Books Anne has written or has a chapter in.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

A small, useless rant

Working on ebook conversions today (pawned off the hard one to my buddy Pete!), and in reading over the updated stylebook on Smashwords, I just started to see red. Not an appealing red like the background of this blog, but an honest-to-goodness flushed, fuming red that makes me want to punch something. Normally I'm a very mild mannered, reserved sort of person, but as a publisher of artistic, quality books, this was the last straw.

The SW "stylebook" says, "With ebooks, there is no 'page.' By giving up the control of the printed page, you and your readers gain much more in return."  No, we lose the artistic work done by the people who chose the font, paper color, layout design, illustrations, and page flow that makes that book a joy to look at while reading.

Quoth SW: "Page numbers are irrelevant."  No, actually, Kindle and other readers are now putting page numbers in because readers like them and prefer them when navigating the book.

"A reader should be able to consume your book however works best for them, even if that means they like to read 18 point Helvetica with blue fonts, lime background color, and triple spaced lines...Most readers want your words, not your fancy page layout or exotic type styles."  I'm sorry, but that fancy layout and choice of the perfect font to complement the content and theme of the book contributes to the content in many ways, tangible and intangible. If artistic graphic design and careful layout didn't matter, all books would just be a .txt file with no images or formatting.  And if you can't imagine reading a book that way, take a look at an epub file sometime.

I can't express how angry that last smug statement about readers just wanting the words makes me.  The look of the book and the reading experience the formatting produces are, for me at least, integral parts of the joy of reading books. I'm always subliminally aware of the page designer and typesetter's work when I consume a book, and a skillfully put together book is well worth the price.

I've read that ebooks are now outselling print on Amazon, so obviously they can't be ignored. But this attitude of dumbing everything down to the lowest, cheapest level and thumbing one's nose at skill and artistry just make my blood boil!


  1. Yeah, and there's no difference between eating a fine meal, presented well in a clean, comfortable space and eating the same food that's been slopped on a scratched plastic plate with a bent aluminum fork while standing over a sink full of dirty dishes.

  2. You know, Keith, I just refuse to believe that most people only want the words and don't give a crap about the presentation. What arrogance.

  3. People notice, even if they don't notice that they notice. Presentation makes a difference.