, if a user selects the check mark for "publisher's default," I'm golden. But hardly anyone does that. Almost everyone chooses to narrow the margins and increase the line height.

Anyone else had a problem with this? In Word, I've tried everything for line spacing, but it ain't working. Lines with italics are giving me fits.

Thanks for any thoughts or advice,

Greg

Toxaris
07-13-2012, 03:27 AM
Quite frankly, why should you care? If a reader chooses to ignore the stylesheets defined in the ePUB (publisher's default), that is their choice. If that results in the document not being what they expect, they need to solve it themselves. The creator/publisher has a vision of the book (at least that is what you hope) and that should work.

speakingtohe
07-13-2012, 10:38 AM
Some embedded fonts do this on occasion for me.

Helen

DiapDealer
07-13-2012, 11:42 AM
But when I got to the Nook Simple Touch, I was horrified to see some really terrible stuff: Em dashes that had been converted to en dashes was one thing that troubled me in particular.

I've already addressed em dashes in another thread,
Wait a minute. I know the Nook Simple Touch overrides ePub styles with its own defaults (unless you enable publisher defaults), but I'm not quite following what you're saying here. Are you saying that the NST (out of the box) actually alters content by converting emdashes to endashes? Or do you mean that the default font used by the NST simply utilizes a smaller emdash character that's more endash-like than most other fonts? There's a big difference I would think.

Where is this other thread you mentioned?

AuthorGreg
07-13-2012, 03:19 PM
Wait a minute. I know the Nook Simple Touch overrides ePub styles with its own defaults (unless you enable publisher defaults), but I'm not quite following what you're saying here. Are you saying that the NST (out of the box) actually alters content by converting emdashes to endashes? Or do you mean that the default font used by the NST simply utilizes a smaller emdash character that's more endash-like than most other fonts? There's a big difference I would think.

Where is this other thread you mentioned?

Look in the Calibre Conversion section, thread titled "Dreaded Em Dashes."

Here's what I am seeing: If I format an ePub using either Calibre or Sigil, that ePub displays beautifully on Adobe Digital Editions, the online Pubit! previewer, the Nook Desktop PC viewers, as well as on the Nook Color, and every other Nook device EXCEPT the Simple Touch.

Another funny thing. If I use Calibre and convert an AZW or PRC file to ePub, then the Simple Touch preserves true (sticky) em dashes. That'd be a good way to solve that problem, but unfortunately, aside from the em dashes, the final ePub looks pretty shoddy.

I'll admit I got a little too wrapped around the axle about this Simple Touch thing. But when I see that the Big-6 Publishers know the recipe for uniform display across multiple devices, and I see that my books look like crap on the Simple Touch when the user overrides the publisher default, well, it bothers me.

The Simple Touch has been out for over a year now. As I don't sell near as many books on the Nook as I do the Kindle, I guess I can live with this mess until I figure out the formatting secrets of the Big-Six.

Greg

Toxaris
07-13-2012, 04:51 PM
If the user overrides the defaults, than that is the end for you. You cannot influence that anymore.

AuthorGreg
07-13-2012, 05:16 PM
If the user overrides the defaults, than that is the end for you. You cannot influence that anymore.

I don't know about that. As I've mentioned previously, the Big-Six books I've sampled on the Simple Touch display pretty well even if the margins are at their narrowest and the line heights at their largest. The Sigil ePub I'm working on now is kind of odd -- it displays the same line heights no matter what the user does. This stuff gets confusing, and there are too many variables involved to really nail down what works and what doesn't...

JSWolf
07-13-2012, 05:22 PM
Post a sample ePub that shows the problem on the nook and I'm sure someone here can figure it out. But two words of warning. STAY THE HECK AWAY FROM WORD! DO NOT LET YOUR eBooks GET INFECTED BY THE VIRUS THAT IS WORD!

mrmikel
07-13-2012, 06:08 PM
Well, I don't know why you couldn't do editing in Word and save it as a text file (grin).

JSWolf
07-13-2012, 06:25 PM
Well, I don't know why you couldn't do editing in Word and save it as a text file (grin).

Because then you'd be better off doing the editing in a good text editor applying the HTML code as you go. But from what was said in another thread, the books are already written. They just need to be converted and formatted as eBooks. But the OP doesn't have a clue what to do which is why he is using Word.

JSWolf
07-13-2012, 06:27 PM
AuthorGreg, if these eBooks are not originally in Word, then I suggest you take everything you've done in Word and delete it and start over, not using Word, but instead using Sigil.

AuthorGreg
07-13-2012, 06:56 PM
Well, I have lots of clues, just not the knowledge you have.

Here's my frustration: I use Word 2010, saving everything in Word 97-2003 format, using styles for everything. You won't find tons of garbage because of this (no big areas of white space and long rows of page breaks). Using MobiPocket, I create PRC files that, after being converted by Amazon to AZW, display PERFECTLY, as intended, on every single Kindle device in use. No loss of em dashes, no screwed up ellipses, no inconsistent line heights in a single book.

EPUB, it turns out, is a whole different ballgame. It isn't a friendly playing partner with Word, which I suppose is why you have such a distaste for Word.

Hell, I'm anal enough that if I thought re-writing everything in Sigil would help, I'd do it. I'm a perfectionist, enough so that if I were 100% certain that Sigil would preserve my intended formatting, I'd be all over it.

I tried using Sigil for this current project, using tips given by an author on the Web, and it didn't work out. I've had to settle for what Calibre will give me.

If anyone would like to see my Word or ePub files, I'd have no problem sharing them. The book has long been published on Amazon and in paperback that I wouldn't worry of thievery, not that anyone would try. :)

All that aside, I am convinced the Simple Touch has a lot of display faults.

I'm willing to learn. I'm not in love with Word. Writing a book in HTML, though, especially fiction, seems quite a chore, one that would definitely stem creativity. But if there's something I'm missing about your method of writing, I'm all ears, my friend. :)

Thanks a lot, you guys!

Greg

DiapDealer
07-13-2012, 07:14 PM
I'm willing to learn. I'm not in love with Word. Writing a book in HTML, though, especially fiction, seems quite a chore, one that would definitely stem creativity. But if there's something I'm missing about your method of writing, I'm all ears, my friend. :)
Don't stress overly about Word. It's true, that many people who make ebooks don't like dealing with word's html output (filtered or otherwise). Heck, I'm even one of 'em. But a lot of us ebook makers and tweakers also have to realize that (for the most part) we're not actually the ones writing the content that goes in the little buggers. And frankly, the expectation that writers should altogether stop using Word to create their books is fairly unrealistic. Until there's a word processing/book creation package that make perfect, clean html with sensible CSS... well... we're just going to have to get over ourselves and realize that Word output is just going to have to be dealt with for quite some time, yet. ;)

AuthorGreg
07-13-2012, 07:39 PM
Do you guys who write in HTML exclusively have any links or books on the subject of just HOW you go about this? I mean, is there a way to write creatively without spending too much time along the way with HTML tags for non-breaking ellipses, italics, em-dashes, and the like.

I'm eager to learn, guys. Lay it on me! :)

Greg

DiapDealer
07-13-2012, 07:55 PM
Do you guys who write in HTML exclusively have any links or books on the subject of just HOW you go about this? I mean, is there a way to write creatively without spending too much time along the way with HTML tags for non-breaking ellipses, italics, em-dashes, and the like.
I think you'll find that a lot of people here don't actually do a lot of writing. period. I think for the most part, the people who are in here a lot giving advice and answering questions are simply creating ebooks from other people's content. That's why there's still quite a bit of a disconnect between writing a book and creating an ebook. Writers enjoy the comfort of a familiar, powerful word processing package... but ebook creators despise the extraneous, convoluted code those programs produce that they're then saddled with making an ebook from.

I don't think there's an easy answer here. But I will say; no.... I certainly don't think writers should be expected to create in html. That's not realistic or fair. There is some word processing software that will produce better html than Word, but I don't think there's enough of a pronounced improvement from Word (I'm including Open Office) that would justify asking the writer to alter their creative process.

JSWolf
07-13-2012, 11:07 PM
If you know your output is going to be an eBook, use a good text editor and text markup to show the styles you want like bold and italics. You can also put in notes to say how something is to look. Also put in place holders for images. Then when you are creating the eBook from the text file, it will be easier to deal with then Word's output.

AuthorGreg
07-14-2012, 12:13 AM
Well, I'm a poor writer who can't afford an expert. And I know enough writers who've complained about paying for "eBook formatters" who just did an awful job (the same can be said of cover designers). I've been approached by these formatters who have even offered me EPUBs and PRCs of their work. Again, the PRC always looks so much better than the EPUB. If you do things right in Word, your final AZW on Amazon is going to be pretty much WYSIWYG. I know there is a huge contingent of EPUB advocates out there, but I wish they would at least admit that Amazon Kindles generally do a much better job of flowing words on to the screen than the Nook.

I'm pulling my hair out trying to produce EPUBs that look decent on ALL devices, and the Simple Touch is driving me to insanity. I don't even mess around with Smashwords because the one time I tried I was left simply aghast at the havoc wrought by the dreaded Meatgrinder.

Anyway... I know HTML, CSS, and a little PHP and JavaScript. So I'm not flying totally blind here. If there's a resource out there that details how to write a perfect book in HTML, I'd love to know about it. Hell, I'd even pay for it. I can write a first draft easily enough in a vanilla text processor, then worry about the formatting later. And again, I just write fiction, so there are no graphics or illustrations for me to consider. I just want to write the best possible product there is, so I can output an EPUB I can be proud of and that the world will thank me for.

I'm especially interested in learning about these embedded fonts that everyone says the Big-Six knows about but no one else really does. I'm an old IT guy, and I know all about self-preservation practices aimed to protect the career I no longer have. Eventually, it all comes out....

I was in the mood to ramble. I apologize.

Greg

Jellby
07-14-2012, 04:50 AM
I mean, is there a way to write creatively without spending too much time along the way with HTML tags for non-breaking ellipses, italics, em-dashes, and the like.

Yes, use a text format like simple LaTeX or simple HTML or a lightweight markup format such as Textile (http://textile.thresholdstate.com/). Don't worry about formatting until the content is finished.

Ellipses: use "...", or "\dots", or "…". You can convert them to whatever works best later.

Italics: use "<i>...</i>", or "\emph{...}", or "_..._". Ditto.

Dashes: use "--"/"---", or "&ndash;"/"&mdash;". Ditto.

Quotes: use "`"/"``", or "&lsquo;"/"&rsquo;" for opening quotes. Ditto. Normal ' and " can then safely be assumed to be closing quotes or apostrophes. (Beware of automatic "smart" quotes.)

Or modify your keyboard layout to have the proper Unicode characters easily accessible by keypresses. You can even write in Notepad. With a more sophisticated text editor, you can create macros to insert the Unicode characters too.

Toxaris
07-14-2012, 05:33 AM
Well, I'm a poor writer who can't afford an expert.
...snip...
Greg

Sorry, but otherwise the quote would be to long.

Anyway, you might want to talk to Hitch. She and her team creates very good quality books and is very pleasant to work with.

The result in ePUB can be better or at least of the same quality as on the Kindle. The trick is knowing what is and what isn't supported. There might be some small differences between readers, due to other rendering engines. Kindle only has one...

I can't really comment on the Nook, but I believe that one has the option to ignore the defined formatting in a book. No matter what you do there, but as soon as it is overruled by the reader, you lost it. No matter who you are. It might be that you can enforce still certain settings, but that would be either in the styles with the '!important!' setting or a special file that needs to be added to the ePUB (just like ADE can have). You should be able to see if this is the case when you encounter a book that does work as you would like.

There are no tricks with regards to embedded fonts that only the 'Big Six' know about. The mechanism is the same, only different fonts perhaps. Also, on iBooks you need to add a file in order to have font-embedding enabled.

Again, you can achieve the same of better results compared to the Kindle. The old Kindle format is a old format (which doesn't support font-embedding btw) and the new is just ePUB3 with another name.

Jellby
07-14-2012, 05:45 AM
I can't really comment on the Nook, but I believe that one has the option to ignore the defined formatting in a book. No matter what you do there, but as soon as it is overruled by the reader, you lost it.

I have never dealt with the Nook either, but I guess you can do some things about this. You can use standard tags when possible. With proper CSS styling these two codes should look exactly the same (when the styles are not ignored):

<blockquote>
<p>Dear Mr. Jones,</p>
<p>I'm using some <em>italic</em> text.</p>
</blockquote>

<div class="blockquote first">Dear Mr. Jones,</div>
<div class="blockquote last">I'm using some <span class="italic">italic</span> text.</div>

But, when the styles are ignored, chances are the first code will be displayed much more nicely than the second. That is, assuming some default styling is used anyway (like browsers do).

Toxaris
07-14-2012, 02:34 PM
Hmm, yes. In that case you are right, since it will revert to the defaults then. It would be a little better. But, I still find that it is the choice of the user and our of the publishers hands.

AuthorGreg
07-21-2012, 11:00 PM
Well, to update this saga...

I ran my Word manuscript through the good old Meatgrinder of Smashwords.

Guess what?

It produces the absolute PERFECT ePub, at least on my Nook Simple Touch.

Em dashes are fully preserved. Line spacing now works. Lines with italics now don't interfere with line height.

I'm too tired right now, but tomorrow I'm going to explode that ePub and see what Mark Coker knows that not many others do.

I now feel bad about every bad thing I'd previously said about the Meatgrinder.

Greg

JSWolf
07-21-2012, 11:10 PM
Well, to update this saga...

I ran my Word manuscript through the good old Meatgrinder of Smashwords.

Guess what?

It produces the absolute PERFECT ePub, at least on my Nook Simple Touch.

Em dashes are fully preserved. Line spacing now works. Lines with italics now don't interfere with line height.

I'm too tired right now, but tomorrow I'm going to explode that ePub and see what Mark Coker knows that not many others do.

I now feel bad about every bad thing I'd previously said about the Meatgrinder.

Greg

It's got nothing to do with what Mark knows. It's what you don't know. When you look at the code, please not how bad it looks. That's because the meatgrinder uses a Word document for Calibre to convert. The code that gets made from a Word document can cause issues such as no font changing and no night mode. And there is a chance it won't validate. Run it through FlightCrew and see if it does validate.