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Old 05-18-2009, 12:21 PM   #1
Kris777
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WIRED: Why E-Books Look So Ugly

Interesting article:
http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2009/05/e-book-design/

and interesting numbers:

...
With the popularity of the Kindle and other e-book readers, electronic book sales in the United States have doubled every quarter. Though still a very small percentage of the overall book industry, sales of e-books touched $15.5 million in the first quarter of the year, up from $3.2 million the same quarter a year ago. By contrast, the printed book market sales in North America alone was nearly $14 billion in 2008.
...
“E-books today are where the web was in its early years,” says Andrew Savikas, vice-president of digital initiatives at O’Reilly Media, a major publisher of technical books. “And some of those e-books are as difficult to read and browse as the early web pages.”

...
After spending a weekend with the Sony e-book reader, I found that the convenience of having so many books in a single, lightweight, slim device had me hooked, and its screen offers nearly print-like readability. But after about four hours of flipping through blocks of grey text I found myself feeling strangely melancholic. It couldn’t have been the lack of sunshine. Moving from one book to another, while easy, didn’t help: I was still staring at the same font, the same gray background and the same basic layout.

...
A big part of the problem with the Kindle (the largest selling e-books reader) is its use of the Amazon-specific .mobi file format, rather than the open standard ePub. ePub is based on the XML and CSS standards used in millions of web pages and allows for far more control over layouts than is currently possible with the .mobi file format.

As a result, if publishers want to sell Kindle books, producers like Defendini have to do a lot of manual work to create the digital file. In some cases, that means almost page-by-page customization, ensuring that drop caps appear correctly and that text flows around illustrations properly.
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Old 05-18-2009, 12:25 PM   #2
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On the other hand, when all the books look the same and the writers can't depend on flashy covers to grab potential readers, maybe they'll just have to "up" the quality of their writing, and we'll see a whole new era of terrific literature.

There's always another way to look at these things.
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Old 05-18-2009, 12:30 PM   #3
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Maybe they are reading crappy books, I've never had this problem.
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Old 05-18-2009, 12:33 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stoogeswoman View Post
On the other hand, when all the books look the same and the writers can't depend on flashy covers to grab potential readers, maybe they'll just have to "up" the quality of their writing, and we'll see a whole new era of terrific literature.

There's always another way to look at these things.
Hm, nothing to do with "flashy" covers (although, a nicely done cover is a good thing.)

More to do with page layout and font selection. Take a look at a well-done hard-cover, to see what I mean.
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Old 05-18-2009, 12:39 PM   #5
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This article is right: in Mobipocket for example, all e-books kinda look the same. With ePub, embedded fonts and CSS it's possible to give a unique look & feel to e-books. But if as a content producer, you decide to go down that road, you need to know that most of the time you won't let the reader customize things as much as they'd like. It's a balance between design and flexibility.
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Old 05-18-2009, 12:55 PM   #6
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Some font variety on the Kindle would be nice.
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Old 05-18-2009, 12:58 PM   #7
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But in most paperback books, the font style/size/layout are often similar (especially if same publisher), paper may be whiter - but otherwise I've not noticed any difference (except weight!!)
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Old 05-18-2009, 01:19 PM   #8
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I, for one, miss the individual "personalities" when reading ebooks as opposed to pbooks. All ebooks generally look the same. I still wouldn't mind a unique look & feel for each ebook I purchase to capture the author/publisher's intentions while allowing me the flexibility to change font sizes if I needed to.

epub is great but wouldn't a properly designed reflowable pdf achieve the same result?
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Old 05-18-2009, 01:19 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GeoffC View Post
But in most paperback books, the font style/size/layout are often similar (especially if same publisher), paper may be whiter - but otherwise I've not noticed any difference (except weight!!)
yes, and you can't change letter size
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Old 05-18-2009, 01:22 PM   #10
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yes, and you can't change size

I can choose font and font sizes ...... with more choices than are available on this MR reply box ...... !!!
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Old 05-18-2009, 02:21 PM   #11
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I can choose font and font sizes ...... with more choices than are available on this MR reply box ...... !!!
I mean that you can't choose letter size in paper books
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Old 05-18-2009, 02:33 PM   #12
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While I enjoy my reader I too miss the individuality of paperbooks. No two are ever exactly the same. That would be my second biggest gripe about ereading. First would be that the page is still not as easy to read as paper in my opinion. Close, but not perfect. Yet.
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Old 05-18-2009, 03:26 PM   #13
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Interesting thought.

I read ebooks in several formats--Fictionwise LRFs, Calibe-created LRFs (generally with the default settings, because it still confuses me), occasional ePubs, MobileRead LRFs from different people, publisher promo PDFs, usually about 6x9, which either look very tiny or I reflow, and my own PDFs, made to ~3.5x4.75" pages in 10pt Fontin with .1" margins.

I don't get bored of ebook appearances because my ebooks don't all look alike. Even when I'm making them for myself, and I've got standard font & margin choices, I'm sloppy about chapter headers--some are left in Word's default "header 1" style; some go to a different font, sometimes I don't mark them at all.
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Old 05-18-2009, 03:26 PM   #14
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What I like with ePub is that I can choose the fonts I want and I do use my own choice unless the ePub has font(s) used. Then I just leave them be. But I find my ePub looks better then my LRF. But even still, once I get into the story, I don't mind the look.

But sometimes the look can make reading more enjoyable.
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Old 05-18-2009, 04:35 PM   #15
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It's possible to create interesting looking Mobipocket ebooks. It just takes some effort, testing and proof reading. Using Mobipocket Creator you can start off with XHTML+CSS, and let Mobipocket Creator turn it into Mobipocket HTML. Most of the time it does a decent job.

Of course, you don't get the scalable SVG graphics, or embedded fonts.

Paul

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hadrien View Post
This article is right: in Mobipocket for example, all e-books kinda look the same. With ePub, embedded fonts and CSS it's possible to give a unique look & feel to e-books. But if as a content producer, you decide to go down that road, you need to know that most of the time you won't let the reader customize things as much as they'd like. It's a balance between design and flexibility.
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