Can an Ebook Look Good?


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The answer is: yes! An overview of the state of ebook typography and what's possible in that digital publishing space. Created by Erin Mallory and Laura Brady.

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  • LAURAWhat is typrography?Common misconceptions about ebook typographyWhat is possible
  • LAURAGood typography should always enhance the content, not distract from it. The main job of typography is to do no harm, to be invisible.Books that are narrative driven need a totally different design focus. Art books should have more attention. It does this by being legible – refers to perception, meaning decipherable and recognizable at any size – and readable – refers to comprehension, meaning it communicates meaning with visual ease and comfortAesthetics – Accessibility – avoid rasterizing content just so you can make it look exactly like the print version because this make the content inaccessible to search/dictionary functions, as well as text-to-speech
  • ERINDigitized content is print material that is converted to digital format as an afterthought. Digital content is content that, even if it existed in print first, has been intentionally curated to fit the digital format.A large majority of ebooks available today are digitized, they are run through what we call a meat grinder approach – scan the hard copy book to OCR, use algorithms and scripts to convert the text to ebook format, and put it up for sale. It can’t be beautiful and carefully constructed as the print product, so put it through a meat grinder and do not think about it again.Combine this approach with poor QA workflows – not proofing the OCR’d text, not testing your ebooks to make sure it’s functional on all devices -- and impact consumer confidence, which is directly related to the devaluation of ebooksLet’s look at some examples…
  • ERINSome samples of books that have common OCR errors and poor QA
  • ERINAnother example of poor or no QA. The book rendered well on eink but some wonky code showed up on an Android tablet app, reinforcing the rule of testing often and everywhere. This book was fine on one Kobo reader, but not another.
  • LAURAThe print version is elegant and thoughtful. There is a clear break from the linear flow denoting a new section, and a font change shows a clear shift in content. The ebook is, uh, ham-fisted and awkward at best. The title, date and subtitle are all linked back to the TOC – not very useful. There is no way to know there has been a shift in voice.
  • LAURAOption 1: You don’t. This is one ebook developers solution: put a note at the top of each chapter telling the reader to view the book using publisher fonts for the best experience. This note only appears if the reader has turned off publisher fonts. I think a short note at the beginning of an ebook letting the reader know that care and effort was put into making this ebook look good and function well is an interesting idea, but this is an inelegant approachExplain publisher defaults – under the font menu on most readers.
  • LAURAOption 2: Know what the defaults are so you can learn how to work with or work around them.Without question, the most important part of ebook development.Understand which retailers are important to your content and QA thoroughly on those platforms. So content destined for Kobo, for example, should be looked at on an e-ink device, on their iOS app, and on the Android app or their Arc tablet. That’s three completely different ways that your content will render for one retailer!
  • LAURAReconsider the relationship to the reader: ebook developers are service providers who give readers the content in such a way that they can consume it however they want.Don’t fail to pay design attention to your ebooks but understand that they must semantically coded and have the flexibility and fitness to contract differently for each user.
  • LAURAIn this context, ebook typography is essentially ebook UI.Is there really such a thing as ebook typography when, ultimately, the user has the controls? Yes!!!
  • ERINFont licensing is a minefield but many font foundries are coming around – separate ebook pricing, fonts designed to be used on and eink or tablet.This will become more important as epub3 becomes standardized.If you have special characters or accented character, choose a typeface that contains all the characters you will need to display and embed if needed. Most devices are limited to displaying only the most commonly used foreign characters. Never resort to faking an accented character by rasterizing it or by manually placing an symbol in a separate text box and placing above/below the base character, or by inputting the symbol and character separately and adjusting the baseline shift and kerning to align them.
  • ERINLet’s look at some pretty pictures
  • ERINLet the text breathe!Text looks different on an ereader than it does on a printed page so give the reader a lot more breathing space. An extra signature doesn’t mean extra cost iBooks
  • ERINDon’t be subtle! Indents should be larger than in print.Line space between paragraphs – taking full advantage of the fact that extra length does not mean extra cost – is also an option. iBooks
  • LAURAMake them obvious and take the opportunity to add a graphical element to the pageiBooks
  • LAURACan be a nice visual cue to help distinguish editorial spacesKobo Touch
  • LAURAClear and consistent hierarchical arrangement of text
  • ERINWhether it’s an A-head or a D-head, make them clear and consistentThis example is from Bluefire Reader
  • ERIN[click once to show the 2nd and 3rd images]iBooks
  • ERINMake sure that the caption is “glued” to the picture. Whatever code you use might now work everytime on every reader/app, but your content will be ready for the device to accommodate the structure of your file when you get there.Screenshot from iBooks
  • LAURAEmbed for effect or necessity (ie. branding), not simply to be a print replicaScreenshot from Kobo Touch and
  • LAURAScreenshot from Readium.
  • ERINMOBI 7 is still actively supported and must be taken seriouslyScreenshots from iBooks and old Kindle
  • ERINTypographical controls are maturing so use them now even if they aren’t supported everywhere to FUTURE PROOF your content
  • ERINTest on an eink and in night mode for contrast.Also: every book doesn’t need to be a rainbow.
  • ERIN
  • Can an Ebook Look Good?

    1. 1. Erin MalloryManager, Cross-MediaHouse of Anansi PressEbook TypographyLaura BradyPrincipal, Brady Type
    2. 2. Overview1. What is Typography?2. Common Misconceptions3. What is Possible?
    3. 3. “Typography exists to honor content.”— Robert BringhurstThe Elements of Typographic StyleWhat Is Typography?
    4. 4. Elements of Typography• Enhance the content• Legibility• Readability• Aesthetics• Accessibility
    5. 5. Common Misconceptions“Books are the ultimate consumerist fetishobjects and yet e-readers have the leastcharacter of any object you can buy.”— Stephen Marche“Why I’ve Given Up on My Kindle,” Esquire
    6. 6. “It can’t look good, right?”• Digitized vs. Digital• Meat grinder• Poor QA• Devaluation of ebooks
    7. 7. CommonOCRErrors
    8. 8. Poor QA
    9. 9. Degraded Print Design
    10. 10. Degraded Print Design
    11. 11. How To Work Around DeviceDefaults?Option 1:You don’t
    12. 12. Option 2:Test TestTest
    13. 13. “A book is an object. An ebook is aservice.”— Baldur BjarnasonOption 3:Rethink the book
    14. 14. Option 4:Design to sound typographical standards• Survive user intervention• Survive device fragmentation• Degrade gracefully
    15. 15. Fonts• NEVER EMBED FONTS• Readers will just change the font anyway• Most devices can’t display embedded fonts• You don’t have / can’t afford the licence• ALWAYS EMBED FONTS• How else can I make it look exactly like the printversion?• Most devices can display embedded fonts• You already own the font so no problem
    16. 16. What is Possible?“[B]ooks aren’t sitting grumpily in economy class onthe airplane to the future. They’re in the cockpit.”— Richard Nash“What is the Business of Literature?”Virginia Quarterly Review, Spring 2013
    17. 17. White Space
    18. 18. ParagraphIndents
    19. 19. EditorialSpaces
    20. 20. Drop Caps
    21. 21. Small Caps
    22. 22. Structure
    23. 23. Headers
    24. 24. Sidebars
    25. 25. Block Quotes
    26. 26. Image +Caption
    27. 27. FloatingElements
    28. 28. EmbeddedFonts
    29. 29. Device Fonts
    30. 30. Pop-UpFootnotesEpub3 only
    31. 31. MediaQueries
    32. 32. Typographical Controls• Orphans/widows• Hyphenation• Letter-spacing• Columns• Page-break instructions
    33. 33. One Final ThoughtColour isFREE.Use it!
    34. 34. Don’t give up.Be creative and persistent.Raise the bar.— Amanda Gomm, Digital Bindery
    35. 35. Erin You!Laura