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Old 07-12-2010, 04:47 AM   #1
AlexBell
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I'm thinking of doing a style survey

I'm thinking about doing a survey with e.g. Survey Monkey which will allow people to say what kind of style they prefer when reading an ebook on an ebook reader. Before I do that I want to get some idea of what questions people would like to see on the survey. And of course I'd like to know if anyone else has done a similar survey - if someone has please let me know.

The questions I've thought of so far include:

- Do you like to choose styles for yourself, or are you happy with whatever the publisher decides?
- Do you prefer serif or sans-serif fonts?
- I might give people a range of fonts and ask them to choose their preferred font - eg Bitstream Vera Sans, Georgia, Goudita Sans, Times New Roman, Verdana - any others?
- Do you prefer justified or left aligned text?
- Do you prefer paragraphs separated by white space, or marked by an indent, or both?
- Do you prefer white space between lines of text?
- Do you prefer side margins about the width of the hyphen on this line, or margins the width of the space between the left edge of the text and the D?

Are there any other questions I should include?

Regards, Alex

Last edited by AlexBell; 07-12-2010 at 04:48 AM. Reason: Fixed a typo
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Old 07-12-2010, 05:04 AM   #2
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- Do you prefer each chapter to start on a new page?

I'll be very interested to see the results of your survey, Alex.
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Old 07-12-2010, 06:17 AM   #3
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That would be a very, very valuable survey, Alex. Your list of questions seems pretty complete with Cbell's contribution. But there will perhaps be more just as valid.

My tech partner, Tony, and I will certainly take the result seriously to guide us, and reader preferrence registered like this should influence other publishers, too, because -- unlike print presentation which has become pretty standardised over time -- ebooks are so relatively new on the scene that we're all still flying by the seat of our pants.

Here's karma to you for such a useful idea. Cheers and thanks. Neil
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Old 07-12-2010, 07:02 AM   #4
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Most people are NOT going to recognise fonts by their name. Can you provide a graphical illustration?
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Old 07-12-2010, 07:13 AM   #5
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Instead of giving a list of fonts, I'd ask the font name directly:

If you have a particular preferred font (or more), write its name: ________


While the survey may be interesting, it could encourage authors/publishers to create books with some fixed format that satisfies the most people, while I think it would be best to encourage them to create them with some flexible format that can be easily adapted.

For instance, the Cybooks allow the user to select the font and justification, but it only works if there is no hard-coded font or justification. So, better than including the preferred font/justification for most people, is leaving the option open letting each user select his/her preference.
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Old 07-12-2010, 07:32 AM   #6
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It'd be an interesting survey to watch. There's the part of me that expects something nice but generic will come out, and the other part of me that wants to see a freakish center-aligned Comic Sans or Papyrus staggered caps monstrosity, where emphasis is done with quotation marks or perhaps double underline.
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Old 07-12-2010, 08:48 AM   #7
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Alex,

I think this is an excellent idea. I hope you'll be able to allow respondents to add a comment or explanation to their replies, rather than letting them just tick a box. For example, in the question on justification, my answer would be "It depends on ...."

I also agree with the others that you need to show font samples, rather than identifying fonts only by name. Ideally, it would be a multi-line sample of real text, not just the name of the font rendered in the font in question. But I'm not sure if Survey Monkey let you do that sort of thing.
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Old 07-12-2010, 08:56 AM   #8
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Submitted for consideration:
"Do you prefer user-defined presentation settings to publisher choices?"

While it is an interesting and *worthwhile* exercise I think there is the danger that publishers, already operating under the dated assumption that presentation style should be set at the top of the product chain, will simply hardwire the lowest-common denominator settings from the survey. For print books top-down presentation control was unavoidable. For ebooks it properly belongs at the end of the chain, in the hands of the customer. Even if, yes, they choose to go with Comic Book sans.
Their money, their eyeballs, their ebook.
We're not talking movies, where the director's vision rules.

So yes, let's see how readers like their ebooks formatted, but let's not assume that a consensus choice, even if it exists, can be/should be deployed en-masse.

Me, I'd rather see the publishers focus on finding quality content and proofing it before shipping it out.
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Old 07-12-2010, 09:42 AM   #9
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Can Survey Monkey handle graphics? If so, instead of asking about fonts, justification, paragraph spacing, etc., just present the requisite number of graphics as options and ask people which they like better.
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Old 07-12-2010, 09:54 AM   #10
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Excellent idea!
Quote:
Originally Posted by AlexBell View Post
- Do you prefer serif or sans-serif fonts?
There are several sub-categories.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serif_font#Classification
So-called Modern Serif fonts do not look good [to me] on an e-ink screen, because of the large difference between the width of the widest and thinnest strokes.

For example the default font for Kindle is Caecilia - a slabserif font. Slabserifs have many features of sanserif fonts, they just have nice blocky serifs that can be rendered nicely on an e-ink screen,

Quote:
Originally Posted by AlexBell View Post
- I might give people a range of fonts and ask them to choose their preferred font - eg Bitstream Vera Sans, Georgia, Goudita Sans, Times New Roman, Verdana - any others?
You might also add Gentium that seems to be popular among Mobilereaders.
You should also include an example of all principal font categories.
Wikipedia has nice consistent pictures of all principal fonts, such as this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:ITCBodoni.png , so you could present a wide range of faces in a consistent manner with minimum of work.
Quote:
Originally Posted by AlexBell View Post
Are there any other questions I should include?
What is the optimal font size?
What should be the step of the font size increase?
What is the smallest a the largest reasonable font size?
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Old 07-12-2010, 11:46 AM   #11
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Im for it. Im all about style.

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Old 07-12-2010, 12:02 PM   #12
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Of course, not all ereaders (e.g. Kindle) allow either the publisher or the consumer to select a font. I believe that best practice for Mobipocket format is NOT to specify font type or size, and let the device/software/customer choose.
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Old 07-12-2010, 03:32 PM   #13
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Some of these questions aren't either-or, but conditional. For example, justified text is good if the size of the font is small relative to the size of the screen/page, especially if hyphenation is used. (Hyphenation is a display ability reader software should really have, though few if any do, it seems.) But if the screen is small and the font comparatively large, then a ragged right edge is less annoying.
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Old 07-12-2010, 03:47 PM   #14
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This sounds like great information to collect and share. It will be interesting to see if publishers, especially small presses with more flexibility, apply these reader preferences to the formatting of e-books...or print books for that matter.

One other possible question: Do you like italics or inset text to represent printed material (letters, news stories, etc.) in fiction?
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Old 07-12-2010, 04:40 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jadon View Post
Hyphenation is a display ability reader software should really have, though few if any do, it seems.
PocketBook does have the hyphenation.
With the third-party FBReader you can even set the minimal length of word that can be hyphenated. - Like do not hyphenate words shorter than 6 characters.

Unfortunately no reading device has inDesign or LaTeX strength or page rendering ... yet.
At the moment I am listening to the paper from TeX annual conference http://river-valley.tv/tex-and-the-ipad/ from the guy that made LaTeX work on iPad (well, sort-of, kind-of)

By the way, do check An Earthshaking Announcement by the TeX God - Don Knuth himself.
http://river-valley.tv/an-earthshaking-announcement/
Hilarious stuff ...
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