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Thread: Is a TOC a Must in Your E-book?

  1. #1
    It's all about grace
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    Is a TOC a Must in Your E-book?

    Do you have to have a TOC in your e-book? 'Heart Song' has 45 chapters and I really don't want a bunch of pages at the beginning of my book with nothing but, ONE, TWO, THREE, etc.

    Don't readers have another way to keep their place or do they rely on a TOC?

    Then, if I do have to have one, can it be put into the back of the book?

    I've been working on formatting my novel, then my neighbor gal will come and guide me through Calibre and getting it published on KDP. I'm excited, but it's important that my book be as professional as possible. I know you all understand that. Thanks for any advice you can give me.
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    Rewriting My Destiny Cyia's Avatar
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    I don't know about other e-readers, but kindle reopens to the last page read when you come back to a book
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  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cyia View Post
    I don't know about other e-readers, but kindle reopens to the last page read when you come back to a book
    That's good to know, Cyia. I am formatting for only the Kindle to start with. But I do I wonder why I read something about readers being unhappy when there's no TOC then. Doesn't seem like it would be important with the Kindle at least. Maybe it's just an issue when you're writing non-fiction.

    It would be interesting to know how many authors of fiction put one in. Anyway, thank you so much for responding. I sure appreciate it.
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    Cultus Gopherus MacAllister SuperModerator Medievalist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ann Joyce View Post
    Do you have to have a TOC in your e-book? 'Heart Song' has 45 chapters and I really don't want a bunch of pages at the beginning of my book with nothing but, ONE, TWO, THREE, etc.

    Don't readers have another way to keep their place or do they rely on a TOC?
    Download the free Kindle app for you computer and look at a few books. You need to have a better idea of what it's like for your readers, and you need to check the final file on various platforms in any case.

    You have to have a TOC.

    That said, the TOC isn't intrusive, and the Kindle app or device remembers the last place a reader was automatically (and of course readers can mark their place with a bookmark).

    If you're going through an automated conversion process, it's particularly important to get readers to look at the book as an object (i.e. not so much the content) on different Kindles and the other devices that can read Kindle format books.

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  5. #5
    A Gentleman of a refined age... thothguard51's Avatar
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    Table of content is subjective to individual publishers as well as the writers. Some use them, some don't.

    I like them, especially if the chapter has a title. This is a reference point for me if I need to go back and look for something as a reader.

    As a writer, I have used TOC in my works and I have also not used them. It really depends on the story and what I am trying to achieve.
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  6. #6
    volitare nequeo AW Moderator veinglory's Avatar
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    TOC is now a norm for ebooks and a reasonable expectation. Readers will not care about having to push 'next page' twice to get to the first page of prose. It's the same for every book.

  7. #7
    practical experience, FTW LJD's Avatar
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    As a reader, not someone who self-publishes:

    The vast majority of e-books I've read have a contents at the beginning.

    A small number don't, but if you go to navigation, there is still a link to a contents that allows you to jump between chapters. Every single novel I've read in e-book form had this. Every single one. When I saved my novel in .epub in Calibre (just for my own purposes, not to publish), it did this automatically. (I have not played much with the options available.)

    I have a Sony e-reader and yes, it remembers the last page you were at, but I still like having the contents. In fact, if you didn't have a contents of some sort to allow me to flip between chapters, and to allow me to see how long the chapters are without having to flip page by page, it would really piss me off as a reader and would probably scream self-published...

    But if you don't have it at the beginning of the book, no big deal, although it's not in any way intrusive.

  8. #8
    Formerly Phantom of Krankor. AW Moderator Torgo's Avatar
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    Kindle demands a TOC, and I believe iBooks and Adobe do too. That said, it's not intrusive on the latter platforms; and on Kindle I think the default is to open on Chapter 1 page 1 rather than the TOC, which is technically earlier in the book.

  9. #9
    coffee and pistols at dawn KateJJ's Avatar
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    My husband and I each have an ipad. We frequently read the same book at the same time on our separate devices. The books app opens the book to either where he left off or where I did - it's not device dependent, it's tied to our (shared) AppleID. It can be very frustrating for both of us! So if a book had no TOC, we'd be lost. And have cause for divorce, possibly.
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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ann Joyce View Post
    Do you have to have a TOC in your e-book? 'Heart Song' has 45 chapters and I really don't want a bunch of pages at the beginning of my book with nothing but, ONE, TWO, THREE, etc.

    Don't readers have another way to keep their place or do they rely on a TOC?

    Then, if I do have to have one, can it be put into the back of the book?

    I've been working on formatting my novel, then my neighbor gal will come and guide me through Calibre and getting it published on KDP. I'm excited, but it's important that my book be as professional as possible. I know you all understand that. Thanks for any advice you can give me.
    I just made an omnibus version of all my books, so I had to make a TOC or it would be a nightmare for a reader to navigate with four books totaling over 320,000 words. One thing I noticed was that some people were putting them in the back of the book, so that is what I did. With an ebook, it's just as easy to go to the back of the book to click a link as it is the front, and it also helps that the 'Look Inside' isn't taken up with pages of chapter links.

  11. #11
    VPXV 4EVA LBlankenship's Avatar
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    Just to further point out that a TOC is very handy for keeping your appendix materials at hand for your readers -- since I write fantasy, that means a map, a character index, etc. Things they might want to check on the fly. I gave them all separate entries in my TOC.

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  12. #12
    Smooth Operator TheKoB's Avatar
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    Yeah, TOC is pure comfort and there is no reason NOT to include it. Just go for it because it is not that much work either. Don't worry about the TOC messing up the easthetics of your book: it will look just fine.

  13. #13
    Formerly Phantom of Krankor. AW Moderator Torgo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KateJJ View Post
    My husband and I each have an ipad. We frequently read the same book at the same time on our separate devices. The books app opens the book to either where he left off or where I did - it's not device dependent, it's tied to our (shared) AppleID. It can be very frustrating for both of us! So if a book had no TOC, we'd be lost. And have cause for divorce, possibly.
    I am pretty sure you can turn that off in iBooks settings. That said, I'm starting to lose track of what you can and can't do in these apps, to be honest. (I am grimly holding on to Stanza, even though it appears to be largely broken under iOS6.)

  14. #14
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    Interesting conversation. I've never put a TOC in my novels since my chapters are simply Chapter One, Chapter Two, etc. Along the bottom of Kindle, the Kindle app for iPad and Nook there is a dotted line that shows you where you are in the book (near the beginning, middle, end, etc.) I also drop down my chapter titles, so if you're tapping or flipping along, it's easy find. My chapters are all about the same length. I always thought TOCs were necessary for non-fiction, but not as necessary for fiction. Side note: Smashwords inserts the TOC in my e-books, so those who buy from sales channels other than Amazon do receive an e-book with a TOC.
    [URL="http://www.amazon.com/author/merrihiatt"][SIGPIC][/SIGPIC][/URL]
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    [URL="http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/merrihiatt"]Smashwords[/URL] [URL="http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/merri-hiatt?store=allproducts&keyword=merri+hiatt"]B&N[/URL] [URL="https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/merri-hiatt/id458595119?mt=11"]iTunes[/URL] [URL="http://www.allromanceebooks.com/storeSearch.html?searchBy=author&qString=Merri+Hiatt"]AllRomance[/URL] [URL="http://merrihiatt.com/"]Website[/URL]

  15. #15
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    Thanks to all of you for your much appreciated input. This has turned out to be more daunting than I thought it would be, but then, most of this stuff is just plain Greek to me. It was much easier getting the hard copy ready to publish, at least for me.

    Right now, I've changed my font size from 11 to 12, after reading Kindle only accepts 10, 12, etc., and I'm in the process of removing all of my hyphens and then, of course, I've had to change my page breaks after each chapter. I'm also changing every paragraph indent by hand because I can't seem to do them all at once (working in Word). :headbang: I think I'll be at this task awhile.

    Also, after reading your comments, I've decided to put my TOC at the end when I get that far because of the forty-five chapter thing and I don't want all of those extra pages to be part of my sample.

    Again, I really appreciate all of you taking time to help. I've definitely learned some things of value again today.
    Chew the cherries & spit the pits!


    Heart Song on Amazon

  16. #16
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    A Table of Contents is very useful if you've got an anthology. Smashwords semi-requires a TOC in all their books.

    So, I'd put in at least a rudimentary one, on the Can't-Hurt-Might-Help level.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by merrihiatt View Post
    Interesting conversation. I've never put a TOC in my novels since my chapters are simply Chapter One, Chapter Two, etc. Along the bottom of Kindle, the Kindle app for iPad and Nook there is a dotted line that shows you where you are in the book (near the beginning, middle, end, etc.) I also drop down my chapter titles, so if you're tapping or flipping along, it's easy find. My chapters are all about the same length. I always thought TOCs were necessary for non-fiction, but not as necessary for fiction.
    That's what I thought too, Merri. In fact, mine don't even say chapter. Just One, Two, Three and so on X's 45.

    But then, what about the lady (sorry, I forgot who mentioned this) whose husband reads the same book she does. Could they still find their way around?

    I have extra space between chapters as well (just used enter - hope that works), but they aren't the same length. They end where it seems natural to me. And I too, thought they were used for non-fiction. Thanks Merri, for chiming in.
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  18. #18
    Hero, villain, angel, demon AW Moderator Sage's Avatar
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    I find a ToC very useful when switching between devices (my Kindle vs. my Kindle app on my iPhone). Some ebooks put the ToC at the back, so that can certainly be done.

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  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ann Joyce View Post

    I have extra space between chapters as well (just used enter - hope that works), but they aren't the same length. They end where it seems natural to me. And I too, thought they were used for non-fiction. Thanks Merri, for chiming in.
    I really recommend downloading Smashwords' free Style Guide. Replacing indents one by one will take forever!
    [URL="http://www.amazon.com/author/merrihiatt"][SIGPIC][/SIGPIC][/URL]
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    [URL="http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/merrihiatt"]Smashwords[/URL] [URL="http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/merri-hiatt?store=allproducts&keyword=merri+hiatt"]B&N[/URL] [URL="https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/merri-hiatt/id458595119?mt=11"]iTunes[/URL] [URL="http://www.allromanceebooks.com/storeSearch.html?searchBy=author&qString=Merri+Hiatt"]AllRomance[/URL] [URL="http://merrihiatt.com/"]Website[/URL]

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ann Joyce View Post
    Thanks to all of you for your much appreciated input. This has turned out to be more daunting than I thought it would be, but then, most of this stuff is just plain Greek to me. It was much easier getting the hard copy ready to publish, at least for me.

    Right now, I've changed my font size from 11 to 12, after reading Kindle only accepts 10, 12, etc., and I'm in the process of removing all of my hyphens and then, of course, I've had to change my page breaks after each chapter. I'm also changing every paragraph indent by hand because I can't seem to do them all at once (working in Word). :headbang: I think I'll be at this task awhile.

    Also, after reading your comments, I've decided to put my TOC at the end when I get that far because of the forty-five chapter thing and I don't want all of those extra pages to be part of my sample.

    Again, I really appreciate all of you taking time to help. I've definitely learned some things of value again today.
    Oops! This is the post I meant to reply to about Smashwords' free Style Guide.
    [URL="http://www.amazon.com/author/merrihiatt"][SIGPIC][/SIGPIC][/URL]
    I'm a clickable link to Amazon

    [URL="http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/merrihiatt"]Smashwords[/URL] [URL="http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/merri-hiatt?store=allproducts&keyword=merri+hiatt"]B&N[/URL] [URL="https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/merri-hiatt/id458595119?mt=11"]iTunes[/URL] [URL="http://www.allromanceebooks.com/storeSearch.html?searchBy=author&qString=Merri+Hiatt"]AllRomance[/URL] [URL="http://merrihiatt.com/"]Website[/URL]

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by KateJJ View Post
    My husband and I each have an ipad. We frequently read the same book at the same time on our separate devices. The books app opens the book to either where he left off or where I did - it's not device dependent, it's tied to our (shared) AppleID.
    Can you get an extra Apple ID and share books? Or does Apple's system force you to buy two separate copies of each ebook? I know there are ways to do this under Amazon, but has Apple caught up to them?

  22. #22
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    After finally downloading the Smashwords Style Guide (which many people on these threads recommend) and now in the process of reading it and doing some further formatting work, I have come across some information on using a ToC in a novel.

    According to SW's, a ToC can benefit fiction, esp. if you have named chapters or sections, or if you have a publication of short stories. It would also be useful if you have a section in the back such as, "About the Author" or a listing of other published books.

    It did say if your chapters are only Chapter One, Chapter Two (such as mine are, and they are not even that, but rather One, Two, etc.) with no additional information at the end of the novel, there was little need for a ToC inside the book. Of course, I have condensed the longer chapters into an appreviated snapshot of what was said.

    Since these guidelines come from a source that seems to garner such respect on this forum, it seems like we should be able to trust the information they give. I hope this is helpful to those of you that, like me, have been unsure about this dilemma, after hearing both dides presented here. Thanks to all that took the time to offer input and advice.

    P.S It did advise the inclusion of a ToC in a work of non-fiction.
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  23. #23
    Cultus Gopherus MacAllister SuperModerator Medievalist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ann Joyce View Post
    Since these guidelines come from a source that seems to garner such respect on this forum, it seems like we should be able to trust the information they give. I hope this is helpful to those of you that, like me, have been unsure about this dilemma, after hearing both dides presented here. Thanks to all that took the time to offer input and advice.
    You're talking about the TOC only in terms of something the reader sees. It's more than that.

    In the actual construction of a Kindle book or an ePub there must be a TOC file that is part of the book bundle. This is the toc.ncx file.

    Note that ebooks have a TOC UI feature. You need to have something happen when users tap or click that UI feature. Where will it take them?

    That information is stored as part of the metadata in the ebook file—whether Kindle, ePub or mobi or prc.

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  24. #24
    Cultus Gopherus MacAllister SuperModerator Medievalist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Laer Carroll View Post
    Can you get an extra Apple ID and share books? Or does Apple's system force you to buy two separate copies of each ebook? I know there are ways to do this under Amazon, but has Apple caught up to them?
    Access to ebooks or other purchased data from Apple is tied to the Apple User ID.

    If you purchase using a single Apple User ID you can both access the data.

    Alternatively, you can enable Apple Home Sharing and share them that way.

    The support how-tos for Home Sharing may be useful.

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  25. #25
    practical experience, FTW Nightmelody's Avatar
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    I recently put a toc in a bundle. Most of my works are shorts so I haven't bothered. As an ebook reader I never use them. But it was surprisingly easy to do. I put it at the end of the file so it isn't in my book sample. Found a free kindle ebook on formatting for kindle, and followed it.


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