About your e-book…


For the love of all that’s holy, CHECK YOUR E-BOOK FILES before you take them live. I’ve read quite a few e-books from authors whose publishers are giants, yet their e-books are a hot mess. I’m talking about major conversion blunders that arbitrarily cut dialog, mid-sentence, into several carriage returns, so you’re not sure who’s talking. It looks
something like

Then there are the quote marks around narrative instead of dialog, missing scene breaks, and a whole host of other problems.

From all appearances, publishers aren’t taking the time to test the e-book files before uploading them to online databases like Amazon and BN.com, so lots of authors have embarrassingly horrible-looking e-books. If you see your e-book is filled with a shop of horrors, scream at your publisher to fix them. I’m in the middle of reading an e-book, and I’d give my left ear lobe to tell the author – because I do know her – but I don’t want to offend her. What’s worse is I’m not sure her publisher would fix it – and it dearly needs fixing. I’ve never struggled so hard to read an e-book.

There is a well-known author whose e-books are horribly converted. I’m in the process of reading every one of his gazillions of books, and I have yet to find a clean conversion.

I know exactly squat about e-book conversion, but my very dear buddies in India know a bucket-load. I test the little blighters before I hand them over to Consortium for distribution because I really want our readers to enjoy their books – not wish they could rip their eyes out with a toothpick.


8 Responses to About your e-book…

  1. ioniamartin says:

    Totally agree. I was happy to see that this post was about ebooks in general and not targeting a specific group of publishers. If ebooks are going to cost nearly as much as print, then they should be of the same quality:)

  2. I wouldn’t dream of targeting any particular publisher because they’re all guilty of sloppy conversions and no quality control.

  3. Frank Mazur says:

    Advice from Kindle people to us authors states there is no magic bullet to this digital formatting and that we need to test our conversions on all the different devices: e.g., iPad, iPod, Kindle, Nook, etc, etc, etc. My question is: Just how the hell is that done? Doesn’t the entire process prohibit the advice???

  4. Frank, we get two file conversions per title; one mobi for Amazon, and EPUB for everything else. I have a Kindle, so I always load the mobi file on my Kindle and simply read it through. If it’s clean, I keep my fingers crossed that the Nook version (and all the others) are clean as well. Most of our e-book sales are from Amazon. BN.com is a distant second.

    When the files come back to me, I give them a rinse and spin cycle with Epub Validator – http://validator.idpf.org/

    Most importantly, I trust my little guys in India. They do great work, and I’ve only had a couple minor fixes.

    Considering the mistakes I’m seeing in the e-books I’m reading, I’m of a mind that no one is checking those files on a Kindle or Nook…and they should be.

  5. Maggie says:

    Lynn, You can reduce this to just one ePub file now that Amazon accepts ePubs that they will convert to Mobi7 and KF8. I know lots of authors and formatters who go this route. To check your ePub file on your Kindle, just run it through Amazon’s Kindleviewer or convert to Mobi with Calibre.

    Part of the formatting mess made by publishers is they’re using InDesign as the source document for the ePub file which takes expertise and often produces less than stellar conversions, or they’re using the old Word doc that’s no longer current because first proof corrections were made in the ID file which is not, as far as I know, any longer connected to the Word doc. Or, worse, they’re trying to create an ePub or Mobi file out of a PDF, a sure fire recipe for disaster

  6. Ah, thanks, I’ll totally check the epub file on my Kindle. I still have to get a mobi conversion because Consortium, our distributor, needs both files. I do what I’m told. Most of the time…

  7. tbrosz says:

    Boy, have you nailed one of my pet peeves.

    Like you say, this is a problem for major publishers who can afford the work involved. It’s like they tossed the book to an intern, and then told them to scan and OCR it and then publish it. No cover illustrations, a crappy table of contents, and format errors everywhere. Many of the typos are obvious OCR mistakes.

    I’ve learned to do my own conversions on my books. As for checking your work, there are Kindle, Nook, and other viewers available (usually for free) that will work on a computer, a smartphone, and almost anything with a screen.

    For conversions, try “Calibre.”

    So far, I’ve managed to turn out decent e-book copy without ever having to touch the dreaded HTML code.

  8. MishaBurnett says:

    I test .mobi files on my Kindle and the Kindle reader on my PC, and I test .epub files on my Nook reader and my Kobo reader on my PC. Since there are so many free e-reader programs for PC, there’s no reason not to test a file on multiple platforms.

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