View Full Version : Formatting an eBook - Left justify or Justified


simonroyle
08-29-2010, 11:18 PM
Hi MR's,

I've been doing a lot (too much) reading about formatting eBooks. One comment I hear from "professionals" is that;

"nothing screams amateur like ragged right text"

What do you guys think? You're the readers - does it make a huge difference, and, more importantly, what do you prefer?

Thanks,
Simon
Author of Tag - A thriller set in the near future
www.simon-royle.com

speakingtohe
08-29-2010, 11:24 PM
Justified is generally not pleasant to read. I would rather have a gap at the end of the line then one in the middle. Looks neat at a glance, but especially ugly on ereader. Still all centered is worse

hgwlackey
08-29-2010, 11:35 PM
Until e-readers can properly handle full justification, I'll prefer ragged right. (Though a more accurate answer is probably that I prefer whichever I notice least.)

ardeegee
08-29-2010, 11:44 PM
"nothing screams amateur like ragged right text"

Sounds about right. In the modern days of word processors, that is more or less unjustifiable.

Donnageddon
08-30-2010, 12:04 AM
Poll needs a "too many variables" option so JeremyZ can call them outliers.

Marcy
08-30-2010, 12:12 AM
Proper justification, which includes the ability to hyphenate on the fly, is always best. I agree that I'd rather have left-justify over a reader that full justifies simply by stretching the gap between words.

-Marcy

Luke King
08-30-2010, 02:13 AM
Justified -- definitely. I think an ebook should look like a printed book. Em dashes, smart quotes, chapters and section beginnings not indented (a pet hate).

Readers want ebooks to look like printed books, or I would imagine so.

FizzyWater
08-30-2010, 02:17 AM
Readers want ebooks to look like printed books, or I would imagine so.

While I'd agree I'd like there to be obvious chapter breaks, section breaks and paragraphs (either indented or with extra space, I'm not picky), I don't necessarily want my eBook to look like the book.

I like having the ability to change the font size or face, for example. And given the current rendering of full justification on most eBook readers, I prefer left-justified text. I find the gaping spaces between words more distracting than "ragged right".

Ultimately, I want to get lost in the book, not distracted by the formatting!

Sweetpea
08-30-2010, 02:26 AM
I find left justified horrible. It gives too many distractions. I can't, in one blink of an eye, see how long the paragraph is, unless there is an empty line between paragraphs (and I loathe those).

I'm a person that doesn't read word for word, but reads sentences and paragraphs (looking for structure). Maybe that's the reason why I can't stand left-justified texts..

AlexBell
08-30-2010, 04:17 AM
what do you prefer?

Thanks,
Simon
Author of Tag - A thriller set in the near future
www.simon-royle.com

I prefer justified text, but most of all I prefer to be able to choose for myself on the rare occasions fully justified text doesn't work - that is, I like to be able to toggle between fully justified and ragged right.

Regards, Alex

Ea
08-30-2010, 04:24 AM
I generally much prefer full justification over left justification, but I have recently read a couple of books with left justification (error in formatting) and I was surprised that it bothered me a lot less than I thought it would - at least I didn't bother to do anything about fixing the problem.

Jellby
08-30-2010, 04:28 AM
I prefer justified, no doubt. I also like rather small font size, so automatic justification has fewer problems (it's easier to find good break points).

But I prefer books created with no default alignment. Let the reader justify or not the text.

Nathanael
08-30-2010, 10:27 AM
Fully justified -- there's just no comparison. However, I grok the comment about poor justification -- large whitespace gaps, improper hyphenation.

About a month ago I purchased a new reader -- a Sibrary -- and have been quite pleasantly surprised at just how well it handles justification. It's hyphenation algorithm is superb -- in a month of reading (ca. ten books) I've only seen it make two mistakes.

Another feature that the Sibrary really impresses with is text resizing. It has fourteen levels of resize, from 23 lines per screen / 10-12 words per line all the way up to 6 lines per screen / 3ish words per line. It's only at about the three largest settings that whitespace gaps start becoming noticeable.

Nathanael

SeaBookGuy
08-30-2010, 10:34 AM
I don't mind left justified at all. As a matter of fact, I think full justification on a small screen would look like a big block of unvaried text to me.

brecklundin
08-30-2010, 10:51 AM
I find it interesting so many prefer full-justification over left-justify as the natural way to right, in our right-to-left conventions anyway, is left-justify. How many hand written or typed papers have you ever wrote that were full-justified?

I find reading more natural when left justified with irregular line lengths...what I find annoying is the very odd kerning that can happen to satisfy full justification. Plus I just do not like reading in a box. ;)

HarryT
08-30-2010, 10:56 AM
I find it interesting so many prefer full-justification over left-justify as the natural way to right, in our right-to-left conventions anyway, is left-justify. How many hand written or typed papers have you ever wrote that were full-justified?


But an eBook isn't hand-written, and full justification goes right back to the first days of movable type. How many commercially printed books do you have that are left-justified?

GeoffC
08-30-2010, 11:03 AM
Ragged Right please ....

Interesting Harry most of the pbooks I have are 'ragged right' .

Also looking at my newspaper, it uses both full justification and ragged right. Of the two, the latter is far easier to read.

Ea
08-30-2010, 11:05 AM
I'm really surprised to hear this - ragged right in p-books and the papers?!

HarryT
08-30-2010, 11:08 AM
Ragged Right please ....

Interesting Harry most of the pbooks I have are 'ragged right' .


I've just pulled a dozen books at random from my bookcase and all are fully justified. What kind of books are these that use left-justification? There are certainly some areas where you want it (eg poetry), but it seems (in my experience) to be rare for general fiction.

GeoffC
08-30-2010, 11:09 AM
How would you describe the layout of the articles on the BBC website ?

Ea
08-30-2010, 11:09 AM
I've just pulled a dozen books at random from my bookcase and all are fully justified.
Same here.

Ea
08-30-2010, 11:11 AM
How would you describe the layout of the articles on the BBC website ?
But that's a news site, neither a p-book or a paper... Are we talking about different things?

HarryT
08-30-2010, 11:12 AM
How would you describe the layout of the articles on the BBC website ?

But that's a web site, not a book.

GeoffC
08-30-2010, 11:12 AM
But that's a news site, neither a p-book or a paper...

Okay, the newspaper is the Times, uses both ....

Ea
08-30-2010, 11:14 AM
Okay, the newspaper is the Times, uses both ....
Also in print? I'm more curious about the p-books though..

GeoffC
08-30-2010, 11:17 AM
My apologies, the books I looked at immediately were ones (coincidently ? accidently ? ) showing dialog on the pages I browsed through.

On closer inspection, you are both correct ..... :o

[Though I stand by my newspaper example !]

HarryT
08-30-2010, 11:25 AM
My apologies, the books I looked at immediately were ones (coincidently ? accidently ? ) showing dialog on the pages I browsed through.

On closer inspection, you are both correct ..... :o

[Though I stand by my newspaper example !]

No problem. I was just intrigued by all your left-justified books :).

I suspect that newspapers probably use left justification because full justification doesn't work very well with narrow columns. That's just a guess, though.

Ea
08-30-2010, 11:36 AM
My apologies, the books I looked at immediately were ones (coincidently ? accidently ? ) showing dialog on the pages I browsed through.

On closer inspection, you are both correct ..... :o

[Though I stand by my newspaper example !]
That's fine :) I was merely puzzled as to how that could be - sounded very unusual :chinscratch: But who knows?

Jellby
08-30-2010, 11:36 AM
I suspect that newspapers probably use left justification because full justification doesn't work very well with narrow columns. That's just a guess, though.

Yes. About the only place where you can see ragged-right text in print is in magazines and newspapers with narrow columns.

As for handwritten or typed text, I always full-justify what I write as much as I can. If I write by hand I hyphenate properly, if I use a typewriter I've been known to double-count the spaces left in a line to find a good break point, if I use a computer I simply turn justification on :D

The Straven
08-30-2010, 11:38 AM
Plus I just do not like reading in a box. ;)

Indeed; I have dispensed with quaint notions of formatting and typesetting altogether, and think someone ought to add "no justification" as a poll option. I now consume ("reading" is such a passť term) all my fiction as bowls of Alpha-Bits cereal--it starts in a box, to be honest, but a bowl and a splash of milk mixes the letters up nicely. I mean, really, do we even need such archaisms as sentences and words in this enlightened age? I'll feel it in my gut if it's good writing, even if I don't really understand it. "Counterantidisestablishmentarianism", there was never a more tasty mouthful!

P.S. Currently chewing my way through the unabridged War and Peace.

P.P.S. I actually like "justified".

GeoffC
08-30-2010, 12:02 PM
It appears I cannot justify my statements, therefore I ......

Ea
08-30-2010, 12:03 PM
It appears I cannot justify my statements, therefore I ......
Prefer to leave your statements un-justified?

GeoffC
08-30-2010, 12:05 PM
:snicker:

queentess
08-30-2010, 01:40 PM
I suspect that newspapers probably use left justification because full justification doesn't work very well with narrow columns. That's just a guess, though.

Probably done to prevent the rivers that justification would create in a small column?

DavidSherwood
08-30-2010, 01:59 PM
I like justified but not at all cost. Excessive space between words is distracting. I can accept a little right-jaggedness to avoid this. You need another option on your poll: almost fully justified.

GeoffC
08-30-2010, 02:00 PM
David :hatsoff:

Welcome to mobileread ....

kacir
08-30-2010, 02:04 PM
Left justified. At least until somebody tries to make program used to render the books that at least tries to make it look good.

For explanation I will just quote my rant from one of many threads where we were beating this [dead?] horse.
------------------------------------
I prefer left justified e-books.
The right edge of fully justified text looks good, but you have to have line of reasonable length (not in distance, but in number of words) in order for text, and especially spaces between words, to look good as well.
If the line contains too few characters (words), the inter-word spaces width can vary wildly. This leads to typographical rivers - where spaces between words are visually joined and create "rivers" or even "lakes". Such pages also tend to have very uneven "typographical grey". Typographical grey is perceived evenness of distribution of ink on page. You look at the page from distance, with half closed eyes, so you do not see individual characters, but only grey color.

Printed books do use full justification, because a typical line in a printed book has more characters (words) than a typical line in an ebook, so statistics works in your favor. Also, printed books are [supposed to be] edited by a human being - a trained typographer that can make adjustments, so the text looks nice and evenly distributed. If you do not have trained typographer checking the complete layout, you should at least use advanced algorithms for balancing spaces, such as those used by TeX packages, or inDesign. Software in e-book readers does not have this level of sophistication yet. And frankly, many, many people simply do not care.

Newspapers use full justification, because the text is often in narrow columns, and it would be impossible for you to follow the text without clearly defined right edge.

I do not have a formal typographical education, but I have worked in field and I had to learn many things "on the job". Also, once you are trained to see typographical flaws, you find them distracting ;-)
I am also curious, so I looked up lots of typographical information.
I was wondering why are people so keen on fully justified text. Several influential typographers said (and have proven) that left justified text is easier to comprehend. I made a little research and I was quite startled to discover that THE very first book ever printed with the use of movable type - yes, I mean the Gutenberg Bible - had fully justified text. THE Bible was printed in two columns and we assume that the full justification was indicating the right edge of the text so it is easy to follow. The Gutenberg typographers went so far, that they have put the hyphens outside the right margin, because when you put the hyphen inside the right edge you get something that looks like a notch in a straight edge. I was very surprised to learn that the most of typographical rules were discovered, very, very early. The early typographers and type cutters/designers have very strong influence. Just look up typography history. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History...ern_typography


And besides, it is *my* reader and I set it up to display the books the way that *I* like. Period. I have been experimenting a lot. Fully justified books in PocketBook look definitely better than they did on Sony Reader, because the [third party] fbreader has relatively fine control over hyphenation. I keep returning to the left justified setup.
------------------------------------
[/rant]

By the way, can't you make two versions?
Not that I care, because I use PocketBook 360 e-book reader and FBReader throws away formatting from epubs and other formats and replaces it with my preferred formatting.

TenaciousBadger
08-30-2010, 02:09 PM
this is just me, but i don't really like the right-jaggedness. i find it really distracting and for some reason i can't get over it being unfinished formatting.
i'll put up with the few rare rivers for the sake of a nicely formatted document so justified for me

Barcey
08-30-2010, 11:24 PM
I prefer having the ability to decide myself.

simonroyle
08-30-2010, 11:34 PM
Left justified. At least until somebody tries to make program used to render the books that at least tries to make it look good.

For explanation I will just quote my rant from one of many threads where we were beating this [dead?] horse.

By the way, can't you make two versions?
Not that I care, because I use PocketBook 360 e-book reader and FBReader throws away formatting from epubs and other formats and replaces it with my preferred formatting.

Kacir - all due respect but given the number of replies and views in a short time it doesn't seem that this topic is dead.

It is very difficult to make two versions in the marketplace. If it were only a d/l from "my store" that wouldn't be a problem, however when putting into the commercial space it becomes difficult.

I think as many of you have pointed out that this issue of formatting will go away in time as many of the ereaders will (and do) simply format according to the user's taste.

Thanks for replying.

kacir
08-31-2010, 02:43 AM
Kacir - all due respect but given the number of replies and views in a short time it doesn't seem that this topic is dead.
This is why I put the word "dead" in a square bracket, followed by a question mark.
I do remember writing similar rant many times.
In one of my previous rants I have linked to pictures of very early cars, that looked *exactly* like a horse carriage without the horse. This is how I feel many people treat e-books. Why should an e-book on a 6 inch display have 15 millimeters wide margins (like many of the books from the Sony Bookstore had at the time)? 15 millimeters wide margin in a 6 inch device means you have wasted exactly 50% of space available for text.
The vast majority of text we read on computers is left justified. Nobody complains that all the articles here on Mobileread are left justified.


It is very difficult to make two versions in the marketplace. If it were only a d/l from "my store" that wouldn't be a problem, however when putting into the commercial space it becomes difficult.

If you sell the book as a DRM free book, for example using Smashwords, then the more technically savvy users that DO care about formating can change the formating themselves.
You might also consider putting something like this into the text (where permitted by publisher):
If you would like to have left justified version of this book, contact me at www.Example.com

I think as many of you have pointed out that this issue of formatting will go away in time as many of the ereaders will (and do) simply format according to the user's taste.

Which is the reason so many people like PocketBook that lets you choose format for non-DRMed books.

You will most probably end up doing fully justified version, because this is what the majority of people require according to the poll and many similar previous discussions, but you do get extra points for thinking about it and asking and making effort. The Tag has just been placed on the first place in my ToBeRead queue ;-)

Thank you.

simonroyle
08-31-2010, 02:57 AM
You will most probably end up doing fully justified version, because this is what the majority of people require according to the poll and many similar previous discussions, but you do get extra points for thinking about it and asking and making effort. The Tag has just been placed on the first place in my ToBeRead queue ;-)

Thank you.

...Thinking about it... I've started having nightmares about it :-) Joking aside I want to put out the best "product" possible. Frankly it is *almost* useless talking to publishers about this because they just don't know. And as I am sure you are aware there are hundreds of people willing to take my money but when I look at their product - I think I can do better. Hence me coming here to MR; which is just a GREAT place.

I've learnt more here in a few days than in weeks of reading other blogs and "Easy As Pie" suggestions. You in fact were the first in your ever so lovable way to say RTFM (and fair 'nuff too); which I did.

With regards to DRM. My strategy is to publish directly to Amazon and Smashwords. Smashwords doesn't give me anything on the Kindle that DTP doesn't already offer, but I get teh DRM problem and Smashwords is the solution for that (not to mention broadening the distribution channel).

Great that you're going to read the book and thanks for your thoughtful comments as always.

simonroyle
08-31-2010, 03:06 AM
It appears I cannot justify my statements, therefore I ......

The margin for error in this space,
Makes one wonder about the human race,
Text to the left,
or text to the right,
Either way you'll probably fright.
And when you've sung the final song,
There will be those who'll say you were wrong,
And justified though your statements may be,
The answer lies in being DRM free.

kacir
08-31-2010, 03:49 AM
Joking aside I want to put out the best "product" possible.
There is one thing that is very often overlooked and is, IMHO, even more important in an e-book than full versus left justification, or how to separate paragraphs, or how wide the margins should be or even serif versus sanserif versus slabserif font discussion.
It is separation of sections.

In normal book sections - jumps in narrative within chapter - are often marked by a wider space between paragraphs or perhaps by a small graphical mark. Many book reading programs reformat the book to a certain degree, so such formatting might be lost and then the book is much less readable.
The best practice is to separate paragraphs by something like *** on a separate line - just like you did in Tag ;-)

Cyberman tM
08-31-2010, 05:02 AM
Question: does "justify" mean forced line-breaks at certain points, no matter what? (i.e. Layout, instead of flowing Text - if that is the right term?)

I suppose it's also a matter of device, as several said their eBooks could rearrange the justification themselves.
But if the device can't, I suppose it'll look like a PDF does on my EB600 - forced line
breaks at posi-
tions where they only an-noy and serve no purpose
at all.

In that case I think ragged egdes would be preferable, if it also meant the text could freely flow around to fill up the space instead of being forced to adhere to a structure it might not even be able to fill.

Jellby
08-31-2010, 05:14 AM
It is the opposite, Cyberman tM, sort of.

Both settings break lines dynamically, at no fixed places, so that the text flows and fills the space as much as possible. "Ragged right" means the space between words does not change, so that some lines are longer than others, and then right margin is not straight but ragged; but still, the linebreaks are not fixed, if you change the font size the lines break at different points. "Justified" means the word spaces are stretched to make all lines the same length, and the right margin looks straight; if the lines are long enough this is usually not very noticeable, because each space is only stretched by a small amount, but with short lines (narrow page or large font) it can lead to very wide spaces between words sometimes, and this can annoying too.

simonroyle
08-31-2010, 05:14 AM
Question: does "justify" mean forced line-breaks at certain points, no matter what? (i.e. Layout, instead of flowing Text - if that is the right term?)



No. Justified doesn't mean forced line breaks instead of flowing text. If done correctly it simply means that the right edge is straight. I *think* that's what you mean, right? The issue is one of sizing and, spaces between words.

Looking at my admittedly amateurish experiments on mobi reader; spaces between words are not too badly affected.

Cheers,
S.G. Royle
Author of TAG, - A thriller set in the near future
www.simon-royle.com

sourcejedi
08-31-2010, 08:34 AM
...Thinking about it... I've started having nightmares about it :-) Joking aside I want to put out the best "product" possible. Frankly it is *almost* useless talking to publishers about this because they just don't know. And as I am sure you are aware there are hundreds of people willing to take my money but when I look at their product - I think I can do better.

Don't specify the alignment; let the device decide.

iBooks will *force* justification by default. But you can ignore iBooks anyway - users can use a different app if they need to. (And heavy readers _should_ be using a different app, because books bought from iBooks are iPad/iPod-only)

Stanza will also forcibly apply a user setting (not sure what the default is), so it will ignore what the ebook formatting says

Specifying justification will enable justification on the Sony 900, but it doesn't do hyphenation, so you it's not a great idea. Older Sony models don't support justification at all, so they won't care either way :-). Conversely, specifying left-justify (ragged) _will_ have an effect on the Kindle, where justification is enabled by default (again, without hyphenation). But justification has always been the default on the Kindle, and many books specify justification anyway, so Kindle users should be used to it by now. Also, the MobiPocket documentation for "content developers" says that you should not specify an alignment for body text. (MobiPocket is the format used on the Kindle).

If you let the device decide, you will make users of FBReader happy (as well as the various less well known devices that use FBReader). FBReader lets users choose their alignment - but _only_ if the book doesn't specify it. (This the same reason the MobiPocket guidelines say that you shouldn't specify an alignment).

JSWolf
08-31-2010, 08:56 AM
Justified -- definitely. I think an ebook should look like a printed book. Em dashes, smart quotes, chapters and section beginnings not indented (a pet hate).

Readers want ebooks to look like printed books, or I would imagine so.

But you left out one thing. Printed books have hyphens. Your reader does not. So printed books have less chance of wide spaces between words where your reader will have wide spaces between words on some lines. That's what the issue is. There is no way to get that printed book look without hyphens. And ADE does not have hyphens and neither does AZW. So really, no reader can look like a book.

You have two choices to how you want your eBook to look. You can have it be fully justified with wide spaces between words or you can have it be left justified with no extra spaces between words. Now which is the least annoying to look at when reading? That is what you have to ask and answer.

Test test test test.
Test test test test.

Which of the two lines looks better to you?

JSWolf
08-31-2010, 09:20 AM
I cannot actually vote in the poll. Because one option is missing that I would have voted for. To me, it depends on the eBook in question. If I have an eBook that is right justified but there are too many overly wide spaces, I'd prefer left-justified. But if not, right-justified is fine. So really, it depends on the content on screen and how it looks. For me, there is no one way or the other. Until ADE get's it's act together and uses hyphens, I'm thinking most cases left is better overall.

EowynCarter
08-31-2010, 09:31 AM
Test test test test.
Test test test test.

Sorry to say, totally irrelevant. You would need real sentence on more than one line ;)

Unless you want / need a larger font, spaces are rarely that big. And having lines finishing anywhere distracts me more than the very few lines where spaces gets big.

Whatever the formating, it's of when you have a small font. When you want something bigger, space or ragged borders makes the text un-readable.

L.J. Sellers
08-31-2010, 10:12 AM
Magazines and newspapers justify text on the right because large blocks of ragged right are visually messy and will make the reader move on to something "cleaner." On e-readers, with small amounts of text visible at a time, right justification isn't necessary, and can be a distraction. Now I'm rethinking e-book formatting.
L.J.

kjk
08-31-2010, 10:46 AM
But you left out one thing. Printed books have hyphens. Your reader does not. So printed books have less chance of wide spaces between words where your reader will have wide spaces between words on some lines. That's what the issue is. There is no way to get that printed book look without hyphens. And ADE does not have hyphens and neither does AZW. So really, no reader can look like a book.


Stanza uses hyphens...and doesn't the BeBook with FB2 hyphenate?

Lady Fitzgerald
08-31-2010, 10:49 AM
It seems we need to define just what the various justification terms actually mean.

Left justified (aligned) means the text is aligned to the left margin and is jagged on the right.

Right justified (aligned) means the text is aligned to the right margin and is jagged on the left (this is normally used only for listing numbers so the places align with each other).

Fully justified (or just justified) means the text is aligned to both margins (used in most p-books except for poetry).

kacir
08-31-2010, 11:00 AM
Stanza uses hyphens...and doesn't the BeBook with FB2 hyphenate?
PocketBook devices do hyphenate. With the third-party unofficial port of FBReader you can even fine-tune hyphenation - set how long the word has to be to be hyphenated, to avoid hyphenating too short words.

GlenBarrington
08-31-2010, 11:09 AM
I don't care. I can adapt to both.

Solitaire1
08-31-2010, 11:40 AM
If I have only one option I prefer ragged right with my documents, regardless of the type. If I have a choice between fully justification and ragged right, what I choose will depend on a few factors:

- If the text width is narrow, such as with many ebook readers, and the font is large (say 14 point), I'd prefer ragged right to avoid large gaps between the individual words.

- If the text width is large, such as with hardback books, and the font is small (say 10 or 12 point), then full justification is fine since the gaps between the words will not be large enough to be distracting.

I agree with other posters that the best option of all is to leave it up to the ereader on how the text will be displayed (not only the way it is justified, but also the font, and the paragraph spacing). As far as hyphenation goes, I think it is best handled within the document itself by encoding hard and soft hyphens (these only appear when a word is split) within the text, rather than having the ereader try and figure out where to split words and insert hyphens.

simonroyle
08-31-2010, 08:10 PM
The feedback has been great with lots of good tips. Thank you everyone.

What I take from this, and please correct me if I am wrong, is that for Kindle via DTP I should format my text as justified.

For Smashwords I should leave the text essentially unjustified (no setting), although that invariably means left justified, and let the readers ereader sort it out. Is that correct?

Once again thanks to you all for your valuable input.

brecklundin
08-31-2010, 09:33 PM
The feedback has been great with lots of good tips. Thank you everyone.

What I take from this, and please correct me if I am wrong, is that for Kindle via DTP I should format my text as justified.

For Smashwords I should leave the text essentially unjustified (no setting), although that invariably means left justified, and let the readers ereader sort it out. Is that correct?

Once again thanks to you all for your valuable input.

I forget which titles, but I have been able to format some MOBI books to left-justified in Calibre so as long as it's DRM free, then it's user's choice. Oh, I remember the first was one of the Hal Spacejock series.

I just like LJ'd but I like the idea of letting users decide. One of the reasons I still keep my Nokia N800 is because of FBReader and the fact I can control everything. Love the parchment like color I eventually tuned the background to as well. Then for night reading it's black background with yellow lettering, but all still LJ'd.

I wonder why Amazon insists on one way of doing this...for novels anyway. Reference and tech books are better suited to full justification if it's done correctly that is. I just find the added white spaces very distracting when reading a reference book because I notice them. I bet people who don't care for LJ are distracted if the LJ is too extreme and sloppy leaving those coastline like margins on the right.

sourcejedi
09-01-2010, 05:44 AM
What I take from this, and please correct me if I am wrong, is that for Kindle via DTP I should format my text as justified.

For Smashwords I should leave the text essentially unjustified (no setting), although that invariably means left justified, and let the readers ereader sort it out. Is that correct?

Hah. Wrong question :-). Now we come to the real world.

"no setting" is possible if you generate your ebooks by hand. Or if you generate them from HTML, in a process which does not impose formatting (e.g. Calibre's conversion appears to impose formatting, because it's designed to be used by individual readers rather than by publishers). Or if you otherwise have access to the source code - it's not too complicated to just unset the relevant formatting.

So it should be possible to do that for the Kindle store. But since the Kindle 2 doesn't give users any control over justification, I can't make a very strong case that you should make the effort :-(.

OTOH, it doesn't look like smashwords "Meatgrinder" gives you any such option. I haven't seen a way to test it without submitting a book for publication (which is an obvious bad sign itself). But it doesn't accept HTML, only Word. I don't see a way to say "no alignment specified" in Word, or to tell the Meatgrinder that there is no specified alignment. When you use the Meatgrinder, I think you do have to make a choice between left- or full- justified. (If it helps - remember that Stanza and iBooks will ignore your decision by default, so you only have to consider the effect on FBReader and Sony/Adobe readers).

I'm afraid I can't help you there because finding this out has put me off buying anything from either of these stores until I've worked out a conversion process that lets me ignore their deficiencies.

GeoffC
09-01-2010, 06:49 AM
there are ways to adjust purchased books to how you would prefer them, after all an epub file is just a zipped folder and the contents are available for edit. the same for many other formats.

alecE
09-01-2010, 06:12 PM
I much prefer full justification, but am comfortable with left justification. Preference is based on the visual attractiveness (to me) of a fully justified page, regardless of whether it's a paper page, computer screen or the display on my 505.

dkb
09-03-2010, 12:41 PM
Full justification would be nice, but it often doesn't work well in ebooks. I hate it when there is this big space between words.

DMcCunney
09-03-2010, 07:54 PM
Hi MR's,

I've been doing a lot (too much) reading about formatting eBooks. One comment I hear from "professionals" is that;

"nothing screams amateur like ragged right text"

What do you guys think? You're the readers - does it make a huge difference, and, more importantly, what do you prefer?
This verges on the Holy War about whether you should use sans serif fonts for body copy.

The preference varies with the text to be displayed.

For instance, I tend to read fiction fully justified. But I'm a computer geek, and a fair bit of what I read will have segments deliberately unjustified, and probably in a different mono-spaced font, as well. They will be snippets of program code. Attempting to justify that would be deadly, as there are all sorts of programs that rely on things like levels of indentation to be comprehensible.

The ebook viewer software I use makes justification user selectable, and it can be turned on or off as desired. So I'll be upset at anything that forces it. I may have reasons for wanting ragged right margins.

In my case, leave it left justified, and I'll make the fix here in the reader settings.
______
Dennis

meredithwh
09-05-2010, 12:20 AM
I've been pushing the ragged-right margin for ages, without success. It's much easier to read, apparenty especially so for dyslexics. Fully justified text is a hangover from the old days of hand-setting type within metal formes. Time we did away with it.

DMcCunney
09-05-2010, 12:38 AM
I've been pushing the ragged-right margin for ages, without success. It's much easier to read, apparently especially so for dyslexics. Fully justified text is a hangover from the old days of hand-setting type within metal formes. Time we did away with it.
I've never really seen a difference in ease of reading between justified and ragged right. But then, I haven't seen a difference is being able to read serif vs sans serif, and have been unimpressed by the arguments that serif is easier. Ease of reading has a lot more to do with how you handle the type than with whether it's serif or sans serif, and setting body copy is an art few have properly mastered.

But justification isn't just a hangover from metal forms. It originated in western publishing because books were laid out as single or double columns, and they were considered to look better if they were of even size. Early books created before movable type become common weren't perfectly justified. They were as close as the skill of the calligrapher creating the page allowed.

It's probably actually easier to set ragged right in hot type than to justify, as there's less fiddling with shims to lock the text on the line. And computerized typesetting and proportional fonts make justification a matter of a program setting when doing the markup.

The web is changing such perceptions in any case. Many sites use sans-serif by default (such as this one), and ragged right columns are common.
______
Dennis

guyanonymous
09-05-2010, 07:19 PM
http://www.webdesignfromscratch.com/basics/readability/#alignment

When reading text on my ebook reader, I get less on a line than in your average paperback (I keep the font size a bit larger) and much prefer left-justified text as it's easier to read.

For me, fully justified text belongs in multi-column formats or graphic-designed based items such as brochures, text books, etc where format often has significant meaning (isolating text groups based on meaning/value/etc) or significant graphic impact (look, a bunch of rectangles on a page).

In your average novel, the right-justification serves no purpose beyond aesthetics when you're looking at the image of the page, not reading the words.

In fact, my understanding from past education, research into it, and a quick check online to confirm my memory, is that reading fully justified blocks of text is a slower process than left justified, as the eye isn't able to, as readily, move from line to line in the text - it doesn't have a reference point for which line is which as it does when there is varying amounts of white-space to the right of each line.

For ebook readers, until they do a good job of on-the-fly hyphenation of the languages involved, I'd sooner have them leave the right-justification part of the equation alone. If I'm the structure of the document is that important, I'm likely using a pdf anyway and zooming in, and the point is moot.

SameOldStory
09-06-2010, 12:19 AM
Full justification would be nice, but it often doesn't work well in ebooks. I hate it when there is this big space between words.

I've been pushing the ragged-right margin for ages, without success. It's much easier to read, apparenty especially so for dyslexics. Fully justified text is a hangover from the old days of hand-setting type within metal formes. Time we did away with it.

I'm old enough to have actualy hand set type.

Dkb's problem is/was to some degree resolved by kerning and range kerning, where the words and the space between the letters of in a word were spaced out to help right justify the texl. And of course hyphenation, although I don't see it used that way any more.

Meredithwh, you're a hundred persent correct. For me at least. I am dyslexic, and the ragged right side of a page makes it both easyier and faster to read.

ctol
09-06-2010, 07:29 AM
Interesting discussion here. Many valid points made on both sides of the argument. But let me play a little devil's advocate here for a moment; what about a poet or author whose work full justification would completely ruin the style of his/her work? I am speaking specifically of one of my favorite poets e.e. cummings. Would you folks not read his work in ebook form just because some of his poetry does not lend itself to either right or left justification.

If you are unfamiliar with his writing style to see what I mean, check out this ebook verson of some of his poetry to see what I mean.

http://www.archive.org/stream/100selectedpoems030398mbp#page/n5/mode/2up

Ea
09-06-2010, 08:04 AM
Interesting discussion here. Many valid points made on both sides of the argument. But let me play a little devil's advocate here for a moment; what about a poet or author whose work full justification would completely ruin the style of his/her work? I am speaking specifically of one of my favorite poets e.e. cummings. Would you folks not read his work in ebook form just because some of his poetry does not lend itself to either right or left justification.
With poetry there is a very good reason to follow the wish of the author. As things are now, I doubt I would wish to read such poetry on an e-reader. A much simpler example than yours; I tried to read Beowulf on my ipod recently, but the screen was too small and it just didn't work.

DMcCunney
09-06-2010, 12:14 PM
Interesting discussion here. Many valid points made on both sides of the argument. But let me play a little devil's advocate here for a moment; what about a poet or author whose work full justification would completely ruin the style of his/her work? I am speaking specifically of one of my favorite poets e.e. cummings. Would you folks not read his work in ebook form just because some of his poetry does not lend itself to either right or left justification.
Full justification is deadly for any poetry. And I've read cummings. Some of his stuff should not be flush left, let alone fully justified.

You face the issue of how precise a control the reader provides over just where the individual words get placed on a page. Some forms, like "concrete" poetry, may be effectively impossible unless you use a PDF file.

And if typography is important, there are further compromises. I had a discussion with a friend who is a DTP specialist for a major trade publisher, and made it clear to her management that she wants to be involved in ebook production. "If the book designer specifies 11 pt Monotype Bembo on 12 for the body copy, the ebook reader doesn't have Monotype Bembo, and won't have that fine a control over line spacing. What you will do will be only an approximation based on what the reader can do, and what the reader can do will be constrained by the platform it runs on ." She got it.

You also face the issues involved when fonts must change in the book, like books on programming where the author's text is in a justified proportional font, but snippets of program code are in an unjustified monospaced font where indentation is critical. If the ebook viewer can't do that, you really don't want to try to read the book on it.

Web designers have been wrestling with this for years, as what the viewer sees is constrained by what fonts are installed on their machines, and browsers are programmed with defaults that the user should have as fallbacks if the font the designer specifies isn't present.

To a large extent, book design becomes a casualty when ebooks are in question. I expect those constraints to ease as the technology improves, but there are still a lot of cases where you either use a PDF or don't read it in electronic form.
______
Dennis

James_Wilde
10-28-2010, 06:09 AM
(Originally posted in the Iriver forum where it aroused little interest!)

I'm looking at the beta epub of my first book on my Iriver, and I must say I'm disturbed by the occasional long gaps at the right end of lines, since I have used left alignment. I've looked at some of the other books on my Iriver, and every one appears to be justified, and only rarely is there a noticeable gap in the middle or serious hyphenation. In fact, I haven't noticed any hyphenation.

In the course of searching for tips on this on the forum, I've discovered that one can apparently turn justification on and off on the Kindle <spit :)> and I wonder if anyone has found a similar option on the Iriver. I haven't.

I'm also wondering how justification can work in an epub book, since the composer doesn't know in what screen format and font the book is going to be displayed. I know that all word processors worth their salt can do conditional hyphenation, so that the word I just used can be hy-phen-a-ted in one of several places, more or less as I just wrote it, and the hyphen appears at the actual point of break. But do all word processors use the same symbol for a conditional hyphenation, and do all e-readers understand that. And how about Calibre and Sigil, how would they handle it?

I managed to find this thread in the forum about justified vs left alignment, and the readers seem to be more or less evenly split in their preferences with perhaps a slight advantage for justified, based only on the first page or so.

So, how does one fix justification in an epub book,

GeoffC
10-28-2010, 06:52 AM
So, how does one fix justification in an epub book,

text-align (perhaps) in the xthml/css?

I have no purchased epubs so I can't confirm that, but the option exists in the coding.

James_Wilde
10-28-2010, 11:15 AM
Great, thanks, Geoff. How about the hyphenation? Must that be done at the raw text stage or can e-book readers cope?

GeoffC
10-28-2010, 12:37 PM
Ack.. beyond me, I'm afraid ....

This really needs someone else to pop in and advise you - or try looking in the ePub forum (http://www.mobileread.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=179).

tomsem
10-28-2010, 08:58 PM
Hyphenation can be done in raw text (soft or conditional hyphens) but ideally it is up to the text layout engine to do hyphenation - just in practical terms, soft hyphens are difficult to error check and should only be inserted when automatic hyphenation messes up. (Most browsers ignore soft hyphens; Kindle actually displays a little square so you have to strip these out before creating a MOBI format ebook.)

'Correct' automatic hyphenation requires a language-specific hyphenation dictionary (hyphenation rules being irregular), but some heuristics can get applied even then (because dictionaries are never complete). For example, 'confusticating' is not in the dictionary, but with English heuristics you could safely hyphenate it as 'con-fusti-cat-ing'.

While most e-readers don't seem to support hyphenation of any kind (kindle won't even break a hard-hyphenated word), I've discovered that Kindle for iOS and Mac do (Kindle for Windows doesn't). It looks like hyphenation is a service the core frameworks provides, at least on OS X (the iOS docs are not as explicit on this). If that's the case, it is interesting that Apple didn't choose to support hyphenation in iBooks. When there is hyphenation, I wonder how apps determine what language to specify - not sure all ebooks necessarily specify this in metadata (even if they should), and of course, there could be more than one language being in use in a given book so you would need to have lang tags to delineate these.

I'm kind of neutral on the justification issue, except I think users should have the power to select whatever looks good to them. Hyphenation should be a part of the mix, and again I think it should be largely a matter of personal preference. E-book creators have no idea what the characteristics of the reading system will be (screen size/line length/line spacing/typeface) and hence they are in no position to dictate these terms.