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Old 06-24-2010, 04:31 AM   #1
sourcejedi
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Join Date: Dec 2009
Location: Britania
Device: FBReader/OpenInkpot on Hanvon N516.
Should ebooks specify exact paragraph and page formatting?

Some ebooks include CSS which specifies whether paragraphs should be represented by indenting the first line (printed book style), or by leaving a blank line after each paragraph ("block paragraphs" / web-style / Word style). It's also common to specify that text should be justified.

Other ebooks avoid this explicit formatting for the main text (although they may include specific formatting options for cover pages, headings, quotes/poetry etc). Instead, they let the e-reader choose an apropriate default. Some e-readers like FBReader provide options for users to alter these defaults.

More detail:
Spoiler:
There's also page formatting, Adobe have extensions which allow ebooks to specify page headers and footers. And I've recently noticed that one of my ebooks attempts to specify the size of the top and bottom margins.

The EPUB specifiction includes CSS with a few small changes. It does mention this issue -

Quote:
this specification does not mandate specific rendering behavior for the OPS Preferred Vocabularies. Some Reading Systems could choose to express the intent of elements in presentation by closely following web browser usage — a blank line before a paragraph, but no first-line text-indent, for example. Other Reading Systems could gear their presentation towards sustained novel-like readability: for example, no extra whitespace between paragraphs, but text-indent on the first line of each.
But it doesn't appear to make any best practice suggestions for either publishers or e-readers. And since CSS is required, it's not like HTML on the web where good webmasters know that webpages should be readable even if the CSS is ignored. My impression is that the creators of EPUB either didn't regard this issue as important, or they didn't think they could do anything about it.

It might sound odd to say that the EPUB specification is so powerless, but it is only a piece of paper. What really matters are the people who implement it. Here's another gift from Adobe:

Quote:
Use spacing that looks more like a book
There’s default values for margins and padding in CSS, and they’re not the sort of thing you want in a book, so get rid of them all by setting a new set of margins and padding for all of the block-level elements you plan to use in your documents, something like this:
body, div, p, h1, h2, h3, h4 { margin: 0; padding: 0; }
Then follow that rule with rules that add the spacing you want.
I could be misreading this, but I understand this to be saying "don't let the e-reader's default formatting show through; use a CSS reset and then specify the exact formatting you want".


What do you think about this?
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