As cromag recommended I went to smashwords.com and downloaded a few books in the ePub format (Author's and Titles withheld to protect their sensibilities...but I will tell you in a PM if you really wish to know). I'd like to say it was random, but it was only random in the "fantasy" genre. It seems my fingers automatically go there without any conscious volition...
Here are the results of my quick...and completely unscientific...smashwords test:
Opened the ePub in Sigil.
First thing I noticed, the cover looked good - centered on the screen and taking up the whole screen.
I then checked the code view of the cover - (this is a basic page, there shouldn't be much on this page at all) - and noticed that there were style commands in the header. That in itself is not a big deal, but it is non-standard and could cause confusion if you are trying to change the way a book looks. I checked all the other pages, and yup, they all had styles defined on the page. The bad part of this was that the actual styles used in the cover were all redundant - giving the same commands 3 times. Unnecessary/redundant commands in a document are what we call "bloat". In extreme cases I've seen bloat more than double the size of a file.
OK...some errors...but looked OK on the screen.
Next I looked through the actual text pages in "Book View".
First thing I noticed was the paragraph indent was WAY too large. "That's just style - the author wanted it that way" I thought. So I switched to code view....
I thought smashwords used the "meatgrinder" to convert their documents? Then why am I seeing all kinds of "Calibre" classes in the tags??!! For those who don't know, Calibre is a free open eBook management/conversion software. Now I am certainly not a lawyer, nor am I saying that smashwords doesn't have a right to use/license the Calibre conversion plugins...but it seems odd...
I also saw that every paragraph is defined with a particular class. This is not abnormal, but I consider it bloat. If it is a normal paragraph than it should just fall under the normal paragraph style...you don't need to tell it that it is normal.
I also saw NINE metadata tags in the header - NONE of which are required or even desired - And of course the previously mentioned style section.
OK...again...not TOO bad....fairly clean...I've seen much worse. The one thing I really want to check on is the paragraph indent.
I opened the stylesheet.
I didn't care anymore that they had put a fixed width paragraph indent of almost 1/2 an inch....1/2 an inch!! That pushes the indent to about halfway across my screen depending on what my margins are set at.
What I cared about was MUCH worse. To check what I thought would happen I threw the ePub into my calibre library (it was like the prodigal son returning home...
) so I could use my OPDS server. I then opened the epub in Stanza. It is an older app but is still considered one of the premier readers...people are still waiting for a "Stanza replacement".
So the book looks fine when I open it up - as I expected. But with a flick of my finger I switched over to night mode...and guess what happened to the book??
I started flicking through the pages and the ONLY thing I could see was the occasional hyperlink floating in blue in random locations on the screen.
Smashbooks had declared (or allowed the book to pass) with the fonts all colored "black". That looks fine in day mode with a light background, but when you go to a black background with black letters......not so good.
I would call book 1 a failure for that reason alone.
I did however want to be reasonably thorough so I checked it with Adobe Digital Editions and Sony reader for PC - it looked fine (except for the indent), but the PC versions do not let you change color settings. I tried to load it into Kindle Previewer but it failed import. I understand that smashwords will give you an already converted mobi format but well made ePubs should NOT fail import. However, that may be attributable to a cover image being too small or something equally ridiculous.
So, the first book is a fail.
I'll be back later to write-up the other two books...I need to go read to my kids for bedtime.