Tag Archive for: programming

Digital Publishing

By Bethany Maines
Recently, I’ve been learning about the nitty gritty “how-to”
of e-publishing.  While there are many
how-to’s on how to put your story up for sale in the virtual marketplace,
learning how to make an epub file is a lot more difficult and confusing. 
As someone trained in how to make print books, this status
is infuriating to me.  I can make words
magically appear on paper – why is the screen any more difficult?  But as it turns out epub formatting is more
akin to website programming than to traditional book design.  Both epub and websites must account for the
fact that the designer can never be certain on what or how the end user will view
their product.  Will it be on a phone, a
tablet, or a desktop screen?  Will it be
a horizontal or vertical?  Which
operating system will be accessing the file? 
All of these factors play into how an e-book is seen and creating a file
that can be used in ANY format means that many of the traditional design
elements beloved by graphic designers, such as color, size, and forced white
space, must be set aside. Learning to create an epub is a bit like feeding
content into a slot in the wall, letting the machine in the next room whir away,
and then trying to guess how the machine works by looking at the book it
In the last few years website programming has experienced a
burst of development that can make creating a website an almost drag and drop, WYSISWYG
experience.  Meanwhile, digital publishing
lags behind, still in it’s infancy. 
Take a look at these images of the first page of my third
Carrie Mae Mystery novel, High-Caliber Concealer.  One is a screen cap from a mobile phone
kindle app and the other is a photo of the printed book.

You’ll notice several differences – the large area of white
space before the chapter title is gone and the fonts are not the same.  Fonts in epub’s must utilize a websafe font
or embed the font within the file.  But,
not all devices recognize embedded fonts, and they make a file larger and some
platforms take a percentage out of an author’s royalty based on download size
(you’re hogging space on their server).

However, there are some similarities that the programmer
managed to achieve.  Notice how the gap
between “Brunch” and “Mexico” mimics the print version?  And you’ll see that while the font isn’t the
same, the font hierarchy and general sizing of the chapter information is the
same as the print version. 
And beyond the appearance of words on a screen there is the
tricky business of making all the chapters appear in the right order and having
a hyper-linked (click and go) table of contents that allow readers to navigate
easily through the book. 

No digital book is as simple as a word doc you type at
home.  So if you see a well-crafted book
on your e-reading device, take a moment to appreciate the book programmer!  
Bethany Maines is the author of the Carrie
Mae Mysteries
, Tales from the City of
and An Unseen Current.
You can also view the Carrie Mae youtube video
or catch up with her on Twitter and Facebook.