Thinking of Ebook Formatting? Know Your Digital Options

Every day I get questions from customers asking about formatting their ebook. This is not unusual as that is what I do, but what is difficult to understand is why they do not understand the medium they are trying to “advertise on.”

“I am viewing my book and there aren’t any spaces between the paragraphs.”

“Why won’t my font display? I have it embedded properly.”

It all comes down to this… readers (people) will read your ebook on a variety of devices and Apps: and every App and Device will display your book DIFFERENTLY — every one.

These ‘concerns’ are valid — but in the first instance, there were spaces between paragraphs — just NOT on the App she was using. This was a flaw with the App itself. Additionally, the font was embedded properly; Adobe Digital Editions refused to display it, while Kindle Fire and the iPad were fine.

Know what you are up against

Digital eBooks. Understand the technology you are considering. eReaders vary, and while you may want your book to appear like a printed book on every device, that just isn’t possible (yet).

Digital books stem from HTML (Hypertext Markup Language). The latest is HTML5. Not all ereaders or Apps utilize HTML5, so you are having to adjust your layout for various e-readers.


Fixed Layouts. Many Childrens books are fixed layouts. Full page color images with text overlaid. Beautiful on the iPad and Kindle Fire. but this type of format does NOT display on the Kindle. You can only upload ONE file format to Amazon for publishing, so be aware how it will look for BOTH the Fire and basic Kindle.

In Addition iBooks and Kindle have their own twist on the code for fixed layouts — so you have to create two separate files.

This is just one of the frustrations authors and formatters are up against in the ebook formatting world.

Buy a Device

Amazon is the most prominent source of e-books. So, spend a little $ and get the cheapest reader they have. If you are going to sell your wares you want to be able to see how it looks.

Example: If you were to place a classified ad in a newspaper, you would probably buy a newspaper to make sure it is correct, right? Not a preview of the ad, but the actual ad itself.

TV or Radio? You wouldn’t create a radio spot and then not listen to it live on the radio. A lot can happen between the final master tape and the actual airing.

So when you consider publishing in digital form, consider buying an ‘actual’ e-reader device. It not only will help you become more familiar on how digital devices work but will give you a better understanding of what to expect.

Side Note

I realize that it isn’t possible to purchase every e-reader device. And you may think that the reader Apps for your computer or phone would be fine. Well they are… and they aren’t.

For Example:

  • Not ALL e-readers will display embedded fonts
  • Not ALL e-readers will understand the HTML5 or EPUB 3 standards
  • Some Apps fail to display the non breaking space between paragraphs (Kindle for PC).
  • As of today (3/22/2012) only the Kindle Fire is utilizing HTML5 full capabilities: the older Kindles and the Kindle Apps (ie for iPad and iPhone) are lagging behind.)

There is a slew of other issues when comparing e-readers and Reader Apps. Your best bet is to have an actual device and then use Kindle for PC/Mac; Sony or NOOK Reader for PC/Mac, as well as the most recent Kindle Previewer.


Purchase a device of your own and find “friends” or colleagues who would be willing to view your book on their devices.

And above all — purchase your own book to make sure the product delivered is flawless.

Another Note: what you see in the Kindle Previewer is not “exactly” how it displays on the Kindle Fire, Kinde, or the Kindle App — it’s close but not exact.


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