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Old 07-06-2011, 07:52 PM   #1
jswinden
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Lengthy time required to view an endnote in kePub

I'm currently reading a kePub that is over 17 MB in size. If I select a link to an endnote it takes a minimum of 36 seconds to display the endnote and then immediately return to the page I was on. That is way too slow.

Once I select the link to the endnote the busy icon starts rotating in the upper left of the screen. I originally thought this was the sync icon, but it activates even while in Airplane mode. The endnote page is eventually displayed but the busy icon continues to rotate for apprx 29 seconds from when I first selected the endnote link. Until it stops rotating, I cannot bring up the Back link by tapping the center of the screen. After finally being able to select Back, I'm returned to the book page but it takes a few more seconds for the busy icon to quit rotating and the screen to quit refreshing.

That ordeal took 36 seconds and I didn't even stop to read the endnote. That is way too slow and cumbersome. The book I'm reading has many endnote links and I keep hitting the little buggers by mistake making my reading progress painfully slow.

Is anyone else experiencing this slow endnote response? Note that this is a kePub and not a sideloaded book, which makes a difference.

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Old 07-06-2011, 09:06 PM   #2
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Which book?
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Old 07-06-2011, 09:55 PM   #3
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Which book?
No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II by Doris Kearns Goodwin.
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Old 07-07-2011, 10:26 AM   #4
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I looked in the .kobo/kepub folder on my Kobo Touch this morning and I see a file named a4407fbb-e573-4272-8ff2-4e9f7912ff4f which is 17MB and date/time stamped at the appropriate time to be the book I'm experiencing the slow endnote viewing. (I originally said it was a 9MB file, but that turned out to be the Adobe DRM ePub version I downloaded to my PC.)

I will say that this book does not seem to have been formatted well by the author/publisher, and therein might lie the problem. As we know, some authors use well formatted and thought out HTML and CSS that works well in an ePub, while others don't have a clue as far as how o create digital books like ePubs. I have not attempted to peak inside this kePub as it is DRM protected, but I did notice that the Adobe DRM ePub version is smaller at 10MB and the MOBI version (bought through Amazon) is smaller still at 5MB.

Size Comparisons:

kePub = 17MB (from KoboBooks)
ePub = 10MB (the Adobe DRM version from KoboBooks)
mobi = 5 MB (from Amazon)
converted ePub = 2MB (converted mobi to ePub via calibre)

The ePub and especially the kePub seem extremely bloated to me. This often happens when authors use tools to quickly generate HTML from other documents. My guess is that a 17MB ePub that looks essentially like a 2MB calibre generated ePub must contain a LOT of superfluous HTML/CSS and perhaps this is so convoluted that it is slowing down the display of the book.

Also note that this book is a scholarly work filled with hundreds of hyperlinked endnotes documenting her sources of information.

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Old 07-07-2011, 10:48 AM   #5
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I peaked inside the Adobe DRM version and the HTML and CSS do not seem bloated at all. There is a referenced page-template.xpgt.

Code:
<link href="../Styles/9781439126196.css" rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" />
<link href="../Styles/page-template.xpgt" rel="stylesheet" type="application/vnd.adobe-page-template+xml" />
I wonder if the Kobo Touch is having problems with rendering using page-template.xpgt? I don't use these page templates from ADE, so I'm not that familiar with them, other than it seems to create wacky as hell margins.
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Old 07-07-2011, 03:04 PM   #6
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The page template file is an old Adobe extension that dates back to before ePub was standardised. It allows a few tricks on ADE-equipped readers (such as very limited conditional styling, slightly better support for columns, etc), but was never well supported or developed past its first incarnation. For some reason there are a few ill-informed technicians who still think they should include it in their ePubs, though they only use it to set page margins (and do so very poorly). The best thing to do is simply to delete it (I don't think you even need to strip the DRM first).

But clearly there's something else going on here. 17MB is massive for an ePub and suggests that there's an incredible amount of padding that the reader is having to sort through.
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Old 07-07-2011, 04:05 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by charleski View Post
But clearly there's something else going on here. 17MB is massive for an ePub and suggests that there's an incredible amount of padding that the reader is having to sort through.
I agree, except I could not find the padding I expected to in the HTML or the CSS, in the ePub anyway. I didn't look at the kePub. I haven't noticed very many images yet. So I'm puzzled as to why a 700 page book takes up that much filespace, especially since the Amazon mobi is less than 1/3 as big as the kePub.

What strikes me as odd is that the Kobo ePub is 10MB and their kePub is 17MB, which is a 70% increase in size. I hope this is not indicative of all kePubs. The eInk readers tend to be processor challenged, so large files are going to be problematic.

EDIT: Okay I see why the file is so big. I looked at the ePub and it contains 64 images totaling 7.28 MB and it has the Charis SIL font embedded adding another 5.5 MB. We need to roll up a newspaper and smack the publisher in the nose!

[RANTING MODE]
Hey publishers and authors, what is so difficult to understand about using minimal formatting with eBooks? Geez, the whole idea behind eBooks is that we the reader should get to choose how we format your text. Let us decide which font, the margin size, font size, line spacing, et cetera! If we want to let you decide these viewing settings we would have bought the print version. So keep your bleeping hands off the style trigger. There is absolutely NO darn reason to use any styles period in an eBook (novels at least) other than character styles like bold and italics. Keep your darn TABLE, SPAN, STYLE, DIV tags and your darn CLASS attributes to yourself. That way your simplified HTML will look fine on any reader. If your book requires a lot of special formatting then chances are it is not a good candidate for viewing on 6" eInk screens.
[/RANTING MODE]

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Old 07-07-2011, 05:56 PM   #8
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Geez, the whole idea behind eBooks is that we the reader should get to choose how we format your text.
Sorry, but I can't agree with this in the slightest. Styling is used as an important tool to convey meaning. Think of a simple case in which a character is reading a letter: the text of the letter is set off in a blocked indented extract with a line-height of margin above and below it, that way it's immediately apparent what is the letter and what is the surrounding text. Or what about those cases when an author wants to use a different font to indicate speech from a special character, or wants to change any of the other attributes you mention in order to distinguish a certain passage and alter its meaning. These are just a few of the simplest examples. A book is not just a string of characters. Proper typography is an essential element that has been developed over hundreds of years and it's ridiculous to think that this should be thrown out overnight.

Base font size is the only thing that should definitely be user-controlled, simply to allow it to be adjusted for eyesight and reading distance. Within that, the different font sizes used by the book should be specified as a percentage of the base and scale accordingly so they retain their balance. Page margins and line height should be set properly in the book itself - the only reason to change them is if the book has been badly coded (which is certainly common, though things are better than they were a couple of years ago).

You're arguing that every book should look exactly the same - that would be a nightmare. The problem with ebooks is that the people coding them don't spend enough effort on getting the typography correct, and generally just throw in a set of default house styles rather than choosing to lay each book out with the individual care they deserve.

Charis is used because it supports the full range of unicode characters whereas the default font included with ADE has an extremely limited range, and thus guarantees that there won't be any non-rendered characters in the text. It's also used because it's free, and even the large publishers can't be bothered to invest in a licence to use a decent font. The use of Charis is lazy, cheap and wasteful, but by overriding the font specified in the ePub you're wrecking the work of those who do take care over laying out the book. Many readers, like the iPad and, now, the KT, now offer a quite a wide range of built-in fonts that are variants of commonly-known styles. If the print book was laid out in Sabon, then I should be able to read it in Sabon on my ereader, or in something that looks very similar.

The real solution is for publishers to start spending more effort on the typography of their ebooks. The effective solution, right now, is to strip off the DRM and fix the bad coding yourself. Efforts to do things in the ereader are just a stop-gap measure, and difficult to get right, as demonstrated by the current problem with italics and bold.
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Old 07-07-2011, 07:06 PM   #9
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I totally disagee, though respectfully. Unless the book is an artsy-fartsy book where style is important, the reader should be able to choose font, font size, margins, paragraph style (indent, non-indent, left, justified, etc.), line spacing, et cetera. Why have all these wonderful text formatting options in an eReader if we cannot use them at will?

Quote:
You're arguing that every book should look exactly the same
On the contrary, every book should take on the appearance desired by the the person who is reading the book (reader, not eReader device). As such, the appearance would be unique for each person. No two of us are alike, so don't try to force the author's styles on us unless the style is necessary to convey the meaning of the text. If the person wants to change the appearance of the text a hundred times during the course of reading the book, then that is their choice, after all they paid for the book.
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Old 07-08-2011, 10:44 AM   #10
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It's kind of funny watching this argument because to be blunt, well, you're BOTH right.

MOST books (paper or digital) are simply a long stretch of prose, paragraph after paragraph. While publishers may like to take a lot of care in selecting fonts, sizes, spacing, etc, in order to distinguish a book or to give it a distinct "feel", it doesn't generally REALLY matter to anybody but the reader.

SOME books can be nearly unreadable without at least SOME publisher-defined formatting. I have read science fiction novels with conversations between three or more aliens, and the only way to distinguish the speaker was with the printed font. If I'd had an electronic reader with a forced font, this book would have been nearly impossible to understand.

That being said, the best way to handle it is with some kind of "advanced settings" toggle button, where the reader can choose to use their personal preferences to override the publisher, or else view it as the publisher intended.
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Old 07-08-2011, 05:11 PM   #11
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I have read science fiction novels with conversations between three or more aliens, and the only way to distinguish the speaker was with the printed font.
Just curious, did they use a different font for each alien's speech? That's an interesting way to do it if so. Some books use the old tried and true method of starting a new paragraph everytime a different character speaks. One character speaking per paragraph, in other words. That of course works best with two characters, but creates a lot of paragraphs. Others use "CHARACTER A said, 'blah blah blah.'" or something similar, but that gets a bit old after a few pages.
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Old 07-10-2011, 06:10 PM   #12
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This is a lot like the arguments that web designers have. Some web designers think that their page layout is perfect and shouldn't be interfered with in any way, and others (especially usability experts) think that the user should be able to change fonts, colours, etc as they see fit.
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Old 07-12-2011, 04:20 PM   #13
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Why have all these wonderful text formatting options in an eReader if we cannot use them at will?
Because (when done properly) formatting conveys meaning. A different formatting conveys a different meaning. Ereaders need to have a rich set of formatting options available so that the designers of a book are able to select the formatting best suited to express the meaning of the different elements. Altering it according to the whimsy of the reader makes no sense at all.

Quote:
every book should take on the appearance desired by the the person who is reading the book (reader, not eReader device). As such, the appearance would be unique for each person. No two of us are alike, so don't try to force the author's styles on us unless the style is necessary to convey the meaning of the text.
It's been shown that the interpretation of words is enhanced by using a typeface whose personality is congruent with the emotional tone of the text. The proper choice of a font is not just a matter of aesthetics, it's a critical element in the preparation of text for publication.

I fail to see the point of giving readers who have little or no experience in design a set of false choices and asking them to play typographer. This is the job of the publishers and the book's designers.

There are only two reasons to give readers extensive control of book formatting:
1) For those cases where the designers have not done their job properly and produced a book which is poorly designed. This is, unfortunately, all too common, but the situation is slowly improving. The best solution is to alter the code of the epub itself, but this can be time-consuming.
2) To allow modification in order to accommodate those with reduced visual acuity.

[Edit]
http://files.ch9.ms/mix/2011/wmv/EXT02.wmv is worth watching and gives a decent introduction to the issues of font choice for those who are unfamiliar with these concepts.

Last edited by charleski; 07-12-2011 at 04:25 PM.
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Old 07-12-2011, 04:56 PM   #14
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Just curious, did they use a different font for each alien's speech? That's an interesting way to do it if so.
It was along the lines of, one entity had a Sans Serif font, another was shown in all caps, another bold text, etc.

It's been a loooong time and I wouldn't be able to name the book by now, but as I recall each individual's font was different from the text's main body. Perhaps the conversations were only in a sort of interlude between chapters? I'm not sure.
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