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Old 03-06-2013, 01:57 AM   #1
bfollowell
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Why the heck do they setup margins using pixels?!

I've noticed over the past year or so that ebook formatting as a whole has gotten better. It's far from where it should be and it's inconsistent, but it is definitely improving. The one frustration I keep running into is the fact that so many publishers are setting up margins, indents, line heights, etc. using pixels rather than em or some other logical unit of measure. A top margin of 15.0px may leave a small gap when trying to offset some text and look good on a lower resolution 5 or 7 inch reader/tablet, but it looks practically non-existent on a 1200x1920 resolution tablet reader like my Nook HD+ or my wife's Kindle HD 8.9.

Why would someone pick something arbitrary like pixels when using em size makes so much more sense? That way the gap increases or decreases with the font-size that the reader is using and the space looks closer to what the publisher likely had in mind originally.

Anyway, that was my three-minute gripe/observation.

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Old 03-06-2013, 02:32 AM   #2
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Setting up margins using a physical size like cm is the best policy, to my mind. The average reader doesn't want the margins to change size if they change the text size. But things like line height should of course scale with the text.
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Old 03-06-2013, 03:16 AM   #3
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hmmm, it seems to me that using physical sizes would run into the same problem that I see with using pixels. The pixel size that looks good on a 5-7 inch screen doesn't look very good at all on a higher resolution 9 inch screen. By the same token, the same margin setup at cm or fractions of a cm may look good on a smaller screen but may not look nearly as good on a larger screen. I'm sure it wouldn't be nearly as noticeable but it has the same issue, at least in my way of thinking.

If I have a top margin setup to set a gap between two paragraphs to setup a scene change for example, I would usually want that gap to be a consistent distance away depending on the size of the text. Typically, I like to see about 3em.

Of course, that's all me and we each have our own likes, dislikes and opinions. All I know is that pixel size makes absolutely no sense to me. It was an extremely short sighted choice in my opinion.

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Old 03-06-2013, 03:31 AM   #4
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If I have a top margin setup to set a gap between two paragraphs to setup a scene change for example, I would usually want that gap to be a consistent distance away depending on the size of the text. Typically, I like to see about 3em.
I agree. I was referring to page margins. They are what you don't want to scale with the text size.

But you're absolutely right in saying that there's no "one size fits all" solution. You want small page margins on a 6" reader - anything wider than a few mm is just wasting valuable screen estate. But a wider margin would look better on a 10" screen or a PC. Given, though, that most reading devices to have a 6" screen, it probably makes sense to optimise the reading experience for that environment.
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Old 03-06-2013, 04:15 AM   #5
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I agree. I was referring to page margins. They are what you don't want to scale with the text size.

But you're absolutely right in saying that there's no "one size fits all" solution. You want small page margins on a 6" reader - anything wider than a few mm is just wasting valuable screen estate. But a wider margin would look better on a 10" screen or a PC. Given, though, that most reading devices to have a 6" screen, it probably makes sense to optimise the reading experience for that environment.
Oh sure, I agree, but optimize it with a standard of measure that makes a little more sense and future proofs the ebook a little. text-indent for example. I've always used an indent for normal paragraphs of 5%. It looked great on my 5" Kindle, it looked great on my 7" Nook Tablet and, you know what, it still looks great on my 9" Nook HD+. No changes needed. It just seems to be about the perfect ratio for a paragraph indentation. I guess if you were reading in landscape mode as opposed to portrait mode it might not look as nice but I don't think that's how most people read.

Now, the text indents that are 15.0 or 18.0 pixels, which seems to be about the norm? They don't look so hot. The scene breaks that are 45.0 pixels? That works out to about 2.3% of my screen, or about 1.5 line heights for my typical font size of choice. Not much of a scene break really.

As far as the overall page margins go, I tend to agree with you. They don't need to scale with the font size but I'm still one that likes a decent white space around my page, just like any other book or anything else I've ever read. I really don't get those that like zero margins just so they can have edge to edge text. Personally, I fail to see the appeal. I think it looks horrible. But hey, to each his own.

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Old 03-06-2013, 04:20 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by bfollowell View Post
As far as the overall page margins go, I tend to agree with you. They don't need to scale with the font size but I'm still one that likes a decent white space around my page, just like any other book or anything else I've ever read. I really don't get those that like zero margins just so they can have edge to edge text. Personally, I fail to see the appeal. I think it looks horrible. But hey, to each his own.

- Byron
You'd perhaps feel differently if you read on a phone . I don't - the screen's too small for my failing middle-aged eyesight - but I can understand that having a 1/2" margin each side of a 2.5" wide screen is probably not a good idea.
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Old 03-06-2013, 07:32 AM   #7
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This discussion is a point I have made before. If you are laying an epub out for a tablet, it makes no sense to limit yourself to the shortcomings of small screens. Contrarily, laying it out for a tablet where it might be used on a small screen only makes for an unpleasant reading experience on a small screen.

You can have pull quotes, floating pictures, etc easily on a tablet. They are just an annoyance that eats up pages and makes you push the page advance button on a small machine. I can't see any way around it either.

If you downsize a baseball bat, it isn't the same thing any more is it?

I want both tablets and e-ink readers to co-exist. But I don't think it may be helpful to try to keep them to the same standard.
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Old 03-06-2013, 11:19 AM   #8
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Standard page margins, I prefer to leave up to the reading app and the reader. Specifying them in the book can sometimes complicate the user's ability to easily change them to suit their needs.

Indents... well my personal preference is 1.2-1.3em.

Scenebreaks and such, I prefer to stay static. I tend to make those gaps pretty large anyway (since reflow can sometimes disguise smaller breaks--depending on where the page-break falls), so I rarely want/need them to scale with font-size.

I also don't neccessarily like the gap between chapter headers and the first paragraph scaling with font size either. It seems a bit silly to waste more and more screen real estate on that gap, when I've likely made it fairly prominent in the first place. *shrugs*

Last edited by DiapDealer; 03-07-2013 at 07:13 AM.
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Old 03-06-2013, 04:33 PM   #9
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I use an indent of 1.2em and for a section break that's just using just space I use 2em. The paragraph after the 2em space, I have no indent. Also, to help with section breaks that may fall at the end of the screen, I have widows and orphans set to 0 to section breaks are easy to detect at the end of the screen/

I don't specify margins. I prefer none on my 650, iPhone 5 & iPad.

I do agree that margins should be fixed and all other space settings should be flexible.

Last edited by JSWolf; 03-06-2013 at 04:42 PM.
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Old 03-06-2013, 04:42 PM   #10
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Do all readers obey the widow and orphan lines when set? I've seen them rarely in epubs so far and figured if they were reliable in all or even most readers, they'd be used a lot more frequently?
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Old 03-06-2013, 04:43 PM   #11
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Do all readers obey the widow and orphan lines when set? I've seen them rarely in epubs so far and figured if they were reliable in all or even most readers, they'd be used a lot more frequently?
ADE does for sure. ADE defaults to 2 and I set them to 0. I don't care that it's typographically not correct. But it does look better on a small 6" screen.
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Old 03-06-2013, 06:02 PM   #12
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Standard page margins, I prefer to leave up to the reading app and the reader. Specifying them in the book can sometimes complicate the user's ability to easily change them to suit their needs.
Agreed, it's definitively better when you can override whatever's in the ebook and set your own. That said, I don't particularly care much about margins, breaks or justification - my only concern is for margins not to be overly large so I don't have to press "next" too often.
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Old 03-06-2013, 08:24 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JSWolf View Post
I use an indent of 1.2em and for a section break that's just using just space I use 2em. The paragraph after the 2em space, I have no indent. Also, to help with section breaks that may fall at the end of the screen, I have widows and orphans set to 0 to section breaks are easy to detect at the end of the screen/

I don't specify margins. I prefer none on my 650, iPhone 5 & iPad.

I do agree that margins should be fixed and all other space settings should be flexible.
OK, I give up, what do widows and orphans do for us?

Those are new terms to me and I'm always on the lookout for something new to learn.

Thanks.

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Old 03-07-2013, 01:07 AM   #14
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Here's an article in Wikipedia about typographic Widows and Orphans. There are some CSS properties to prevent these from occurring in page oriented display, widows and orphans.
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Old 03-07-2013, 02:02 AM   #15
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Thanks a lot.
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