View Full Version : Just how far can you go?


exaltedwombat
11-18-2012, 08:50 AM
OK, that title got your attention!

Any thoughts from the folk here who do commercial eBook design on how clever it's currently sensible to get with layout?

We've all had customers who baulk when it doesn't look "just like the printed book". Quite advanced layout can be achieved in Sigil, and it renders nicely in ADE. But then you transfer to (say) an Android tablet, with its choice of epub readers, and everything falls apart. Not to mention the real-life necessity of having to also deliver a mobi version. And whatever we think of mobi, this is a non-negotiable - the book's GOING to be put on the Amazon shop.

Is there any point in going beyond simple text with inline pictures and graphics? Is it now safe to use simple, non-nested tables? Attempting to include fonts other than generic serif or sans-serif? Is there an official-looking statement I can direct clients to laying out just what features it is reasonable to expect?

Comments from people who create eBooks for general distribution would be of great interest!

kiwidude
11-18-2012, 09:00 AM
This sort of thread (and far too many others in my opinion) should not be in the Sigil forum. There are other forums on MobileRead more appropriate.

I know there are a lot of very helpful folks who kindly answer such threads, but it does rather dilute the purpose of having a forum dedicated to Sigil the "application" and people wanting to either ask questions about it or report problems for the developers to respond to.

cybmole
11-18-2012, 09:10 AM
+1 to that.

I'm usually up for discussing epub related issues here, as this is where most of the expertise is, but this one is off-topic

DiapDealer
11-18-2012, 10:30 AM
I'm definitely from the "less is best" school of thought. The first thing I try to do (and I'm not a commercial ePub designer by any means; just to be clear) is forget I've ever seen the print version. I just don't consider it very relevant (in "normal" mainly-text narratives). The ebook is its own beast and needs its own consideration. Reflow changes the game and I wish authors/publishers/customers would just accept that instead instead of fighting it tooth and nail.

So while I'm certainly not advocating a straight text-only representation, I prefer elegant simplicity: The bare minimum that will appeal to fans of typographic tradition while at the same time, not expose the constraints imposed by any particular format/renderer.

mrmikel
11-18-2012, 10:47 AM
I agree completely. If you want exact duplication make it a PDF and enjoy it on a tablet big enough to render a whole page at a time.

That is even true in print. There is a reason why few coffee table books are published in paperback size.

theducks
11-18-2012, 10:35 PM
I think the 80/20 rule should be considered.
Your design should render nice (not necessarily perfect) on 80% of the dedicate type reading devices in current use.
If you can make it work well on any of the 20%, you get bonus points :rofl:

Note: I used devices and NOT Market share :rolleyes:

mrmikel
11-19-2012, 07:38 AM
Most advanced layout will blow up when you make the page large enough, so you have to accept you can't win em all -- heck some days I am glad to win ANY!

I think even with PDF it will be less pleasant if you increase the size enough.

But someone who has vision troubles may be might pleased to be able to use it at all.

JSWolf
11-19-2012, 07:38 PM
The rule of thumb is that if it looks good in ADE, then it's the fault of the non-ADE app and thus, forget about it because you won't please everyone. Use Bluefire Reader on Android to test the eBook. If it works there and not in other apps, then it's the fault of the other apps.

exaltedwombat
11-20-2012, 08:46 AM
Trouble is, the customer isn't interested in platform wars, or in telling potential customers what system they SHOULD have chosen. Just about selling copies and not getting complaints.

DiapDealer
11-20-2012, 09:19 AM
Trouble is, the customer isn't interested in platform wars, or in telling potential customers what system they SHOULD have chosen. Just about selling copies and not getting complaints.
If just "selling copies and not getting complaints" is truly ALL they're interested in, then they've forfeited their rights to nitpick about the formatting of a technological "product" whose creation and limitations they know nothing about. Problem solved.

The issues stem from the fact that most customers care about waaaaay more than just "selling copies and not getting complaints." Let's face it ... life would be a dream (for ebook creators) if that's all they worried about. ;)

JSWolf
11-20-2012, 02:26 PM
If publishers took the time and effort to learn how to make properly formatted eBooks, then they'd have a lot less error prone eBooks and they would look better and give a more satisfying read.

colinsky
11-20-2012, 02:33 PM
If aspects of the design and layout are important to the content, feel, or message that the author wants to portray, they should be integrated as much as possible into the electronic edition (or replicated "equivalently" in some way)--they are part of the intended experience. If they are incidental to the text (for instance, a publisher style convention), they are less important to duplicate exactly.

JSWolf
11-20-2012, 02:36 PM
If aspects of the design and layout are important to the content, feel, or message that the author wants to portray, they should be integrated as much as possible into the electronic edition (or replicated "equivalently" in some way)--they are part of the intended experience. If they are incidental to the text (for instance, a publisher style convention), they are less important to duplicate exactly.

A lot of eBooks are formatted poorly. Wide margins, paragraph spaces, sometimes no indents, text set to small by default, large space at the beginning of chapters and other assorted mess. That's not a good reading experience.

Jellby
11-23-2012, 02:46 PM
An ebook with minimal formatting (no hard-wired margins, no unneeded embedded font, no fancy alignments...) is almost guaranteed to be decently rendered and readable in pretty much any reader.

An ebook with lots of bells and whistles that try to make it look as close as possible as the printed book in some particular reader/format, is almost guaranteed to fail miserably and produce an unreadable piece of cr... text in some other reader, or with some particular set of preferences (some people like reading in landscape, or with large font...).

So, my advice is to be rather minimalistic as far as formatting goes, and only add other "nice" stuff after considering how it will look in readers that do not support that feature, or with wildly different settings.

JSWolf
11-23-2012, 05:18 PM
If it renders fine in ADE, then it is the fault of the other reading app(s) botching things.

pholy
11-25-2012, 12:15 AM
If it renders fine in ADE, then it is the fault of the other reading app(s) botching things.

Except, of course, for the bugs in ADE... See the sticky (http://www.mobileread.com/forums/showthread.php?t=94733) at the top of the forum... No software is perfect - not even (especially?) mine :)

Jellby
11-25-2012, 05:48 AM
If it renders fine in ADE, then it is the fault of the other reading app(s) botching things.

Or you could say the same about the other readers:

If it renders fine in other readers, then it is the fault of ADE botching things.

The problem is neither is really true, or useful. As pointed out above, ADE has some bugs, but that's not really important here, because the bugs will not usually make something "render fine" that shouldn't. But ADE has also some extensions (page templates, conditional CSS) that are outside the spec, and other apps are not botching anything by not supporting those. ADE has also its font and default settings that may be different from those used in other apps, and if a book relies too heavily on them it will break when put in a different app.

What you could say is: if an ebook is valid ePub, then it's the fault of [whichever reader] not supporting it properly. But that's not really useful either. First, it's not enough that an ebook validates with epubcheck or flightcrow for it to be valid (validators have bugs and limitations too). And then, blaming a reading app doesn't help in making it work :)

JSWolf
11-26-2012, 10:08 AM
Or you could say the same about the other readers:

If it renders fine in other readers, then it is the fault of ADE botching things.

Given that most readers and some apps are using ADE, that makes ADE the most used to render ePub. So it's up the the non-ADE apps to be compatible.

DiapDealer
11-26-2012, 05:04 PM
Yes. Less-popular apps should definitely have to emulate the most popular app's interpretation of the epub specs. That makes perfect sense. ;)

Jellby
11-27-2012, 12:00 PM
Only until they become the most popular app, then they can rule the world and do as they please :D

DSpider
11-27-2012, 09:32 PM
ADE is not that great, IMO.


it needs .NET Framework 3.5 SP1. I hate software like this.
I can't adjust the margins on-the-fly, like in Kindle for PC. It splits into three pages on a widescreen monitor.
the cover thumbnail quirk still hasn't been fixed. I mean, come on... I saw a tutorial that said not to bother with the thumbnail cover in ADE, because it's a bug in the current version. That tutorial was from 2010. :| They still haven't fixed it.


From my experience, small caps didn't show up correctly in ADE, but they did in iBooks. On the other hand, a smiley face from the Wingdings font did show up in ADE, but not in iBooks; go figure. Even with the extra file (http://wiki.mobileread.com/wiki/IBooks#Tips) for embedded fonts.

Reading software is far from perfect. We're back in 1999 where the same web page looked differently in every browser. My advice is to try and stick to as plain e-book as possible, without fancy CSS that will most likely be interpreted differently on each device.

JSWolf
11-27-2012, 09:49 PM
iBooks doesn't count as it does a lot of things non-standard.

DiapDealer
11-27-2012, 10:20 PM
Of course it counts. People use it. If the inclusion of "non-standard things" was the determining factor for relevance, then ADE wouldn't likely "count" either.

JSWolf
11-30-2012, 11:52 AM
Of course it counts. People use it. If the inclusion of "non-standard things" was the determining factor for relevance, then ADE wouldn't likely "count" either.

ADE counts because it is the standard.

DiapDealer
11-30-2012, 01:39 PM
ADE counts because it is the standard.
Hit me with a link to that published ADE standard. :rolleyes:

JSWolf
11-30-2012, 09:27 PM
Hit me with a link to that published ADE standard. :rolleyes:

ADE is the standard because most readers use ADE, ADE is on most desktops of people who read ePub, some apps use ADE and ADE is used more then any other software to read ePub. That makes it the standard.

DaleDe
12-01-2012, 02:18 AM
ADE is the standard because most readers use ADE, ADE is on most desktops of people who read ePub, some apps use ADE and ADE is used more then any other software to read ePub. That makes it the standard.

Actually that makes it the de facto standard.

Dale

JSWolf
12-02-2012, 11:20 PM
Actually that makes it the de facto standard.

Dale

It won't sell if it breaks on ADE. ADE is the de facto industry standard.