Wednesday, June 8, 2011

There is no page

Where I work they block 99% of the internet during work hours. Understandable. Most anything related to Google is still available though, and that gives me enough of a hole that I can still read just about anything I want online by using the Google cache link.

The cache link is located below a Google search result and the cache is a snapshot of the page as it looked when Google indexed it. It’s not the most current version of the page, but it works just fine for articles. All the images on the page are blocked though, so basically all I get is cold text. But the text is really all I’m looking for.

I spent all day yesterday formatting an ebook that I’m preparing for Kindle. The first thing you learn when you’re putting an ebook together is that the only thing you really have control over is the text. How it looks (font size, page layout, line spacing, etc.) depends on the preferences of the reader and the limits of the device they are using. That's a good thing, but it does mean that once the book is done there are more than a few questions about how to get the book to look right. Luckily there are a few books out there that help explain ebook formatting.

One of them I like is a free ebook style guide by Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords. One section in particular talks about how ebook formatting is different than print. I liked it so I thought I’d bring it here:
"With print, you control the layout. The words appear on the printed page exactly where you want them to appear. With ebooks, there is no “page.” By giving up the control of the printed page, you and your readers gain much more in return.

Page numbers are irrelevant. Your book will look different on every e-reading device. Your text will shape shift and reflow.

Most e-reading devices and e-reading applications allow your reader to customize the fonts, font sizes and line spacing. Your customers will modify how your book looks on-screen to suit their personal reading preference and environment. By transforming your books into digital form, you open up exciting possibilities for how readers can enjoy them...

Most readers want your words, not your fancy page layout or exotic type styles. This is especially important for your ebook customers, because you want your work to display well on as many digital reading devices as possible so the reader can have their book their way."
When I’m not cache surfing, I actually do a lot of work with print formatting where I work. Generally it’s a nightmare because people don’t understand that we are not living in 1985 and printing user manuals is for dummies. But that’s okay. They have a lot to learn about how users find answers, and I’ve got a lot to learn about everything else.

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