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Old 05-30-2011, 07:25 PM   #1
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Some general questions from a book-making newbie

I have been bitten by the ebook editing bug! I started playing with Sigil to do some simple error corrections in a book I was reading, and would up doing a much more substantial edit---creating sections, and adding in some material from a supplementary leaflet into the book itself. I have some general questions if you don't mind...

1) What are some ways I can make sure my book is as 'clean' as possible? I think some of the formatting glitches I have seen in the book I am working on come from stuff like the original creator specifying a specific font size (which makes reflowing the text throw off everything) rather than a tag such as 'heading.' I am trying to use tags instead; is this the right strategy? I want to make sure that if the reader wants edit the book to their own preferences, they have a clean file they can just open up and easily manipulate themselves.

2) Is it considered really wrong to delete things to make it work on a modern reader? For example, the book I was working on had a very large, very clunky index of specific print edition pages numbers, and it choked up Sigil so I just deleted it. I felt a pang about not being 'true' to the book, but a) I could not work with this area of the file anyway since it kept crashing and b) I really think anyone reading it on an ebook reader will have no use for this block of badly OCRd and impossible to clean up gibberish that refers to a specific print edition they are not reading. If they do want to search for a topic, I think they would use the search function on the reader device. Did I do something very, very bad here?

3) Similarly, is it wrong to add things? The two things I added to this ebook were a) to incorporate the leaflet and b) to add some line references. For instance, the leaflet might say 'read page 24-25 of Book X' so I left that in there for reference as part of the text, but also added in something like 'from the quick brown fox...to the lazy dog' so that people could use the search function on their reader to actually follow the reference. Is it very wrong to do this? I guess I figure I am seeing myself as being like the editor of a new edition here, so it's okay to insert such a feature as part of the editing for my 'edition' if it's something really useful, the same way those people who sell the public domain Kindle collections add indexes, tables of contents and other navigation features. But is this really frowned upon?

Feedback is welcome. When I am done with the book I am doing now, I have some ideas for other ones, including a Harvard Classics anthology which will pull together the 15-minute-a-day reading plan and all the specified selections into one volume, and some Wikipedia collections (starting with the complete Wikipedia countries). I also want to make my own poetry anthology of favourite poems.
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Old 05-30-2011, 09:36 PM   #2
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1) Use mostly semantic markup in conjunction with CSS for styling and you'll have a good balance between the book's structure making sense and looking nice.

2) Yeah, if it's superfluous to an e-book edition, and doesn't mess with the meaning of the main text, you can get rid of it. One nicety to replace print index pages for specific subjects is to look up where it indexes, and link back to that piece of the text, but that tends to be a lot of work which you may not want to go to the trouble of doing.

Sometimes the search function can be overly literal and only give results back for a particularly-spelt keyword variant. Or sometimes it does partial matching and then the results are overly broad and you have umpteen pages of pier, Piers, piercing, rapier, happier to wade through.

3) Go ahead and add whatever you like. But as in the case with deletion, it's best if you can make it clear it's not quite the original text by adding some sort of note in the front of the book saying "I sourced this from SOURCE and made the following described modifications to create this e-book version which should be considered The Ficbot Super Special Edition of Adventures in the Public Domain, or, a Thrilling Tale of Textual Revision".

Excepting Project Gutenberg texts, whose boilerplate says that if you make any changes to the text besides making them more readable on a display device and cleaning up obvious OCR errors and prettying-up the typography, you have to completely remove any mention of PG from the result.

Mind you, for your example of the reference, possibly it may be better to directly link it back rather than quote a line of text that people would then have to enter into a search box on their reader (assuming their reader comes with a search box, which I'm pretty sure Kobo doesn't; but then Kobo still doesn't follow internal links, so the point is moot for that device).

Hope this helps.
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Old 05-30-2011, 09:49 PM   #3
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Thank you, ATDrake. In this case, it's the index to the Harvard Classics and I added in the reading plan leaflet; so as it references multiple volumes, I do need some sort of search string so readers can go to the correct volume and find the text.

Of course, I would note any changes. I did cringe a little at 'altering' the book, but as I said, it was a giant mess (the index) anyway, and I did not see how it would be in any way useful to the ebook reader to try and clean it up.
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Old 05-30-2011, 10:24 PM   #4
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Given that the Harvard Classics/Index looks to be mostly split up into volumes anyway, and indexed on a per-volume basis, would it be a possible consideration to excerpt just those parts of the Index/Leaflet which apply to a particular volume and stick that in the front/back of the corresponding volume, with linkage?

And then you could make a pared down version of the full Index as a separate e-book with just a simple volume/number of references cite for each subject and direct the reader to open up the corresponding volume and look up the full thing via the handy built-in linked references which would now be in the latter.

After all, that seems like a fairly handy place to put those sort of things, directly where they would apply and thus be at one's fingertips.

But then it would be a lot of work, as would creating an omnibus edition for the lot (which no doubt most readers would choke on anyway).
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Old 05-30-2011, 10:34 PM   #5
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ATDrake, I did leave in the First Lines of Poems index, and I corrected against a scan from Scribd the page numbers which had not been OCRd correctly

I am not planning a full omnibus of the whole Harvard Classics. Just the daily selections for the 15-minute-a-day highlights

Although, I did do a quick look at some of the ones I downloaded from here and the formatting is a little glitchy. I saw some odd line breaks, and there was no table of contents for each book. Might be worth cleaning them all up at some point, but that would be a massive undertaking and I am not sure I have the interest (or skills) for it.
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Old 05-30-2011, 10:50 PM   #6
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Sorry, for some reason I'd gotten the impression that you were perhaps planning an entire Harvard Classics overhaul, probably from your having mentioned putting together a Reading Selections, then tidying up the Index separately.

If you're not planning on reworking the other volumes, then yeah, it makes more sense to just tidy up the Index and reference stuff as best you can. Too bad neither ePub nor Mobi really has a working scheme for inter-book linking yet.

Best of luck with it!
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Old 05-31-2011, 09:34 PM   #7
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Thanks, ATDrake! I am actually having fun with it. It's a bit of a project, but going through this book in such detail really has made me consider some ways I might enjoy this series besides reading it straight through. I think that once I get the hang of things, it'll be fun. I just worry that since I am not very skilled in this, I will rely on the WYSIWG editor to much and miss a major formatting task I must do to make the book readable to others.
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