This article has been compiled based on the most common questions we have gotten from clients about ebooks over the years. It is by no means exhaustive, but is meant to be a useful starting point for any author who has never had their book converted to an ebook before. Here are our top 7 things you need to know about ebooks.
1. Compatibility is king
There are so many different ebook standards and e-reading devices available that making your ebook compatible with as many of them as possible is key (see below for more on ebook standards). There are some trade-offs (again, see below), but your ebook needs to be in a format that can be sold and read as widely as possible to enjoy success. This is our approach to ebook conversions.
2. There are different standards of ebooks
Firstly, there are two types of ebooks: fixed layout epubs, and reflowable epubs. Reflowable epubs are dynamic and will change in appearance according to the individual reader’s settings on their e-reader (for example, the size of the font). Fixed layout epubs, meanwhile, are a static replica of a print book and don’t allow the reader to change settings to their preference. We convert to the reflowable format, as it is compatible with many more devices than fixed layout. It also ensures a better reader experience.
Secondly, there are three types of epub standards: epub 1, which is now defunct; epub 2, which is the most widely accepted and the type that we use; and epub 3, which offers a greater amount of interactivity/formatting options. However, epub 3 is more suited to textbooks and is not widely compatible with e-readers.
3. Your ebook won’t look the same as your print book
Not only may the formatting of your book have to change (see below), but you need to bear in mind that the end user can change the text size and font on their e-reader. This means that embedding things like special fonts used in your print version is often a wasted effort. It may even affect the device compatibility of your ebook.
While we always try to make the ebooks we convert look similar to their printed versions, many authors get hung up on wanting their ebooks and print books to look exactly the same. The truth is that many readers who buy the ebook edition won’t necessarily have seen the print version, and will therefore be none the wiser. Our goal is to help you sell as many books as possible, so we want to ensure that your ebook version will be compatible with as many stores and devices as possible.
4. Some formatting is just not supported by ebooks
In our quest for compatibility, some of the print version formatting may have to be stripped out. Most notably, things like drop caps will need to go. Text which runs in columns will need to be changed to run into one column. It is technically possible to include this sort of formatting in ebooks, but this means that they will have to be converted to a different standard (epub 3), which is not as widely compatible as epub 2. This will ultimately impact negatively on your sales.
5. There are no page numbers in ebooks
As mentioned earlier, we create reflowable epubs; this means that the text flows dynamically according to the individual user’s settings. As a result, there are no static pages, and no page numbers. We can still divide the epub into chapter sections, the start of which behave like new pages. But remember, the position of these new sections can shift if the reader changes the font or text size on their e-reader.
6. Meta-data is extremely important, so don’t overlook it
A discussion about meta-data warrants a whole blog post all to itself. In a nutshell, it is information that is embedded in your ebook which deals with indexing your book in the catalogue of an online store. The main items of meta-data you need are things like: the title of your book; the author name as it appears on the cover; a short description of the book; and a set of keywords that describe the subject and content of your book. If you choose us to convert your book for you, we will request that you submit a Word document separate to your manuscript that contains your meta-data.
7. Ebooks don’t have a back cover
Unlike print books, ebooks don’t actually have a back cover. All information that would traditionally go on a back cover appears on the book’s sales page on the store’s website. This includes things like the blurb, and excerpts of reviews or praise received from critics.
If you have any more questions about ebooks, please contact us – we’d be happy to guide you through the process.