View Full Version : Unjustifiable lack of justification


Alfy
12-16-2008, 02:31 PM
Hi everyone,

I have seen a number of complaints - and have posted a few myself - concerning the lack of text justification in ADE and the PRS 505 when reading epub files. I've even seen replies on some Adobe forums indicating that the designers "got the point".

The question would be this: would anyone know if new versions of ADE and the PRS 505 Adobe bit of software that would allay this tiny but hard to overlook annoyance are in the works, and assuming such things are always in the works, if we can expect them any time soon?

Cheers for any info on the subject!

Alfy.

igorsk
12-16-2008, 04:59 PM
The developers probably know. But I don't think they'll be sharing any dates.

FizzyWater
12-17-2008, 12:30 AM
Not everyone likes full justification. I would hope if they're going to change it, they'll make it configurable.

mtravellerh
12-17-2008, 01:30 AM
Not everyone likes full justification. I would hope if they're going to change it, they'll make it configurable.

Maybe you're right, FizzyWater, and it really should be configurable. But I know that the lack of possibility of justification keeps a lot of readers away from epub, myself included.

HarryT
12-17-2008, 02:56 AM
Not everyone likes full justification. I would hope if they're going to change it, they'll make it configurable.

But, nonetheless, full justification is pretty much "universal" for printed books. It is completely unacceptable not to have this in what is claimed to be a "standard" for eBooks. It's a pretty poor standard if it doesn't provide it!

alehel
12-17-2008, 04:11 AM
Call me stupid if you must, but what is text justification?

HarryT
12-17-2008, 04:17 AM
Call me stupid if you must, but what is text justification?

Full justification is where you insert additional space into a line so that the right margin "lines up" all the way down the page. Virtually every printed book and magazine uses full justification.

Left justification is where the left margin "lines up", but the right margin is "ragged", with no additional space being inserted.

alehel
12-17-2008, 04:26 AM
I guess I should have known this, but I thought that was called text allignment.

mtravellerh
12-17-2008, 04:57 AM
Well, it is, too. :)

Justification is the more professional term for the same thing. Alignment is not that good a term, though, as all kinds of alignments are called that (left, center, right, block), so it's more of a general term while justification or full justification means block alignment.

Btw: There is no dumb question, the dumb thing would be not to ask a question if one ignores something. That's bound to keep you ignorant.

HarryT
12-17-2008, 04:58 AM
"Alignment" and "Justification" are slightly different things. Alignment refers to the point at which the text is "anchored", and can normally be set to be the left margin, the centre point of the line, or the right margin. Justification refers to whether or not additional space is inserted to make the margins "line up".

The two concepts are certainly very closely related.

DaleDe
12-17-2008, 11:41 AM
Full justification is where you insert additional space into a line so that the right margin "lines up" all the way down the page. Virtually every printed book and magazine uses full justification.

Left justification is where the left margin "lines up", but the right margin is "ragged", with no additional space being inserted.

While printed books use full justification all the eBook devices do not do a very good job with real justification. They simply insert additional space characters between the words. A sometimes they don't even to a good job of picking the places to insert the spaces resulting in a visual river running down the page. In addition the lack of support for proper hyphenation causes increased problems with full justification on the short lines used on most readers.

A good printed book actually increases the space between characters in the word and use variable width spacing to accomplish the professional look. Short lines of text typically don't do well with full justification which is why some newspapers have abandoned it.

Of the electronic formats for books we read PDF is the only format that will generally do a good job of full justification. There is a lot of improvement needed in eBook software before it becomes my preferred format. This is why left justification is useful, currently, for eBook readers and should be offered as an option.

Dale

zelda_pinwheel
12-17-2008, 12:08 PM
While printed books use full justification all the eBook devices do not do a very good job with real justification. They simply insert additional space characters between the words. A sometimes they don't even to a good job of picking the places to insert the spaces resulting in a visual river running down the page. In addition the lack of support for proper hyphenation causes increased problems with full justification on the short lines used on most readers.

A good printed book actually increases the space between characters in the word and use variable width spacing to accomplish the professional look. Short lines of text typically don't do well with full justification which is why some newspapers have abandoned it.

Of the electronic formats for books we read PDF is the only format that will generally do a good job of full justification. There is a lot of improvement needed in eBook software before it becomes my preferred format. This is why left justification is useful, currently, for eBook readers and should be offered as an option.

Dale

yes, full justification must really be done by hand line by line to acheive good results, adjusting tracking and kerning. automatic justification on reflowable text rarely gives good results, and they can be particularly egregious when text is displayed in short lines / large font size.

personally i avoid fully-justified reflowable text whenever possible and i have a strong preference for left aligned, ragged right ebooks. even for text that will be printed (not reflowable) it should be used with moderation and not under every circumstance. the only format which can maintain hand-adjusted tracking and kerning (done in a layout application like InDesign or Quark XPress) would be pdf, and as we know "pdf is not an ebook format"... i also hope that this will be left a user option.

by the way, the recent Penguin paper editions of Wodehouse's books are printed "ragged right". it's a bit surprising at first glance but i quickly got used to it. you can see this here (http://www.amazon.com/Inimitable-Jeeves-P-G-Wodehouse/dp/0140284125/ref=si3_rdr_bb_product) if you click on "look inside".

HarryT
12-17-2008, 12:14 PM
The CyBook gives one the choice (unless the book "hard codes" it) of left or full justification, and for most situations I find myself that full justification looks a lot better. The only time it really looks "wrong" is when one has a very large font size and/or very few words on a line.

The Sony Reader is a little "odd" in that for LRF/LRX files one only has full justification available, while for ePub files one only has left justification!

mtravellerh
12-17-2008, 02:19 PM
by the way, the recent Penguin paper editions of Wodehouse's books are printed "ragged right". it's a bit surprising at first glance but i quickly got used to it. you can see this here (http://www.amazon.com/Inimitable-Jeeves-P-G-Wodehouse/dp/0140284125/ref=si3_rdr_bb_product) if you click on "look inside".

Had a look at that. Now that is one ugly layout!

Alfy
12-17-2008, 02:21 PM
I have created a number of PDF books for my PRS using inDesign "automatic" full justification, and the results have always been fine for me. I've also had very few problems with my LRFs.

On the other hand, I purchased my one and only epub on Waterstones, a Terry Pratchett book, and for some reason, the left justification leaves huges swathes of white on the right side. Some pages look as if they're written in verse!

I personnally find it very bothersome. My eyes keep focusing on the hills and valleys the text creates on the right side. I guess I'm just used to p-books being generally fully justified, but it's enough to put me off epubs.

By the way, I'm very surprised at how long it takes Sony and Adobe to remove these kinks. After all, the software is not that complicated and the algorithms have been available for ages. It makes me wonder at the commitment these companies have when it comes to the PRS...

llasram
12-17-2008, 02:29 PM
By the way, I'm very surprised at how long it takes Sony and Adobe to remove these kinks. After all, the software is not that complicated and the algorithms have been available for ages. It makes me wonder at the commitment these companies have when it comes to the PRS...

Well, I don't think this is a Reader-specific problem -- the desktop version of AdobeDE also doesn't do fully-justified text. I'm holding out hope that they're trying to do it "right" -- do fully dynamic hyphenation using language-specific hyphenation engines and a standards-compliant way of specifying hyphenation points for troublesome words. That is much, much harder, and AFAIK doesn't exist in any present system for displaying reflowable content.

zelda_pinwheel
12-17-2008, 02:47 PM
Had a look at that. Now that is one ugly layout!
well, it surprised me at first too, but actually i got used it really quickly. i don't think it's ugly.

Well, I don't think this is a Reader-specific problem -- the desktop version of AdobeDE also doesn't do fully-justified text. I'm holding out hope that they're trying to do it "right" -- do fully dynamic hyphenation using language-specific hyphenation engines and a standards-compliant way of specifying hyphenation points for troublesome words. That is much, much harder, and AFAIK doesn't exist in any present system for displaying reflowable content.
now, if they can manage that, i think i wouldn't mind justified reflowable text ! that would be pretty impressive. and, as you say, very very hard to do.

pdurrant
12-17-2008, 04:28 PM
If that's a true representation of the printed pages, I'd demand my money back if I bought it. Ragged right, truncated descenders, missing punctuation and weird spacing on the quote marks. A really bad bit of typesetting.


by the way, the recent Penguin paper editions of Wodehouse's books are printed "ragged right". it's a bit surprising at first glance but i quickly got used to it. you can see this here (http://www.amazon.com/Inimitable-Jeeves-P-G-Wodehouse/dp/0140284125/ref=si3_rdr_bb_product) if you click on "look inside".

zelda_pinwheel
12-17-2008, 04:40 PM
If that's a true representation of the printed pages, I'd demand my money back if I bought it. Ragged right, truncated descenders, missing punctuation and weird spacing on the quote marks. A really bad bit of typesetting.
i think that's just a bad scan. i bought 2 of those wodehouse books in the london airport ; looking at my editions in person they *are* aligned to the left with a ragged right, which is why i linked to them in the first place, of course. however, all ascenders and descenders are intact, i see no "weird spacing" anywhere, and the type is perfectly clean and nice.

we are used to seeing justified text in print books, and so some people have come to associate this convention with "good" or "correct" typesetting.

i disagree. it is *one* style of typesetting, but not the only one, or the best one, and certainly not indicated in every circumstance.

in fact, justified text is technically more difficult to read, particularly on longer lines, as the eye has no landmarks to help it keep its place as it scans back and forth across the page. and if it is used on short lines or on a text containing a lot of very long words it can give very bad results with large gaps in the line and "rivers" of white space. this is often the case with auto-justified reflowable text, thus my personal preference for left-alignement instead for ebooks.

justified text is a convention of the (printed) book... but so is paper. i'm pretty sure it's been demonstrated to all of us that paper is not the only or the best way to read. :rolleyes:

Hadrien
12-17-2008, 10:47 PM
But, nonetheless, full justification is pretty much "universal" for printed books. It is completely unacceptable not to have this in what is claimed to be a "standard" for eBooks. It's a pretty poor standard if it doesn't provide it!

It doesn't have a single thing to do with the format: you can display fully justified book with language specific hyphenation in Stanza just fine.

Once again, it's very important to avoid mixing issues related to the reading system (Digital Editions) with issues linked to the format.

Jellby
12-18-2008, 06:25 AM
in fact, justified text is technically more difficult to read, particularly on longer lines, as the eye has no landmarks to help it keep its place as it scans back and forth across the page. and if it is used on short lines or on a text containing a lot of very long words it can give very bad results with large gaps in the line and "rivers" of white space. this is often the case with auto-justified reflowable text, thus my personal preference for left-alignement instead for ebooks.

I find justified text more beatiful and easy to the eyes, and makes paragraphs a lot clearer.

But there is well-justified text and bad-justified text. Well-justified text does not use the simplistic "fill this line as much as you can, then expand spaces and break" algorithm, it instead tries to find the break points in the whole paragraph that will result in the most uniform distribution of text among the lines, ideally it would use hyphenation when needed and, of course, it doesn't have very long lines (around 66 characters is considered right). Something like TeX does. Bad-justified text is just the opposite, and sometimes left-aligned is better than bad-justified, I agree there, but well-justified is better than both.

In sum, the option should be there, in the reader software.

zelda_pinwheel
12-18-2008, 06:27 AM
I find justified text more beatiful and easy to the eyes, and makes paragraphs a lot clearer.

But there is well-justified text and bad-justified text. Well-justified text does not use the simplistic "fill this line as much as you can, then expand spaces and break" algorithm, it instead tries to find the break points in the whole paragraph that will result in the most uniform distribution of text among the lines, ideally it would use hyphenation when needed and, of course, it doesn't have very long lines (around 66 characters is considered right). Something like TeX does. Bad-justified text is just the opposite, and sometimes left-aligned is better than bad-justified, I agree there, but well-justified is better than both.
very well said. i am not positive i prefer even well-justified text *always*, but the difference between well-justified and badly-justified text is huge !! and badly justified text is just painful to look at.
In sum, the option should be there, in the reader software.
yes, i quite agree.

Jellby
12-18-2008, 07:11 AM
very well said. i am not positive i prefer even well-justified text *always*

Have you had a look at the PDF books I have uploaded? They are made with TeX, which has a quite good algorithm. Do you think you would prefer left-aligned text there?

Well, left-aligned text is usually preferable with very short lines, as in magazines or newspapers with narrow columns, where finding appropriate break points is very hard/impossible. So at the end I guess it depends on the font size you have in your reader (I like a smallish font myself).

HarryT
12-18-2008, 07:21 AM
very well said. i am not positive i prefer even well-justified text *always*, but the difference between well-justified and badly-justified text is huge !! and badly justified text is just painful to look at.


Did you find the justification on the CyBook to be bad, Zelda?

zelda_pinwheel
12-18-2008, 08:14 AM
Have you had a look at the PDF books I have uploaded? They are made with TeX, which has a quite good algorithm. Do you think you would prefer left-aligned text there?
i took a look at your pdf of Les Trois Mousquetaires just now (i haven't looked at them before, as i usually avoid pdf format). i agree, that gives quite a good result. however it's a pdf ; that's rather a special case, as the book creator has much more control there than a typical reflowable text. looking at that pdf i am seeing it just as you made it ; i looked at it on my computer, so the text is fixed and does not reflow. that to me is a different case, and as i said before pdf is the only format in which justification can really be managed, but... i don't think pdf is really an ebook format.

Well, left-aligned text is usually preferable with very short lines, as in magazines or newspapers with narrow columns, where finding appropriate break points is very hard/impossible. So at the end I guess it depends on the font size you have in your reader (I like a smallish font myself).
yes that is a very big factor. i like a medium font, not too small, as i like to read in bed before going to sleep, with not over-bright light and without my glasses.
Did you find the justification on the CyBook to be bad, Zelda?
here is a photo of a book on the cybook with justified text.

19382

it demonstrates the irregular gaps and "rivers" of white space which i have been talking about. i didn't look particularly hard to find it ; it is the 2nd page of that book, using the font-size i find comfortable to use (i didn't modify it just for the photo, in other words). it's pretty egregious, i'm sure you'll agree. it's exactly why i don't like automatic justification on reflowable texts. even with hyphenation i'm not sure it would necessarily give a better result ; i've seen some texts with 3 or more hyphens in a row, and that is just as bad. here i clearly prefer left alignement.

HarryT
12-18-2008, 08:47 AM
I generally read with a much smaller font size, at which full justification works a lot better. You're right - at that font size, left justification is better. Nice to give the user the choice, of course!

Hadrien
12-18-2008, 09:07 AM
I agree with Jellby that TeX does an excellent job with very strict rules and support for both kerning and hyphenation if you enable the right stuff.
You even need to change a few settings otherwise the rules are too strict for a 6" document...

Jellby
12-18-2008, 11:12 AM
that to me is a different case, and as i said before pdf is the only format in which justification can really be managed, but... i don't think pdf is really an ebook format.

My point is, a similar algorithm used for creating the PDF could be used by the readers to reflow text. So, as I said elsewhere, the problem with justification is not justification per se, but the often too simplistic algorithms implemented.

tompe
12-18-2008, 11:17 AM
I generally read with a much smaller font size, at which full justification works a lot better. You're right - at that font size, left justification is better. Nice to give the user the choice, of course!

I read with the fourth smallest size and you get a lot of disturbing white spaces at this size also.

zelda_pinwheel
12-18-2008, 11:18 AM
My point is, a similar algorithm used for creating the PDF could be used by the readers to reflow text. So, as I said elsewhere, the problem with justification is not justification per se, but the often too simplistic algorithms implemented.

oh, i completely agree !! i am not against justification, i am against (overly simplistic, badly done...) automatic justification. i make a very strong distinction between good justification and bad justification. but, for the moment, all of the displays of justified reflowable text that i have seen have been very unsatisfactory (=bad justification : see photo above). therefore, in these circumstances, i prefer left-aligned.

i do think that in the end it should be a choice left to the user.

however i also think that perhaps it's important to stop considering justification the only valid way of presenting text, and consider instead that it is one option of several, equally valid.

tompe
12-18-2008, 11:21 AM
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however i also think that perhaps it's important to stop considering justification the only valid way of presenting text, and consider instead that it is one option of several, equally valid.

It was pretty good on the Cybook when they accepted individual lines that was not justified. What they have now is much more disturbing to read.

Ragged right could also be disturbing if it is done badly. You have to look at the whole paragraph and choose suitable hyphenation to do it really good.

Hadrien
12-18-2008, 11:33 AM
In my case, I really need both justification and hyphenation.

Without justification, it feels like I'm reading a screen not a book.
But if it's fully justified without hyphenation, you get some very ugly results.

I agree that the previous firmware on the Cybook, that avoided full justification when it would be ugly, looked a lot better than the current one.

HarryT
12-18-2008, 12:14 PM
however i also think that perhaps it's important to stop considering justification the only valid way of presenting text, and consider instead that it is one option of several, equally valid.

Sorry, I don't follow you. Could you elaborate?

zelda_pinwheel
12-18-2008, 12:21 PM
Sorry, I don't follow you. Could you elaborate?

left alignement is a perfectly acceptable way of presenting text. in fact sometimes it is the best way of presenting a certain text. full justification is not the be-all end-all of text layout, even for novels.

HarryT
12-18-2008, 12:27 PM
left alignement is a perfectly acceptable way of presenting text. in fact sometimes it is the best way of presenting a certain text. full justification is not the be-all end-all of text layout, even for novels.

Certainly, I agree with you. The overwhelming majority of books are printed with full justification, however, so perhaps it is a feature which people rather "expect" to be present in a reader?

Hadrien
12-18-2008, 12:27 PM
left alignement is a perfectly acceptable way of presenting text. in fact sometimes it is the best way of presenting a certain text. full justification is not the be-all end-all of text layout, even for novels.

It's all about choice: the user should be able to select between ragged right and justified text, and the ability to turn hyphenation on or off.

zelda_pinwheel
12-18-2008, 12:32 PM
Certainly, I agree with you. The overwhelming majority of books are printed with full justification, however, so perhaps it is a feature which people rather "expect" to be present in a reader?
well, the vast majority of books are printed on paper, too... it's just another convention, which people are used to. i think that people expect it now but maybe the convention will evolve. i think it's nice to propose it for people who prefer that, however i don't think that *not* proposing it is necessarily catastrophic ; there are many conditions which can make a convention irrelevant or obsolete.
It's all about choice: the user should be able to select between ragged right and justified text, and the ability to turn hyphenation on or off.
absolutely !

DaleDe
12-18-2008, 01:37 PM
Certainly, I agree with you. The overwhelming majority of books are printed with full justification, however, so perhaps it is a feature which people rather "expect" to be present in a reader?

And it seems that they are content with the sloppy, ill done full justification that they are currently getting unlike paper books. Well at least some of them. :)

Dale

richardigp
12-19-2008, 04:02 AM
The CyBook gives one the choice (unless the book "hard codes" it) of left or full justification, and for most situations I find myself that full justification looks a lot better. The only time it really looks "wrong" is when one has a very large font size and/or very few words on a line.

The Sony Reader is a little "odd" in that for LRF/LRX files one only has full justification available, while for ePub files one only has left justification!
That's because the Sony device uses the ADE rendering engine for ePUB.

Jellby
12-19-2008, 04:29 AM
Hmm... these readers that do not support justification... do they really not support it or is it just a fixed default?

I mean, if the CSS stylesheet in an ePUB file sets the paragraph to be "text-align: justify", does it work? If this is the case, at least with non-DRM files there is the possibility of modifying the styles in the file...

Alfy
12-19-2008, 06:29 AM
No, it does not work, the CSS is just ignored for justification, and that is the problem. Implementation of full justification is optionnal according to the standard, and Adobe has made the choice of not including it. Just plain laziness, if you ask me.

Hadrien
12-19-2008, 06:30 AM
Hmm... these readers that do not support justification... do they really not support it or is it just a fixed default?

I mean, if the CSS stylesheet in an ePUB file sets the paragraph to be "text-align: justify", does it work? If this is the case, at least with non-DRM files there is the possibility of modifying the styles in the file...

No it doesn't work in DE if you set text-align to justify.

In general, content producers should avoid forcing a text-align if it's not center or right, and let the user/reading system decide.

alehel
12-30-2008, 05:56 PM
I just had a look at the kindle and I must admit I do prefear the text when its using full justification. For some reason I just felt it looked cleaner, and I've been reading epub files with left justification for several months now.

alehel
12-30-2008, 07:59 PM
Now that I have loads of epub files I've been thinking about buying the Sony 505 but this topic got me wondering. Is this only a problem with DE or does the 505 also lack justification?

Never mind, I just reread the very first post :)