Originally Posted by starrigger
Jon, a lot of what you're putting forward as "best practice" is really just your preference. Many people, for example, prefer generous margins and find little-or-no margin very hard on the eyes. Justified text is preferred by some, not by others. Justified text on a small device looks awful. (Although some of the newer display modes that shorten lines that would otherwise be hideously spaced out is not a bad compromise.) The best option, where possible, is to leave it for the end-user to be able to choose justified-unjustified. Spaces around em-dashes are not necessarily a mistake; it's a matter of preference. I don't use that method myself, but one good reason for doing it is that it ensures a line can break at a dash, rather than having the dash bind two words together.
The section break is practically an art in itself. I have begun using single-line section breaks, with style set for additional spacing above and below, and a simple typographical centered (centered!) marker such as * * * or o0o or ~~~. But there is no one "correct" way to do it.
Don't even get me started on ellipses.
But I still wish Calibre would offer the option, which Kovid indicated wouldn't be hard, to add a line ensuring that centered text would truly be centered. He doesn't want to, and that's his right. But I think it would be an improvement that people would appreciate.
The problem is that some readers and some apps (including ADE for Windows) don't have the options to change the line spacing or the margins. So what's done is done and a lot of people just have to put up with it since they cannot change things. The idea is to find a happy medium and it's up to the author or publisher to come up with a happy medium. When you are working on formatting this eBook, think of someone using an reader or app that has no settings for line spacing or margins. Also, I think more people will be tolerant of indents and no paragraph spaces for those that prefer no indents and paragraph spaces then those that want indents and no paragraph spaces. Also, I do think sometimes too large a line-height is put in. I think a 1.2em line-height is too wide.
A happy medium is with indents and margins not too big (generous). back when Sony was using a version of ADE that did not justify, a lot of people (on MR) were saying they preferred justified vs left justified. Also, a lot of eBooks do have paragraph spaces that are just too large and they do take you away from the book as your eye then goes from one paragraph to nothing before going back to the text. And indent that is too big also is a distraction (5% as I've seeen before is just way too large on a 6" screen).
As for indents not looking good on a small screen, screens have gotten larger and/or higher resolution so it's not as bad as it used to be. Also, if you put in margins, a program like iBooks will have greater then generous margins (ridiculous margins) as it already has a default margin of generous. As it turns out, a lot of people using an iPhone or and iPad will be using iBooks to read ePub and that's where it gets silly (margin wise) is the ePub already has generous margins. The default margins are already silly on an iPhone's small screen.
When I got my 500, I did not buy eBooks from Sony except to use the $50 credit I got for buying the 500. I hated the small text and outrageous margins.
As for the section break, as long as it's not too big and it clearly marked, it doesn't matter if you use * * * or ~~~ or --- or some graphic image. Just don't do what a lot of publishers do and put in blank space for most of the section breaks and leave in * * * because that's what the print edition did when the section break ended near the bottom of the page.
Another thing a lot of publishers do wrong is they use a text size of small. I think it's best to go for the default font size (1em is the default font size) for the main text.
I know I am putting in some of my preferences, but they work better for more people then the poorly done publisher formatting. I've read (on MR and other forums) that people do not like the way most publisher formatting is done.
I've even read of people requesting indents when the formatting is no indents and paragraph spaces.
Let's not forget one thing... Widows and orphans... I know a lot of people would like them to go away, but no reader/app has any settings to make this happen and they don't even know they can be made to go away. So a widows: 0 and orphans: 0 in the body style will just just that, make them go away.
So in your opinion, what is a happy medium as far as formatting an eBook goes?