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Old 01-03-2013, 12:56 AM   #1
AlexBell
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How do you read anthologies and poetry?

Please note that this post is addressed to readers, not writers or poets.

The background to the two questions below is that I am designing an ebook anthology which has fifty or so poems and fifteen or so flash fiction stories (for Earlyworks Press) and I need some help as I design the navigation and the layout.

Firstly, my guess is that most people who read anthologies read them initially from start to finish, and then go back from time to time to re-read favourite poems or stories. Is that what you do?

I have done tables of content for the poems and stories, and have put links after each poem or story back to the main poem and story contents so that people can find a particular poem or story and then find another one without having to page through from the first one he or she wants to re-read to the next one. Does this make sense?

Secondly, many of the poems have long lines - fifty or sixty characters in the line - and because only about forty characters fit on a line at the font size I prefer this forces the line to break. The poets who wrote the poems have indicated to the publisher that they expect that people reading these poems will choose to read that poem in landscape orientation. They don't want the lines indented after a forced break. What would you do? Would you be willing to change orientation on your reader if it seemed that there had been forced breaks to the line? Would you like to see something like 'Best read in landscape orientation?'
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Old 01-03-2013, 01:55 AM   #2
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Personally, I don't like reading poetry on my ereader because of the line-break problem which you've outlined. Also, I prefer to flip through an anthology, cherry-picking what I want to read at that moment, rather than reading from beginning to end. This is better done with a pbook.

So I don't buy/download poems in eformat.
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Old 01-03-2013, 02:12 AM   #3
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I believe the cross-linked html ToC is indeed the way to go, it's what I prefer for collections of this kind.

I don't read much verse, so don't have much opinion. Suggesting to read a poem in Landscape mode doesn't seem like an outrageous demand. Some readers probably would always stay in portrait mode anyway and suffer with less-attractive line breaks. Anyway, the poets can't enforce such wishes unless they send Landscape-police to tail every reader to check up on them. Bullhorn announcement: "Ma'am, you MUST swivel your reader to landscape-mode, or we will issue a ticket!"

Or you could transform the text to run vertically on the page, and force the reader to swivel the screen (that would be evil!)
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Old 01-03-2013, 02:17 AM   #4
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The TOC and links are nice and make it easy to navigate.

I read anthologies from start to finish the first time I read them, then I go back to reread my favorites. So, in that way, I guess I am like most people.

Poetry is different. I have always chosen pbooks for this. I like to flip through and visually choose what I want to read. I've tried some poetry in ebook form, but it is not appealing to me. I have no idea why this is so. Maybe, it is that I like to see the stanzas and how they are laid out? I don't know. It could be that it helps me to see the pattern when reading it? Maybe this is something that would no longer matter if I read more poetry in ebook form. Wouldn't using landscape mode that would require more page turns make for awkward breaks also?
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Old 01-03-2013, 03:12 AM   #5
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If I'd choose to read an anthology, I'd do it from start to finish.

Concerning poetry: Yes, this is difficult.. I just got a digital book with 50 poems from an Iranian poet. I don't know much about this kind of poetry, so I'm really curious about this now. But I'd prefer a paper version, of course.

To be honest, I would not switch to landscape mode to read poetry. If these poems can't get displayed on an Eink screen, I'd prefer not to read them on an Eink reader.
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Old 01-03-2013, 04:01 AM   #6
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Thanks to you all. That pretty much confirms what I thought.
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Old 01-03-2013, 08:39 AM   #7
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I will second what has been said about the anthology.
I have published e-books of musical scores. I transformed the manuscripts into images to ensure that the music was displayed on the page as I wished it to be. I expect that poetry requires similar treatment. In some cases, the introduction was written in page format, while the music was displayed in landscape format. In a physical book, a transition between landscape and regular format would be awkward because of the spine of the book. In an e-book there is no such problem.
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Old 01-03-2013, 08:48 AM   #8
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I very rarely read poetry. When I do I prefer big screen or paper book (did I really say "paper book" Yikes!). I do not want to switch to landscape unless there are very few lines in the poem. I prefer to see as much of the poem as possible when reading. I want to see the "shape" of it if that makes any sense, and that's why a small e-reader doesn't work well for me in this respect.

Anthologies I read one piece at a time in between other reading sessions. I do read them start to finish the first time, even though it might be a VERY long process!
Links to various places (like TOC, index or whatever) is almost always a good thing!

Last edited by Asawi; 01-03-2013 at 08:51 AM.
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Old 01-03-2013, 09:47 AM   #9
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I haven't read poety on my e-reader, but I would most definitely not switch to landscape mode to do so.

Re stories: Generally, if I buy an anthology, it's because it includes particular authors and/or titles I want to read. So I'll turn to those first. Then I might skip around based on whether I've heard of an author, whether a title appeals to me, even how long the story is. Rarely would I read straight through.
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Old 01-03-2013, 11:25 PM   #10
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I read everything. Even instructions.

I generally start at the beginning and work my way through to the end. For an anthology, I would demand a proper epub table of contents, i.e. not inline. I would also consider any layout that would force me to read it in landscape mode, defective. If the layout is that critical then a reflowable format is the wrong choice and the book should be in pdf.
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Old 01-04-2013, 12:24 AM   #11
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I usually read from beginning to end unless there's a particular story I want to read. I read a poem or story or two at a time between novels unless the anthology is borrowed.
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Old 01-04-2013, 02:26 AM   #12
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Thanks again to you all. I'm trying to work out how to do the 'reading poetry on ebooks' part of my original post as a poll, but it's been quite difficult so far. I think the publisher would benefit from knowing your opinions, but I need to get the data in an understandable form.

Does anyone know if a similar survey or poll has been done elsewhere?
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Old 01-04-2013, 04:55 AM   #13
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As a longtime reader of poetry on ebooks, as well as a poet who does his own ebook layouts, I struggled for years with the line break problem. The best format I found for dealing with it was the now pretty defunct eReader/PDB format for Palm readers. Microsoft Reader also managed pretty well, but ePub struggles very badly with this. Kindle copes better, mind, but the limited font resizing and formatting options on the Kindle reading software compared to some ePub clients also make it less than ideal.

I would never read poetry on a device that forces line breaks into the text that aren't there in the original. There's no point trying to read a poem if you don't know where the original line breaks came.

In my experience, you can code in ePub to a point where you can get workable poetry text. It just takes hard work and the right techniques. It's also not helped by inconsistency between different ePub reading clients, where some will register soft returns properly, and others won't and just run text together. Maybe the best option, alas, is really to jump in with Kindle and be devoured by the Amazon monster.

And yes I would be happy with an ebook that told me it was best read in landscape. If this approach works for games and other apps and software, why not for ebooks? But the ability to reflow is critical for me. It's all that really differentiates an ebook from reading Web pages onscreen. So I am far more in favour of solutions that can square the circle between preserving the original layout and allowing reflow of text. It can be done, IMHO. PDF, alas, just ends up all too often as unreadably small on eReaders, as well as being very rigid and hard to navigate through - basically, not worth the tradeoff.

Last edited by pstjmack; 01-04-2013 at 04:59 AM. Reason: adding additional points
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Old 01-04-2013, 07:41 AM   #14
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I always cherry-pick my favorite authors' stuff from anthologies first (those authors are usually what brought the anthology to my attention in the first place). Then I'll jump around checking out other stuff. I've never read a multi-author anthology straight through, so an easily navigable ToC is a huge bonus for me in those situations.

Quote:
Would you like to see something like 'Best read in landscape orientation?'
Absolutely. If it allows the poem to be presented with its original, intended visual "rhythm," I'd be ecstatic for the heads up.

Last edited by DiapDealer; 01-04-2013 at 07:47 AM.
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Old 01-05-2013, 12:11 AM   #15
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Thanks for your responses, especially about the 'Best read in Landscape in orientation.'

I'm certainly not trying to be difficult - I'm still groping for the best way to design poetry ebooks - but some people have indicated that reading in landscape mode brings in another problem, that it causes breaks between the lines of a stanza or verse. And they say that this is just as bad as forcing a line to break.

What do you think?
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