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Things to watch out for while preparing your eBooks

Turgay Birand

May 24, 2012

As the popularity of eBooks continue to rise, so does the number of eBook authors and designers. While many who create eBooks have received some form of training on the matter, we often see some basic problems and issues within many eBooks on the market. In this article, we wanted to provide some helpful tips & tricks to authors and designers, so they can avoid many painstaking issues and get it right as easily as possible. We'll be focusing on the ePub format for this article, and the few others that will follow, though maybe we'll do more on other formats later on if requested. Here we go!
  • Have the right tools for the job on your computer. We recommend Adobe InDesign for your general authoring and ePub output purposes. I may seem biased, but trust me, nothing comes close to it in terms of usability and output quality. Still, it's not perfect and you'll need a couple more tools to get things just right. Sigil is an open source ePub editor which lets you dive real deep within the eBook and edit its source code. And finally, if you need to do conversions from other formats such as Quark Express, we recommend the plugins from Markzware.
  • If the book has a published, printed version, have it handy as a reference if possible. It'll allow you to mimic the original reading experience when needed, while still having the flexibility of a digital format.
  • Before starting to work on the eBook, lay it out as plain text on the editor pages first to see if any character problems crop up from the get go. This is especially important if you're working on languages other than English; foreign characters cause havoc sometimes.
  • Styles are very important in an eBook and one should always take care to use them correctly. They function just like styles on a website do, just as eBooks function just like a website. I recommend having a set of styles handy at all times, instead of creating styles for every eBook you work on, so you possess a best practice.
  • When assigning styles to your text, always add them in order! For instance, first assign the general paragraph style, then any styles below it. Failure to do so might require you to start over again, always a great hit to your motivation!
  • Have a eInk reader device, such as the B&N Nook handy and check your work on it! Your computer screen is huge, both in terms of pixels per inch and number of total pixels. Your users will most likely be using much smaller resolution screens, so a font size that looks nice on your computer screen most likely won't on reader devices. I realize many reader devices allow you to increase/decrease font size on the fly, but it's poor user experience in my opinion when the default font size looks out of proportion.
  • If the eBook we're preparing contains images, take care to make sure their alignment, size and text positioning looks right on your reader.
  • Don't forget to add your meta data! It may seem like a menial task, but it's important.
Preparing an eBooks is intricate work that requires your patience and practicality. As long as you constantly discipline yourself to identify and form best practices, then follow them religiously, both the time it takes to prepare high quality content   and the likelihood of errors will be reduced dramatically. We'll continue focusing on this topic in more detail in the following posts, so stay tuned!

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