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Old 02-01-2013, 12:44 PM   #61
Turtle91
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VydorScope - I appreciate loyalty and I'm sure smashwords appreciates yours!
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Judging by my sales at Smashwords, and judging by the test I did (covered in the OP) ...These readers do not have any problems, which is evident by their continued purchase of more books from Smashwords.
Your OP made me wince...as I do any time I hear people talk about statistics. There are so few people who actually KNOW how to determine a proper "statistically significant difference". If you do, that's great, but then you should know that anytime you state something like that you need to provide the numbers to back it up(population, sampling size, error, etc) because without them anyone can make any statistic say anything they want...just ask a politician!

"These readers do not have any problems" - really. And you know this how? "As evident by their continued purchase of more books from Smashwords." Sorry but the arguments of logic break down at that point. Do you have numbers showing how many people re-purchase after having an issue??

I would counter with the argument that people are more likely to continue repeating the same action because it is what they are familiar with. They may not realize that what they are seeing is "substandard" (if in fact it is) and think that is the way it is supposed to be. Perhaps ebooks have not become popular as fast as I would have expected (hoped) because people look at a poorly styled ebook and say...meh...I prefer paper??

Quote:
It is only a select few that will ever look at the code, and of them a small precent of them will care that the code is not as clean as they would like. That tiny group will never be happy.
You're right. Only a small percent will ever look at the code...that's a good thing! But I would be willing to bet that a MUCH LARGER percent will try and read their ebook in night mode and go What The Frak!! when it disappears on them...

============

I get the impression that some people are getting defensive. I want to assure you that I am in no way trying to attack or condemn...I started out simply clarifying what someone else meant by "hand-crafting" and then put up a description of some of the problems I found with random smashwords books that I had reviewed. My intent is to make you AWARE of the issues that I found. What you do with that awareness is entirely up to you...it doesn't bother me a bit...they are YOUR books....your sales. If you think that not being able to read your book when the user selects the "night mode" on their device is acceptable, then wonderful.

I would HOPE that someone brings these issues up to the appropriate individuals to get them fixed...a better product is only a plus for everyone involved. The fact that Mark Coker put in a comment is actually very encouraging...it means he cares...and I would think that he would be the person that could get some of these issues fixed if anyone can. I was a little concerned about WHAT he said...because it means that there is some confusion still on exactly what the problems are:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Smashwords View Post
This meme of poor formatting is a myth. Smashwords has stricter formatting requirements than most of our retailers.
I only reported what I actually SAW/WITNESSED/EXPERIENCED in random books taken from your website. You are more than welcome to take a look at more of your books and see if it is a consistent issue. Please do.

I was very concerned that what I had written was NOT a good sampling of the books...it was only 3 random fantasy books. So I went in this morning and pulled 7 more at random from random genre's (although I did keep the Adult Filter ON ) I specifically selected "most downloads" and "highest rated" to avoid any "new publications". The only other specification I used was that it had to be free. Sorry, I'm not going to pay for a book when I am just trying to help you guys out.

Every single one of them had the same flaws. Including the Style guide itself! That means that it is an error with the process and not with a particular author or book.

Anyone can open up their own book and check for themselves. Open your ePub, look at the stylesheet. You are looking for something that resembles this:
Code:
color: #000
That is what makes it invisible in night mode because it is setting all the fonts to the color black. There are other issues in there, but I'm not running an html academy here...lol

Quote:
Originally Posted by Smashwords View Post
A few weeks ago we launched our new Smashwords Direct feature, which is now in beta. Ironically, many of the "hand-crafted" epubs we're receiving are failing epubcheck, or failing other validation required by Apple, which has stricter epub construction requirements than other retailers. Books produced by our Meatgrinder conversion system don't have those problems.
"Hand-crafted" does not always equate to "well-crafted". You can have a complete beginner create an ePub by hand that does not meet standards. However, your process definitely has issues (which is expected in a BETA) when it repeatedly rejects "well-crafted" ePubs from professional book designers who get books accepted by Apple all the time. I would refer you to a different thread to get more information:http://www.mobileread.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=202111

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Originally Posted by Smashwords View Post
Also as a reminder, authors format books, not Meatgrinder. If an author follows our Style Guide, they'll get good, predictable results.
True-ish.
I read your style guide this morning. It actually did a good job on telling how someone can get a "consistent, predictable result" but not necessarily "good". It is designed to set up a document so that the meatgrinder can spit out a product that will be "usable" in all those multiple formats. That does not necessarily equate to "good" for a particular format. That is the downside to automated processes.
For example, your style guide (step 7b-a) specifically instructs authors to select a defined paragraph indent in inches. That might be necessary to get it to look good in a pdf/print format, but looks bad in a reflowable ebook. That was one of the complaints I had in my review.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Smashwords View Post
Before we distribute a book to retailers, our vetting team opens each book and reviews the epub for proper formatting and function.
That may explain why the books I reviewed had the fatal flaws. I retrieved them from smashwords.com. I do not know if they have been "distributed to retailers."

Have I mentioned my son is trying to payoff a cellphone data charge...he would be willing to help your vetters!

That brings up a question though. Why would you not vet books that are sold on your own website? Is it OK to let those books be flawed?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Smashwords View Post
Yes, there are poorly formatted books on Smashwords, but they're likely not books that are earning distribution, or they're recently uploaded books where the author is still working through corrections.
What does it matter if "they're likely not books that are earning distribution?" They made it through the meatgrinder did they not? Then they should not have fatal flaws. A book that meets all the requirements in your style guide does not have to "look pretty" for distribution, but every book that makes it through the grinder should at least be able to display in night mode...

It is not a matter of them being "new" books that haven't made it through the vetting queue yet...I specifically selected books that were from the "Most Downloads" and "Highest Rated" sort. One of the books was published over 2.5 years ago.


Again. I hope this helps people to get the issues corrected.

Cheers!
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Old 02-01-2013, 05:05 PM   #62
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Actually Turtle, I have a 4-year degree in statistics and use it quite often in my job. That is besides the point.

The point is, book sales do not bear out that there is any real problem with the books. Smashwords continues to gain in sales, and continues to grow. The market has decided whatever the problems maybe, they do not matter. That is my point.

I am not defensive, just trying to keep this discussion based in the facts of the market. Currently the free market has decided that Smashwords is good. Whether or not you agree is akin to the MS vs Apple, or Android vs IOS or Betamax vs VHS debate. One may or may not be technically better, but one is chosen by the market.

In summary, my point as is, the readers do not care. If they are having problems it is not enough to effect their choices.

As an Indy author, I appreciate the service Smashwords offers and the price the offer it at. I plan to stick with them for the foreseeable future. That may make me biased in this discussion, but I still feel the facts back my choice as wise and correct for the current market.

You of course are clearly entitled to your own opinion, and i respect that, I just do not agree on all counts. Can their service be better? Sure! Will they listen to advice from you and others that is submitted to them directly in a respectful manner? I do not know, I do know that they are moving to EPUB due to customer feed back, so maybe. Try it and see?
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Old 02-01-2013, 05:09 PM   #63
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Smashwords View Post
This meme of poor formatting is a myth. Smashwords has stricter formatting requirements than most of our retailers.

A few weeks ago we launched our new Smashwords Direct feature, which is now in beta. Ironically, many of the "hand-crafted" epubs we're receiving are failing epubcheck, or failing other validation required by Apple, which has stricter epub construction requirements than other retailers. Books produced by our Meatgrinder conversion system don't have those problems.
So why is it that directly uploaded ePub is being rejected for stupid things like a different size font used for chapter titles? If an ePub validates, it should be allowed. But that's not the case.
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Old 02-02-2013, 07:32 AM   #64
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VydorScope View Post
Judging by my sales at Smashwords, and judging by the test I did (covered in the OP), I standby my opinion that most readers open the Smashwords book on their Nook, Kindle, etc and you know, read it. Shocking I know! These readers do not have any problems, which is evident by their continued purchase of more books from Smashwords.

It is only a select few that will ever look at the code, and of them a small precent of them will care that the code is not as clean as they would like. That tiny group will never be happy.
I have bought more than 300 books at Smashwords and never have looked at the code. As you suggest, I buy the book and read it. I do find that there are a number of books that are badly formatted, making reading of the book difficult, but then they are also often not well written either and I tend to read 20-30 pages and then simply discard the book.

My experience is that most ebooks I buy at Smashwords are acceptably formatted, by which I mean that the formatting does not interfere with the reading and enjoyment of the book.

My only complaint is with those authors who try to mimic print books by insisting on using justified formatting. As I have gotten older, I have had to increase the type size on my readers (Sony and Nook) and there is nothing more furstrating than seeing text stretched across a line, with large whitespace gaps, in order to maintain a justified appearance. When formatting an ebook, the author needs to keep in mind that an ebook file is a continuous text file and not a printed page with repeat beginnings and endings.

Last edited by rhadin; 02-03-2013 at 07:54 AM. Reason: correct a misspelling
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Old 02-02-2013, 02:37 PM   #65
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Originally Posted by VydorScope View Post
Actually Turtle, I have a 4-year degree in statistics and use it quite often in my job. That is besides the point.
Then you understand why making generic statements about statistics without the data for verification is definitely not a good practice.
"Did you know that 69% of all statistics are made up on the spot?" lol

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Originally Posted by VydorScope View Post
The point is, book sales do not bear out that there is any real problem with the books. Smashwords continues to gain in sales, and continues to grow. The market has decided whatever the problems maybe, they do not matter. That is my point.
Unfortunately the two topics do NOT relate - as you so obviously wish they do.

Book sales and/or a business model and it's attendant level of success does NOT mean that there is not a problem with it's books...it doesn't mean there IS a problem either. All it means is that REGARDLESS of the condition of the book the business is selling them.

If all you care about is selling your book - and you don't care about the quality of the item you are producing - then you don't need to waste your time reading any further. However, I think that most people here DO care that the produce of their hard work is presented in the best possible way. Thus, I commented on some areas where I noticed some improvement is very much needed.

Quote:
Originally Posted by VydorScope View Post
I am not defensive, just trying to keep this discussion based in the facts of the market. Currently the free market has decided that Smashwords is good. Whether or not you agree is akin to the MS vs Apple, or Android vs IOS or Betamax vs VHS debate. One may or may not be technically better, but one is chosen by the market.
I agree, you are trying to keep the argument about whether smashwords is a good business model. But that is not the point of MY argument. You seem to think I am putting down smashwords as a business...I am not...I actually think it is a GOOD idea. Although I think the need to have books converted into all of those formats is a market niche that is fading fast. With the advent of ePub...the STANDARD open format that all devices/readers CAN use (with the notable exception of Amazon kindle who refuses to use them for purposes of market control)...there really is no need for separate conversions. I admire the company...I have simply reported on TECHNICAL DETAILS of their conversion process which need to be improved.

The argument is not even close to that of "MS vs Apple, or Android vs IOS or Betamax vs VHS". I am only talking about the quality of work produced by a particular process at a particular company. There is no debate whatsoever about the ePub standard (at least not in this thread)....

I have not seen a single individual disagree with the TECHNICAL details of my review.

Quote:
Originally Posted by VydorScope View Post
In summary, my point as is, the readers do not care. If they are having problems it is not enough to effect their choices.
Your assumption that they do not care is just that - an assumption. Just because Smashwords' sales are growing (I will give you the benefit of the doubt on that since I honestly have no idea - nor do I care) does not mean there aren't MANY more customers out there who do not purchase books from a company that has substandard formatting in their books.

If I were a customer (which I am) that went to smashwords.com to check out their books (which I did) and found that I couldn't read the book in the night mode (which I did) and then decided to check the other qualities of the other books on the site (which I did) and found them also lacking in myriad ways (which I did) I would probably decide not to spend my hard earned dollars on those books (which I have). It's not worth the time or risk of getting a flawed book - or a book that I would at least have to go in and edit (where it is legal to do so) so that I could actually read it.

How many other customers do NOT have my technical abilities and can NOT fix their own books and just decide NOT to buy those books any more? Your "smashwords is doing well" argument does not (nor can it) address how much was LOST for sales that didn't happen.

Quote:
Originally Posted by VydorScope View Post
As an Indy author, I appreciate the service Smashwords offers and the price the offer it at. I plan to stick with them for the foreseeable future. That may make me biased in this discussion, but I still feel the facts back my choice as wise and correct for the current market.
That is wonderful! More power to you!

Quote:
Originally Posted by VydorScope View Post
You of course are clearly entitled to your own opinion, and i respect that, I just do not agree on all counts. Can their service be better? Sure! Will they listen to advice from you and others that is submitted to them directly in a respectful manner? I do not know, I do know that they are moving to EPUB due to customer feed back, so maybe. Try it and see?
And now, we finally get to the whole point. "Can their service be better? Sure!" That's ALL I am saying. You SHOULD desire a clean well-crafted book from their service. But I guess it would not be fair to complain too loudly...from what you said smashwords does all this "work" for free. No fees, no percentage of your profits taken out....you do "get what you pay for" as the saying goes. (Just a little snarkiness intended there...but not much...it is a valid point after all )

Again, I wish you the best of luck in your, and smashwords', endeavors!

Cheers!
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Old 02-02-2013, 06:13 PM   #66
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Turtle91 View Post
And now, we finally get to the whole point. "Can their service be better? Sure!" That's ALL I am saying. You SHOULD desire a clean well-crafted book from their service. But I guess it would not be fair to complain too loudly...from what you said smashwords does all this "work" for free. No fees, no percentage of your profits taken out....you do "get what you pay for" as the saying goes. (Just a little snarkiness intended there...but not much...it is a valid point after all )

Again, I wish you the best of luck in your, and smashwords', endeavors!

Cheers!
And here we have the problem.

If you want to limit your point to the quality of output of the meatgrinder scripts, that is a different point then I have been making in my OP, and throughout this thread.

My point in starting this thread was to counter a different argument. The argument to this point has been "If you put Smashwords on your book, everyone knows they produce garbage so it will not sell." That is the argument that my points all DO counter.

The output of any automatic script is always inferior due to the vastness of the input space. It has to be so overly defensive that the output suffers. Frankly I have not been happy with Amazon's tool to make Mobi's either. But that does not mean I am not going to sell on Amazon. That would cut 75% of my fans out. While I do have the option (and I use it) to make mobi's to send to them, they still go through some conversion on their end because what comes out the other side is not exactly what I put in.

Also, I do not see Smashwords as a FREE service. They take a cut of the sales. I see it as a business model that I can afford. Some companies charge flat rates, some charge a combination of rates, and so on. Smashwords model I can afford, but I do not see it as free. I do not mind paying them for what they do, they deserve their share, but to call them free I think is a bit misleading.

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Old 02-02-2013, 07:00 PM   #67
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VydorScope View Post
My point in starting this thread was to counter a different argument. The argument to this point has been "If you put Smashwords on your book, everyone knows they produce garbage so it will not sell." That is the argument that my points all DO counter.
{emphasis added}

Ummm...and that is the point I was addressing. "Does smashwords produce garbage?" I think I have addressed that point appropriately. It is not "garbage", but it definitely needs improvement...and the correction of some serious flaws. The reason for the problem is their automatic meatgrinder process that does NOT effectively check for all of these errors - it simply makes sure it passes another computer's automatic check. For the best results, you should have a person create a "hand-crafted", "well-crafted", product to present your work in the best possible light.

Quote:
Originally Posted by VydorScope View Post
The output of any automatic script is always inferior due to the vastness of the input space. It has to be so overly defensive that the output suffers.
Yes. Exactly.

Quote:
Originally Posted by VydorScope View Post
Also, I do not see Smashwords as a FREE service. They take a cut of the sales. I see it as a business model that I can afford...
...

...

...

Wut?

...

...

If you are paying for this service, then why on earth are you not DEMANDING they fix this? Why are you trying to minimize my points about technical issues in defense of their business model??

Nevermind - I don't care. That is your decision.



You said your statistics show that your sales didn't change when you took the smashwords label off of your books. OK. Despite the lack of any numbers that give that statement any context (how many sales did you have before, how many after, which agencies were you with, what was the average sales for all the other authors at that agency during that time frame, how did the average sales for ALL authors at those agencies change from one quarter to the next, etc.) I will grant that "there was no statistically significant difference in the sales, at all" when you took the smashwords label off your book.

Even WITH that stipulation, you can not say the myth is "busted". You would have to do an actual scientific survey of customers who purchase electronic books to have any kind of "statistical certainty" that the myth is true or false. At best you have to say the myth is "plausible". (Thank you Adam and Jamie!)

I would totally accept you stating your BELIEF that it isn't true based on your experience.

OK...I'm going to stop talking about this now. I feel like I'm and I'm not adding anymore to my technical review of the quality of the smashwords conversion process.

Good night, and God bless.

This is Turtle91, signing off.

Last edited by Turtle91; 02-02-2013 at 07:04 PM.
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Old 02-02-2013, 07:18 PM   #68
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What I've done is used Calibre for the conversion and then have a look at the code in case there was anything I wanted/needed to tweak. If so, I'd tweak it and have an ePub that's good to go.
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Old 02-03-2013, 03:40 AM   #69
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Perusing the above, the word "loquacious" comes to mind.

Then I think, these must be writers!

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Old 02-03-2013, 01:33 PM   #70
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So here's a question- If "everyone" knows that Smashwords books have bad code and very little editing, what happens when people see the Penguin Author Services or Book Country labels? Do they go "ZOMG quality!" when in fact those two are actually scam labels?
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Old 02-03-2013, 05:45 PM   #71
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Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: Roslindale, Massachusetts
Device: Sony Reader PRS-650, iPad, nook STR
Some of the worst code in an ePub/AZW3 is from Phoenix Picks. It's atrocious. It looks like what you get when you use Knindleunpack to get at the code inside a Mobi eBook.
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