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Old 12-11-2007, 10:57 AM   #1
Tanzaku
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Ugly formatting

Admittedly, I am new to the entire eBook thing, but I love the concept! I do not, however, love the aesthetics. But, I am a publisher, and perhaps my eye use just trained too well for the current state of the art.

What do I mean?

There are certain typesetting and layout aesthetic conventions in publishing that are routinely missing from the eBooks I have seen. For example . . .
  • Widows (a single line or word at the top of a page)
  • Straight quotes (rather than curled quotes)
  • Straight apostrophes
  • Simple words at the end of line (e.g., "I", "a", etc.)
  • Words too widely spaced to fit justification
  • Slanted fonts rather than true italics

. . . just to name a few of the most obvious. Here is an example:



The formatting of eBooks seems very crude and jarring to the eye -- and doesn't need to be! There is nothing in the creation of an eBook that is any different from the process of creating a pbook. It's the skill of the typesetter and book designer that is missing from the eBook world. I suspect quantity is trumping quality in this regard -- which is perhaps a virtue in it's own right. For cranking out thousands of titles, tools like BookDesigner are great for what they do, but why can't we do a better job of making something that is pleasing to the eye as well as content rich?

Here is a draft I'm working on that addresses these issues. I'm using InDesign CS3 to create the layout design using Gutenberg text and then outputting as a PDF. (The Warden by Anthony Trollope.) The idea is to develop the InDesign template so it is easy to format books as needed for different screen readers/dimensions, as well as the easy change of fonts document wide via paragraph style definitions. (For those familiar with InDesign.)

I've uploaded both the PDF and the InDesign file to my website if anyone wants to look or play with this idea.

http://www.brooksjensenarts.com/warden.pdf
http://www.brooksjensenarts.com/warden.zip
(The zip file contains the InDesign file.)


The InDesign file uses Minion Pro font, so if you don't have that, simply replace the paragraph definition with the font of your choice. If you don't like the font sizes, easy to change them in the InDesign original. Also, the page size is set up for my Sony Reader -- which can easily be changed to another page size or margin distance. Have a ball and create the PDF of your visual dreams! Consider InDesign in this regards as BookDesigner on serious steroids!

Which, BTW, brings to the issue of PDF and readability on eBook readers. The problem is not in the PDF format, but rather the page layout and design. True, many PDFs are created for the "letter size" world, but they don't need to be. A PDF designed for an eBook reader will look fabulous! In fact, it will look far better, more polished, and professional that anything possible in the LRF format. I know that creating high-quality PDFs is probably not something lots of folks will want to do, and the InDesign CS3 program is not inexpensive, but if you are so inclined, I'd encourage you to do so. I will be! Personally, if I am going to spend 20-40 hours reading a long novel, I'd prefer to have the visual experience be as good as it can be.

And, if anyone is interested, as I create my own eBooks, does anyone else want them? I'd be happy to upload them. What if we had an special upload area for these -- PDF books as well as the InDesing (or Quark, or Publisher, or PageMaker, etc.) files that created them? Just an idea!
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Old 12-11-2007, 11:23 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tanzaku View Post
Admittedly, I am new to the entire eBook thing, but I love the concept! I do not, however, love the aesthetics. But, I am a publisher, and perhaps my eye use just trained too well for the current state of the art.

What do I mean?

There are certain typesetting and layout aesthetic conventions in publishing that are routinely missing from the eBooks I have seen. For example . . .
  • Widows (a single line or word at the top of a page)
  • Straight quotes (rather than curled quotes)
  • Straight apostrophes
  • Simple words at the end of line (e.g., "I", "a", etc.)
  • Words too widely spaced to fit justification
  • Slanted fonts rather than true italics


Here is a draft I'm working on that addresses these issues. I'm using InDesign CS3 to create the layout design using Gutenberg text and then outputting as a PDF. (The Warden by Anthony Trollope.) The idea is to develop the InDesign template so it is easy to format books as needed for different screen readers/dimensions, as well as the easy change of fonts document wide via paragraph style definitions. (For those familiar with InDesign.)

I've uploaded both the PDF and the InDesign file to my website if anyone wants to look or play with this idea.

http://www.brooksjensenarts.com/warden.pdf
http://www.brooksjensenarts.com/warden.zip
(The zip file contains the InDesign file.)


The InDesign file uses Minion Pro font, so if you don't have that, simply replace the paragraph definition with the font of your choice. If you don't like the font sizes, easy to change them in the InDesign original. Also, the page size is set up for my Sony Reader -- which can easily be changed to another page size or margin distance. Have a ball and create the PDF of your visual dreams! Consider InDesign in this regards as BookDesigner on serious steroids!

Which, BTW, brings to the issue of PDF and readability on eBook readers. The problem is not in the PDF format, but rather the page layout and design. True, many PDFs are created for the "letter size" world, but they don't need to be. A PDF designed for an eBook reader will look fabulous! In fact, it will look far better, more polished, and professional that anything possible in the LRF format. I know that creating high-quality PDFs is probably not something lots of folks will want to do, and the InDesign CS3 program is not inexpensive, but if you are so inclined, I'd encourage you to do so. I will be! Personally, if I am going to spend 20-40 hours reading a long novel, I'd prefer to have the visual experience be as good as it can be.

And, if anyone is interested, as I create my own eBooks, does anyone else want them? I'd be happy to upload them. What if we had an special upload area for these -- PDF books as well as the InDesing (or Quark, or Publisher, or PageMaker, etc.) files that created them? Just an idea!
I too hate the fact that most eBooks do not have the features however it is not because the ability does not exist. Most dedicated creation programs have ways to deal with many of the issues you raised. There is an upload eBook capability on this site. It would be great if yo can post some eBooks to the site.

I get frustrated by the quality of many books you download from the various sources and end up converting some of them myself. Only it does take some time.

edit: By the way page 5 of your book needs fixing. The line at the bottom is a widow.

Last edited by DaleDe; 12-11-2007 at 11:29 AM. Reason: saw something.
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Old 12-11-2007, 11:40 AM   #3
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The problem is not the book itself, but the software used to read the ebooks.

1. No hyphenation
2. No widow support
3. No font families, just the main normal font
4. No curly quotes/curly apostrophes

I don't see how simple words are a problem. I just too a pbook, opened it to a random page and found simple words. If you don't have the simple words, you can end up with larger spacing between the words in the line.

With libprs500 and Book Designer, you can control the word spacing. I tend to use a smaller then normal word spacing. But part of the issue with that is lack of hyphenation. If we has that, we'd have less lines with wide word spacing.

As for #4, I most of the time do bother to fix them. They look better when not the straight kind.

As for 1-3, these can be easily fixed in software. But will they be? What we should do is let Sony know of these issues and hopefully when we get the next firmware update, they'll be fixed.
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Old 12-11-2007, 11:47 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JSWolf View Post
The problem is not the book itself, but the software used to read the ebooks.

1. No hyphenation
2. No widow support
3. No font families, just the main normal font
4. No curly quotes/curly apostrophes

I don't see how simple words are a problem. I just too a pbook, opened it to a random page and found simple words. If you don't have the simple words, you can end up with larger spacing between the words in the line.

With libprs500 and Book Designer, you can control the word spacing. I tend to use a smaller then normal word spacing. But part of the issue with that is lack of hyphenation. If we has that, we'd have less lines with wide word spacing.

As for #4, I most of the time do bother to fix them. They look better when not the straight kind.

As for 1-3, these can be easily fixed in software. But will they be? What we should do is let Sony know of these issues and hopefully when we get the next firmware update, they'll be fixed.
I do not believe that it is the software that is used to read the book that is at fault. It is the software used to generate the book that has to work properly. Except in the case of MobiPocket and some other PDA softare the pages are generally prebuilt for most devices. So it really depends on the device as to where the problem lies.

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Old 12-11-2007, 11:53 AM   #5
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Typesetters complain about crappy typesetting, font designers complain about crappy font rendering, and the rest of us just keep reading
Yes, those issues are important, but not important enough for me to go back to paper books. For others it could be. I believe we'll see improvements in typesetting and font rendering once eBooks get popular enough.
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Old 12-11-2007, 11:55 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by DaleDe View Post
I do not believe that it is the software that is used to read the book that is at fault. It is the software used to generate the book that has to work properly. Except in the case of MobiPocket and some other PDA softare the pages are generally prebuilt for most devices. So it really depends on the device as to where the problem lies.

Dale
1. No hyphenation
2. No widow support
3. No font families, just the main normal font

These issues can all be fixed in the software used to read the ebooks. The ebooks don't need any changing for this. The reading software has to do it. You change the font size and you change the layout. There is no way the ebook needs to to it as the ebook layout would then have to be fixed (no reflowing).
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Old 12-11-2007, 11:56 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by DaleDe View Post
I do not believe that it is the software that is used to read the book that is at fault. It is the software used to generate the book that has to work properly. Except in the case of MobiPocket and some other PDA softare the pages are generally prebuilt for most devices. So it really depends on the device as to where the problem lies.
Erm, sorry? Very few eBook formats are fixed-page like PDF. Most are basically text streams with some formatting, because one of the major pros of eBooks is that they are reflowable and pages can be reformatted on the fly.
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Old 12-11-2007, 11:59 AM   #8
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edit: By the way page 5 of your book needs fixing. The line at the bottom is a widow.
There are some legitimate debates as to style issues -- one of which is the question of widows at the bottom of pages. It's a pretty universal consensus that widows at the top are taboo, but I fall into the camp that will accept a widow at the bottom of a page. For people who prefer no widows at the bottom, a quick paragraph style change would easily resolve this. Personal preferences do have a place in this discussion!
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Old 12-11-2007, 12:06 PM   #9
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Thank you Tanzaku for bringing up this subject.
The book layout looks great on the computer screen. I can't wait to try it out on the reader.

I was ranting and complaining about the quality of the ebooks formated for Reader for a long time. Nobody seems to share my views.

The most jarring to my eye is the way that full justification works in default settings - like a typical lrf book. That is why I convert most of the stuff I read to left justification. I was unable to make such a nice evenly spaced paragraphs. And being unable to make such a nicely spaced paragraphs I prefer jagged right margin to uneven word spacing in a typical Connect book.

InDesign is simply great. Unfortunately I do not have access to a legal licenced version of InDesign anymore, so I use sans serif font sized 12 for my and left justification on my Reader.

Please consider using sans-serif font. Just try it. I know that serif fonts are much more pleasant to readers eye when they are printed with high enough resolution. With a very low resolution e-ink display (and 170DPI *IS* a very low resolution when you talk about typography) that default heavily hinted 12 point sans serif font really does look better.
( see Hinting at Wikipedia)

I also think that your book might look even better if you set some spacing between paragraphs (something like 110% ot the normal space between to lines)

By the way,
- on the very first line of the very first paragraph you have a "hanging" a
- the same is the last line of the first page
- last line of the third page is an "orphan"
- fifth page has an "orphan" as well
I personally do not mind, but you seem to make point of not having hanging single letters at the end of the line, widows, orphans ...
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Old 12-11-2007, 12:10 PM   #10
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As I see it (as an engineer - not a writer, grammarian, or publisher), the main reasons for "some" of these failings are;
  1. Limited fonts available
  2. Mostly fully justified rather than left justified
  3. Limited viewing space (exacerbated by reflowing text at different sizes).

Advances in software & CPU capacity can address the first. The three taken together are, I believe, the main things that make ebooks have a "not perfect" appearance. {Please note that pbooks also have a "not perfect" appearance even though they do not necessarily suffer from these disadvantages.}

In addition, I tend to prefer the straight quotes.
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Old 12-11-2007, 12:20 PM   #11
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As I see it (as an engineer - not a writer, grammarian, or publisher), the main reasons for "some" of these failings are;
  1. Limited fonts available
  2. Mostly fully justified rather than left justified
  3. Limited viewing space (exacerbated by reflowing text at different sizes).

Advances in software & CPU capacity can address the first. The three taken together are, I believe, the main things that make ebooks have a "not perfect" appearance. {Please note that pbooks also have a "not perfect" appearance even though they do not necessarily suffer from these disadvantages.}

In addition, I tend to prefer the straight quotes.
Just add in the other fonts needed to make a true font family. That problem will then be solved. Full justified would not be much of an isue if we have hyphenation support. And it would also fix the spacing with larger text sizes as well.
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Old 12-11-2007, 12:33 PM   #12
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3. No font families, just the main normal font
The Gen3 supports font families. If you're reading in (say) Times New Roman, and the book has italics, then it uses the proper TNR Italic font (if it's on the machine).
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Old 12-11-2007, 12:41 PM   #13
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Erm, sorry? Very few eBook formats are fixed-page like PDF. Most are basically text streams with some formatting, because one of the major pros of eBooks is that they are reflowable and pages can be reformatted on the fly.
Yes, the problem is more complicated than I mentioned. My eBookwise reader does not reformat on the fly per se. It seems to pre-format the 2 font sizes when the file is built. Sony can reformat but it doesn't actually do in on the fly either. It have a full processing step in batch mode the first time you select a font size (connect preformats all 3 sizes). As I think about it there are two problems. One of characters and pretty printing and the other is pagination issues. They may require different solutions.

The full justification issue requires kerning to be done correctly and I don't believe any current reader supports this. You need to adjust the spaces between the characters in words to make everything look good when the lines are short (as they are in readers with larger fonts) and even then there will always be a line that doesn't look right.

Hyphenation helps but, unless the book has a hyphenation dictionary built in this often results in funny breaks in the text that detract from the reading experience. In my eBookwise books I sometimes code soft hyphens in the source to aid in fixing this. Having soft hyphens in the source can alleviate the need for a hyphen dictionary in the reader.

There is actually many different topics to talk about in this thread but that is enough for now.

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Old 12-11-2007, 01:18 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by kacir View Post
By the way,
- on the very first line of the very first paragraph you have a "hanging" a
- the same is the last line of the first page
- last line of the third page is an "orphan"
- fifth page has an "orphan" as well
I personally do not mind, but you seem to make point of not having hanging single letters at the end of the line, widows, orphans ...
Yes, right-o. We are still working on the template and the GREP replacements -- hence I refer to this sample as a "draft." There are other issues, too, that are yet to be resolved. My purpose in the post was to simply bring up the issue and to see what others had to say.

We'll try the non-serif font. Not my favorite choice, but you might be right for basic text.

See my comments above about end-of-page widows.

Question: As to paragraph spacing, would you rather see a first-line indent without a space between paragraphs (as it is now), or a flush-left and 1-line space between paragraphs? We could also turn off the base line rules and do a 110% space between paragraphs as you suggest. Preferences?

Brooks
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Old 12-11-2007, 01:20 PM   #15
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I downloaded this PDF and put it on my 505. What I found was that the size of the text is too small. Can this be made larger so it looks good on a 6" eink screen?
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