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Old 08-28-2012, 02:57 AM   #31
cybmole
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my 2 cents: designing & coding artistic drop caps may be satisfying for some, & may impress the hell out of publishers, but when it comes to actually reading the e-book they are a complete waste of space.

They add nothing to readability - I actually prefer to zap them by editing to make "dropcaps" an empty style in the CSS many books that I read.

same goes for arty chapter heading styles.


I suspect the desire for these goes way back to bored medieval book-copying monks creating doodles around opening letters - we should have outgrown that by now!. Millions of web articles are perfectly readable without any drop caps, so why have them in e-book novels

what's the counter argument for drop caps actually impoving the reading experience, rather than the book-selling figures ?

I want to read the book & nothing but the book - all the vanity stuff ( glowing review extracts, other books by, dedications to people I''ve never heard of, ) is zap fodder. If I want to know more about the author or see other books by I use Google !

i know it aint going to happen this way - it's like wishing or a movie DVD that starts with the movie , not with the unskippable logos & adverts crap - just giving a readers persective on all this misguided creativity
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Old 08-28-2012, 04:54 AM   #32
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Originally Posted by cybmole View Post
what's the counter argument for drop caps actually impoving the reading experience, rather than the book-selling figures ?
They offer an opportunity to pause and relax, think about you've read so far, and think about what's coming next. A new chapter usually means some kind of break in the story, a chapter header, ornament and drop may help creating that "break" in your mood.

Quote:
it's like wishing or a movie DVD that starts with the movie , not with the unskippable logos & adverts crap
But maybe you like some fancy and original opening credits, maybe you like the kind of location captions seen in the "Fringe" series.

A little eye-candy does not deter the reading experience, but can make you enjoy the book more. Of course, some people won't like it anyway.
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Old 08-28-2012, 05:54 AM   #33
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They offer an opportunity to pause and relax, think about you've read so far, and think about what's coming next. A new chapter usually means some kind of break in the story, a chapter header, ornament and drop may help creating that "break" in your mood.

....
I like simple chapter headers but for me the other stuff detracts - maybe because some of it is taken from hardback paper layout & does not scale well into e-reader space.

And as the thread has shown there is no robust cross platform solution for epub & mobi. I'm also pretty sure that an epub-to-epub conversion in calibre - when done for other clean-up reasons, sometimes garbles the ornamental stuff.

I don't mind being the minority view here.
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Old 08-28-2012, 06:48 AM   #34
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Originally Posted by cybmole View Post
I like simple chapter headers but for me the other stuff detracts - maybe because some of it is taken from hardback paper layout & does not scale well into e-reader space.

And as the thread has shown there is no robust cross platform solution for epub & mobi. I'm also pretty sure that an epub-to-epub conversion in calibre - when done for other clean-up reasons, sometimes garbles the ornamental stuff.

I don't mind being the minority view here.
Excuse me--but our coding does work for ePUB and MOBI both. We have an ePUB + K8 stylesheet and a K7 stylesheet, and our ePUBs convert without problem.

I, for one, have no objection to a book looking like someone gave a crap about it. I find "ebooks" that look like Word files a complete turnoff. I don't think that they have to look like medieval foofery, but I see nothing wrong with a nicely styled dropcap; or some smallcaps as incipits, or even, tastefully, some first-line bolding. I don't want books to look like "web articles" or, worse, blog articles, god knows, we're inundated with enough bad blog articles as it is. When I see an ePUB or a MOBI made by someone like Jellby, I know that some TLC went into that book--somebody gave a rat's ass about it, and it's less likely that the content is the utter CRAP that is flooding the market.

And I wouldn't know what an "epub to epub" conversion in Calibre would do to coding, nor what it has to do with proper coding of styles for an eBook.

I don't claim that stylistic effects will make a bad book good--they don't, we all know that--but a beautiful book is a joy to behold, whether it's in print or digital format. Jellby's work should be an inspiration to all the wanna-be's that come along here, simply because the care and precision are worth emulating, and the books are lovely to the eye. The idea that some "digital revolution" has to embrace an unattractive stark austerity, when we now have the freedom to embrace artistry at ever-more affordable rates, is utterly confounding to me. The point of much of the print layout techniques is to facilitate the reading experience for clarity--A dropcap for a new chapter, or smallcap incipits for scenebreaks, coupled with vertical whitespace and a flush-left paragraph--to clearly indicate to the reader that the scene or POV or timeframe has changed. It's not mere foofery. I most definitely would really rather see that than three bloody ASTERISKS in a row.

I personally do NOT like all the nonsense that gets crammed into very short books with little content (primarily a print crime) in an attempt to make the books look bigger--extra-large fonts, too-large vertical whitespace, fleurons, silly text boxes for no reason other than to take up space, and every other geegaw under the sun--but those are vastly different than something as simple and attractive as a simple dropcap or first-line incipits.

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Last edited by Hitch; 08-28-2012 at 10:13 PM. Reason: Whoops, double-posted my sig block, my bad.
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Old 08-28-2012, 08:53 AM   #35
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'nuff said really, but i site this link in defence of the "adds nothing to readability" argument
http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2012...est-practices/
When reading text with a drop cap, we always “read” the letter, then the partial word, and then have to piece the two together...
The visual separation caused by using a drop cap interferes with word recognition for everyone. Drop caps are decorative elements. When we use them, we are setting a tone—often at the expense of readability.
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Old 08-28-2012, 10:51 AM   #36
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Originally Posted by cybmole View Post
'nuff said really, but i site this link in defence of the "adds nothing to readability" argument
http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2012...est-practices/
When reading text with a drop cap, we always “read” the letter, then the partial word, and then have to piece the two together...
The visual separation caused by using a drop cap interferes with word recognition for everyone. Drop caps are decorative elements. When we use them, we are setting a tone—often at the expense of readability.
Done right, a dropcap can look good and be very readable.
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Old 08-28-2012, 11:15 AM   #37
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Sorry, I gave up the bland, Mono-Spaced (early dot matrix) font habit many years ago

I like my e-books to look like errr... Books, with all the subtle embellishments. This includes variants on the initial letter treatment, and variants. I do trim aggressively used white space, consumed in chapter headings (my rule: no more than 33% of the screen at 3-Normal font on my ADE based PEz)

Lets agree, You don't cram your preferred style onto me and I won't insist that you do it my way
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Old 08-28-2012, 03:08 PM   #38
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The only time I don't appreciate flourishes like these is when they replace type with graphics that can't be read by a screen reader/TTS engine.
Whether it's the first letter in a paragraph, or worse, the chapter header, it makes things wonkey, at best.
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Old 08-28-2012, 03:47 PM   #39
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My goodness, I really started a brouhaha, didn't I? And all because I posted the CSS that Amazon suggested. It really didn't work, and I soon switched to this:

@media amzn-mobi {
span.dropcap { font-size:300%; }
}
@media not amzn-mobi {
span.dropcap {
font-size:300%;
float: left;
margin-top:-0.3em;
margin-bottom:-0.3em
}

I don't think it's helpful to declare that drop-caps "don't work in mobi." Most of us who publish Kindle books are accustomed to thinking of our files as exactly that--mobi--and when we download the converted file for testing, it is named filename.mobi

As viewed on the Fire and the other devices/apps using KF8 format, the drop-cap appears as a drop-cap. On the KF7 devices/apps, it's an up-cap. Both look good, though the drop-cap looks better. As others have noted, the result seems more like a .... book.
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Old 08-28-2012, 04:40 PM   #40
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Originally Posted by Oldpilot View Post
I don't think it's helpful to declare that drop-caps "don't work in mobi." Most of us who publish Kindle books are accustomed to thinking of our files as exactly that--mobi--and when we download the converted file for testing, it is named filename.mobi
So how would you propose to say it? Dropcaps don't work in old-MOBI? MOBI7? MOBI The First? Regardless of the file's extension and the semantics involved, we still need a way talk about it and express the differences.

To me, it makes perfect sense to to say that dropcaps don't work in MOBI, but they do work in KF8. It's a heckuva lot simpler than saying dropcaps won't work in the format formerly known as MOBI (the fallback format reserved for older kindle devices—and even some of the newer ones whose firmware is less than X.XX), but will work in newer MOBIs utilized by Kindles Fires (and eInk devices with firmware greater than or equal to X.XX).

Don't get overly attached to the file's extension. There's just as many old-school Kindle eBook publishers who are accustomed to thinking in terms of uploading and downloading PRCs. Times change. There's some confusing stuff going on under the hood of MOBI right now and I think the terms MOBI, KF8 and Combined (or Hybrid) MOBI/KF8 are quite helpful, actually, in determining what someone may be trying to say/accomplish. It's important for people to realize they're creating two different (as well as separate and distinct) versions of their ebook when using Amazon's official creation process—regardless of the fact that the final product you upload happens to be a single file with the .mobi extension.

Last edited by DiapDealer; 08-28-2012 at 05:35 PM.
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Old 08-28-2012, 04:53 PM   #41
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'nuff said really, but i site this link in defence of the "adds nothing to readability" argument
http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2012...est-practices/
When reading text with a drop cap, we always “read” the letter, then the partial word, and then have to piece the two together...
The visual separation caused by using a drop cap interferes with word recognition for everyone. Drop caps are decorative elements. When we use them, we are setting a tone—often at the expense of readability.
No offense to whomever wrote that, but if someone's brain is so slow that they have to "piece together" a dropcap with the remaining text, maybe they need to use "See Spot Run" readers.

Worse, is that site KIDDING abotu "readability"? I find that whole webpage unreadable, due to the horrid distractions of the endless advertisements coupled with the greyed-out pseudo-Apple text (yes, THAT makes sense--let's ensure that no one can read the actual navigation bar, but don't let them miss the advertisements, god forbid!). I wouldn't stay on that site for 10 seconds, I find it SO annoying--and they're bitching about dropcaps?

I mean, honestly--will the dumbing-down of America never cease? The readers are so stupid that they can't read a DROPCAP with the remainder of the text?

And, lastly--she is expressly talking about using dropcaps ON THE WEB, not in books. To quote:

Quote:
Deciding to use drop caps on a website means making a conscious choice to use a primarily decorative element. Unlike initial caps in manuscripts and incunabula, a drop cap on the Web doesn’t add value in terms of usability or readability; its main purpose is to look good. And making a drop cap look good—whether in a manuscript, an incunabula, or on the Web—takes time (Figure 17). (Italic emphasis added)
So--this entire web article, on a barely-readable page, is about using dropcaps ON THE WEB, not in a book or a manuscript, in the first place--so it's not related to this dicussion in any event.

I'm sticking with my position--I want a book to be beautiful. I'm not going to be swayed by arguments about web design--utterly unrelated to manuscript design by her own words--on a website that is itself unreadable due to poor design.

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Old 09-06-2012, 02:45 PM   #42
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It may be that the size of the device has something to do with it. My little Sony screen is not any the better for drop caps, IMO. On a bigger screen, I could be persuaded otherwise.

As for not caring, I care about the books I produce. I usually work from bad OCRed copies and kill thousands of errors plus bad coding. By the time I get that right I am out of energy and enthusiasm to worry about drop carps or other niceties. But I mostly do non-fiction, which doesn't benefit quite so much, nor is it commercial either.
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Old 09-08-2012, 06:51 PM   #43
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I have to admit that I am tiring of drop-caps and probably won't use them in future e-books (though I will in print editions).

And in response to the question of how to define where drop-caps won't work: they won't work in KF7. That's the format that goes to the (diminishing proportion) of traditional Kindle readers, as opposed to the Fire and its sistren. A mobi file on the Amazon store contains both a KF7 and a KF8 book, and it delivers the requisite one to the device or app the customer selects for delivery.
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Old 09-08-2012, 08:12 PM   #44
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Originally Posted by Oldpilot View Post
I have to admit that I am tiring of drop-caps and probably won't use them in future e-books (though I will in print editions).

And in response to the question of how to define where drop-caps won't work: they won't work in KF7. That's the format that goes to the (diminishing proportion) of traditional Kindle readers, as opposed to the Fire and its sistren. A mobi file on the Amazon store contains both a KF7 and a KF8 book, and it delivers the requisite one to the device or app the customer selects for delivery.
Well, I thought that this discussion had been had, but: no, of course not, drops don't work in K7, but with nominal media-query coding (and, actually, you can make this work sans media queries) you can use a fallback styling of a Raised Initial. K7 doesn't have float, which is needed for drops. {Shrug}. I don't think every book needs a drop--but I do like some type of incipit for the first line, whether it's smallcaps, bold, whatever. Of course, that's just personal taste, but our clients rather like it.

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Old 09-16-2012, 09:33 AM   #45
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Oh, I couldn't agree more! Drop-caps remind me of medieval monks illuminating their manuscripts, and I have a happy feeling that I am settling into a soft chair by an open fire and sharing ideas with someone who cared how his (well, all the monks were male!) books actually looked.

You may have noticed, on the KDP forum this morning, that the KF8 update for the Kindle K3 keyboard reader seems to render drop-caps four lines deep, though the cap itself is scarcely three lines high, resulting in a rather silly effect whereby the cap sits to the left of lines 2 and 3 rather than at the top of the paragraph. Of course, this may have been only Punchy Gonzalez's CSS, but it confirms my decision to steer clear of drop-caps for the time being.

Last edited by Oldpilot; 09-16-2012 at 10:06 AM. Reason: corrected the device (not Touch but K3)
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