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Rhymes with Clue
02-15-2015, 12:12 PM
Quick background: I was once a typographer, back in the old days before it was done in MS Word, and I am picky. But I am also not at all experienced in what's going to work in my e-books. (Have just gotten rights back from publisher.)

I know that I pretty much have to do the text in Times New Roman. Sigh. (Oh did I mention that I am kind of a font snob?)

But here is what I want: Full justification, except for the last line of the paragraph, and I also want interword and intraword spacing. I don't want rivers, I don't want big gaps. If there are only two words on a line I don't want one all by itself on the right margin and the other all by itself on the left, I want those words to s-t-r-e-t-c-h. The way they do in all ebooks published by amazon/Thomas & Mercer.

I am failing. Any suggestions?

Now what I do is start with MS Word, save it as html, then convert it using Calibre. While I know what I want, I don't know how to get it. Instead of using Word I could also start with WordPerfect (which, as a desktop publisher, did this interword/intraword thing a lot better than most, certainly better than Word), or InDesign, but I figured it didn't matter since it was all going to be html at the end of the day.

As long as I'm wishing, I would also like the reader opening the book for the first time to land on the first page of Chapter 1.

Oh, and a pony. And world peace.

slhuang
02-15-2015, 03:21 PM
For ebooks, you want to leave as much as humanly possible uncustomized and up to the end-user's device. Part of the good thing about ebooks is that (1) customers can read in whatever font / size / etc they want to customize their own devices to, which is great not just for personal preferences but for people with disabilities, and (2) the defaults are actually really, really nice and readable.

With an ebook, you have a lot less control over what the final flow of the type will look like on your customer's device, which can be both a positive thing and a frustrating thing. It can be frustrating, because there's no way to ensure text will flow a certain way, given that your customers can resize/reflow however they want. But that also means there's no other option than to let go and not worry about it. ;)



I know that I pretty much have to do the text in Times New Roman. Sigh. (Oh did I mention that I am kind of a font snob?)

What gave you that idea? Times New Roman is not a default font on any e-reader and isn't even an option on most. On Kindle, for instance, the default font is Caecilia, and it's very very pretty. :) Here's a list for interest's sake. (http://www.mobileread.com/forums/archive/index.php/t-91315.html) But it doesn't matter, because you absolutely do not want to override the main text font for anything other than the odd special item. Do not specify a font at all; leave it up to the device. Let your customers read in the font they want.

As someone who uses an e-reader, I would be furious if an ebook tried to override my font preferences. Don't do it.



But here is what I want: Full justification, except for the last line of the paragraph, and I also want interword and intraword spacing.Kindle does this automatically, as its default spacing. (Kindle does have a bug where if it can't get the interword spacing right it doesn't justify the line, but there's nothing you can do about it.) I'm not sure what the defaults on other readers are, but again, don't try to override them. People want to read their ebooks the way they want to read them.



I don't want rivers, I don't want big gaps.Because customers can resize/reflow text, there is literally nothing you can do about this unless you sell your ebook only in PDF or something, which would be a terrible idea. ;) Being able to resize/reflow is one of the magnificent things about ebooks. Yeah, that means sometimes rivers/etc. happen. There is nothing you can do about this. I know that probably hurts you in your typographer heart, sorry.



Now what I do is start with MS Word, save it as html, then convert it using Calibre.Word will leave a lot of crap in there. You want clean HTML. Try this instead:

http://guidohenkel.com/2010/12/take-pride-in-your-ebook-formatting/


I figured it didn't matter since it was all going to be html at the end of the day.Yes and no -- it is all going to be HTML, but you want the cleanest HTML possible, so you want to strip everything out that doesn't need to be there.



As long as I'm wishing, I would also like the reader opening the book for the first time to land on the first page of Chapter 1.This is easy in Calibre. When you hit "Convert," go to "Structure Detection." There's a line that says "Start reading at (XPath expression)." You can fill in an XPath line that indicates your chapter 1. For most of my books I use "//h:p[re:test(., 'chapter 1 ', 'i')]" (without the quotes) which tests for the text "chapter 1 " case-insensitive. Note the space after 1 -- it doesn't seem to make a difference when I tested because Chapter 1 comes first, but I did that just in case some odd ereader somewhere would mix it up with Chapter 10/11/etc, and I just added a space after "Chapter 1 " in the HTML file that the reader can't see. In another book that didn't have a "Chapter 1" title heading, I used "//h:p[re:test(@class, "chapter0", "i")]" (without the quotes) and gave the chapter heading where I wanted it to open the class "chapter0".

Be warned that the specification to open at a certain place is not followed by all ereaders and ereader apps. But it does degrade gracefully. And it's pretty much impossible to control anything for all ereaders. When formatting I often feel like I'm trying to do web design back when I still had to make it compatible with Netscape 4.


Oh, and a pony. And world peace.That I can't help you with. But you'll have pretty ebooks.

J. Tanner
02-15-2015, 10:53 PM
I am failing. Any suggestions?


Yep. Get over the idea that you are failing. :)

ebooks are different. A successful ebook leaves the control to the reader. You can never solve the problems you are trying (futilely) to solve because you cannot know what font and size the reader prefers.

All you can do is hurt the reading experience by trying to impose your preferences.

So, quite simply, change your mindset.

And, don't worry, there are plenty of things to be snobby about in ebook creation. :) Proper use of HTML vs text dumping Word DOCs. Using correct HTML entitles. Deciding on how to implement ellipses and em dashes. TOCs. Start points. And many more points of differentiation between the typical conversion and one from someone who's put time into learning the craft.

WriterBN
02-16-2015, 04:06 AM
As others have said, the hardest thing about e-book formatting is learning to give up control. It can be frustrating at first, but it can also be liberating once you change your mindset.

Rhymes with Clue
02-16-2015, 04:25 AM
What gave you that idea? Times New Roman is not a default font on any e-reader and isn't even an option on most. On Kindle, for instance, the default font is Caecilia, and it's very very pretty. :)
I did an e-book, and I had, for instance, the Normal style set as (I think) Century Schoolbook, and it was all good, until I imported it and then, on my Kindle, it didn't scale. That is, I could change the font size, but the size on the screen didn't correspond to the size in the little dropdown menu the way it usually does.

But once it's in HTML it looks like it's always going to be in TNR anyway as that seems to be the default of my computer. I just don't like reading it, that's all.

As someone who uses an e-reader, I would be furious if an ebook tried to override my font preferences. Don't do it.
No, that's actually not what I'm trying to do.


Kindle does this automatically, as its default spacing. (Kindle does have a bug where if it can't get the interword spacing right it doesn't justify the line, but there's nothing you can do about it.)
Yes--this is what I am trying to avoid. I have before me a Kindle book (Simon Woods's The One That Got Away) and it is justified no matter what. Larger type? Still justified. San-serif type? Still justified. Smaller line length? Ew, that is ugly. But still justified.

What I get is five lines that are perfectly justified, by interword spacing only, then four lines that are not justified at all, then three more justified lines, etc. This may be that glitch you mentioned, and it may be that the solution is some supersecret amazon.com trade secret.


Word will leave a lot of crap in there. You want clean HTML. Try this instead:

http://guidohenkel.com/2010/12/take-pride-in-your-ebook-formatting/

Great source! Thanks!

This is easy in Calibre. When you hit "Convert," go to "Structure Detection." There's a line that says "Start reading at (XPath expression)." You can fill in an XPath line that indicates your chapter 1. For most of my books I use "//h:p[re:test(., 'chapter 1 ', 'i')]" (without the quotes) which tests for the text "chapter 1 " case-insensitive. Note the space after 1 -- it doesn't seem to make a difference when I tested because Chapter 1 comes first, but I did that just in case some odd ereader somewhere would mix it up with Chapter 10/11/etc, and I just added a space after "Chapter 1 " in the HTML file that the reader can't see. In another book that didn't have a "Chapter 1" title heading, I used "//h:p[re:test(@class, "chapter0", "i")]" (without the quotes) and gave the chapter heading where I wanted it to open the class "chapter0".

Be warned that the specification to open at a certain place is not followed by all ereaders and ereader apps. But it does degrade gracefully.
Again--good stuff. Thanks!

Polenth
02-16-2015, 06:20 AM
A lot of your issues are being caused by converting Word documents rather than doing your own html. Once you go through the linked guide, you'll solve most of the issues.

If the Times New Roman issue is your ereader program is set to that, I'm sure someone can help if you say what you're using. There will be an option somewhere.

J. Tanner
02-17-2015, 09:39 AM
Yes--this is what I am trying to avoid. I have before me a Kindle book (Simon Woods's The One That Got Away) and it is justified no matter what. Larger type? Still justified. San-serif type? Still justified. Smaller line length? Ew, that is ugly. But still justified.

What I get is five lines that are perfectly justified, by interword spacing only, then four lines that are not justified at all, then three more justified lines, etc. This may be that glitch you mentioned, and it may be that the solution is some supersecret amazon.com trade secret.

Nothing supersecret for the Kindle. Full justification is on by default (unless the book overrides it.) I believe there's a way to manually disable it too but I've never tried it.

It's a pretty basic algorithm and it sort of falls apart with the short line length and the inability to hyphenate across lines. The old way was even worse--you would get GIANT spaces between some words that didn't break well at the end of a line. So they switched it in newer firmware to have a maximum space width and if it's reached then the line will switch from full justify to left justify. It's the lesser of two evils and gets worse for obvious reasons as the reader increases the font size.

Other e-readers handle it differently, so you can't think only of this device.

Perhaps future firmware updates will continue to improve it for the Kindle.

I tried soft-hyphens in the HTML and they were not handled well across a spectrum of e-readers so I gave up on the idea of making this better than what the e-readers do by default. (I haven't come across any other HTML concepts that might improve it.)

namejohn
02-18-2015, 07:15 AM
Rhymes with Clue
There is a guide named "The Smashwords Style Guide" written by Mark Coker. This can be used when making a file with MS Word for ebook. It is a free download at the website smashwords. smashwords has a .com after it.

J. Tanner
02-18-2015, 07:36 AM
Rhymes with Clue
There is a guide named "The Smashwords Style Guide" written by Mark Coker. This can be used when making a file with MS Word for ebook. It is a free download at the website smashwords. smashwords has a .com after it.

This is a good guide if you're after the bare minimum quality of ebook formatting uploaded to Smashwords.

It makes sense for novices.

I would not recommend it for Rhymes With Clue. He/she appears to be looking for more precise control and that means working with your own HTML and saving directly into MOBI/EPUB using a tool like Calibre rather than letting the retailers' converters handle this task for you.

AW Admin
02-18-2015, 09:30 AM
Quick background: I was once a typographer, back in the old days before it was done in MS Word, and I am picky. But I am also not at all experienced in what's going to work in my e-books.

First, go read some ebooks from different vendors. Not just public domain or self-published books, but books from publishers who have full time staff to deal with producing ebooks. This is important because a lot of the public domain books are bulk converted using pretty crude methods.

Now, go look at the Publishing FAQs (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/index.php) about ebook production.

If you know typesetting, learn a little HTML and CSS. You can do a lot with a little knowledge.

InDesign is the standard for large scale production / trade and scholarly and technical production of ebooks. There are several ways to use InDesign, some involving reasonably priced plug-ins just for ebook production. And I'm assuming some basic familiarity with InDesign, which has a fairly steep learning curve if you are new to high end digital layout and design.

There's a really good book by Elizabeth Castro about producing ePub format books; it's fairly easy to convert from an ePub to Kindle.

Typically, once you export an ebook, you need to go back and fix a few things. The standard ebook file formats (Kindle, Mobi, ePub) are in actually a bundle of files that include at their heart a fairly vanilla HTML file.

slhuang and Polenth both are right about doing your own conversion, if you possibly can.

It's a process of tweaking. Being able to hand code the CSS and HTML make that much much easier and less clumsy than relying on exporting from Microsoft Word. (Yes, you can make perfectly acceptable ebooks that way, but not to someone who is accustomed to setting type. It's different. You don't have nearly that much control, but if you produce the HTML, you have much much more control than an straight forward export).

Ms. Castro also wrote some really super introductions to HTML and CSS, and no, you don't need to know a whole lot about either to make them work for you.

The HTML and CSS come in handy for making the book do what you want, and look something like you want, but ebooks text is not fixed; it's semi-liquid.

Ebook producers refer to pouring books, rather than setting type, fairly often.

Depending on how/where you plan to distribute your book, you can even embed licensed fonts, but generally, you're better off using one standard fonts, which, by the way, include things like Book Antiqua.