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Glad there are no stupid questions

Yay for me, I succesfully upgraded from Leopard to Snow Leopard and from CS4 to CS5. Then I futzed around with typesetting an ebook--for a really long time because Indesign was kinda different. And I went for the magical "export to epub" command, only to discover that the epub file it made sucked. Okay, no problem. I futzed some more. It still sucked. I decided there had to be a better way, downloaded the freeware eCub and played with that, decided that while it make a pretty nice epub file, it was a hell of a lot of trouble, and that my old epub files which were converted from mobis looked just as nice.

So I worked all day on something and decided the way I do it already is, for now, the best way.

Then I decided I was burned out on that so I should power through some business books. The first one I picked up informed me that what I think is valuable about my product (my ebooks) doesn't matter whatsoever. I might totally be spending all my time and energy on some feature (the perfect epub) that my readers don't really care about (as long as I offer a reasonable epub, it's fine and I should stop fiddling.)

All this background to put forth the question: what's important to you in an ebook you purchase? (Mine specifically is helpful, but ebooks in general is also helpful.) I would name some possible ideas but I don't want to influence the answer. And I kind of suspect my obsessive brain is not seeing the big picture somehow.

I'll give a free copy of my upcoming short story Betweentimes to a random answerer! :D

Yes, that would be the one I messed with all day and have not a single finished file type to show for it.



( 66 comments — Leave a comment )
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May. 14th, 2010 10:43 pm (UTC)
Ummm. No clue? LOL I use pdf so as long as it opens and isn't totally wacky (which I've never had a pdf file that was) I'm good to go.

I think it's quite different for people who use readers and have other forms of which I am completely ignorant and will likely remain so since I just bought a new netbook and use it for reading. Sorry, useless contribution to the cause.
May. 14th, 2010 10:45 pm (UTC)
No, that's not useless at all. I already know my PDFs look pretty good for people who actually read them as PDFs (as opposed to readers who want the PDFs to convert and flow).

What else makes you go "yay" when you're shopping for ebooks?
(no subject) - cdn_tam - May. 14th, 2010 11:16 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jordan_c_price - May. 14th, 2010 11:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
May. 14th, 2010 11:06 pm (UTC)
I buy lit and convert it to mobi in Calibre - I do it this way because I have some other, um, lit conversion options if there's a problem with the first try in Calibre.

My ereader does an ugly "native" pdf, so I convert those to mobi, too, and just suffer through the stupid trailers/page numbers, etc.

My perfect ebook file would be compact, not full of trailers/headers/filler graphics (I'm looking at you, Dreamspinner), and convert beautifully between formats. (So, yeah, flowable.)

Also, it should be well edited. I finished one a few days ago and no one had bothered to even run a final spellcheck on it. *headdesk*
May. 14th, 2010 11:13 pm (UTC)
Cool, thanks for the detailed info! Does a two page sample at the end really irk you no matter what, or can you overlook it if the book isn't full of filler?

Calibre is really cool for conversions. I used to build native Lit files in Word with a special MS Reader add-on, but I've found that converting Mobi to Lit in Calibre actually leaves my interactive table of contents intact better.

And again, table of contents may be one of those things I'm spending lots of energy on and people can take it or leave it.
(no subject) - egret17 - May. 14th, 2010 11:25 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jordan_c_price - May. 14th, 2010 11:36 pm (UTC) - Expand
Samples (excerpts) - (Anonymous) - May. 15th, 2010 03:23 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Samples (excerpts) - (Anonymous) - May. 15th, 2010 03:27 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - egret17 - May. 15th, 2010 03:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
May. 14th, 2010 11:10 pm (UTC)
I like epub or pdf. I dont have alot of needs with ebooks as long as they are well written which I don't think you have a problem with. :) And edited well.

May. 14th, 2010 11:14 pm (UTC)
Hi Jason, I didn't know you were on LJ! I'm really glad you weighed in...I have a sneaking suspicion most people would like a well-written book in a few common formats and they're good to go.
(no subject) - slavetopassion - May. 14th, 2010 11:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
May. 14th, 2010 11:22 pm (UTC)
Ebook question
My thing with ebooks is I prefer them to be pretty much laid out like a print book...in other words with a cover, table of contents, etc....Also, one of my big big pet peeves, that seems to be a problem with some ebooks is that no one has proofread the book...or if they did they obviously didnt know what they were doing. There are some authors that I have purchased books from(not calling any names)that the book had such a problem with spelling, word usage, grammar etc, that I could not read the book....and because of that I refuse to buy anything else by them. If I am going to spend my money to buy a book, be it published or ebook, I expect the author and the publisher to have worked hard to make it as good as it can be.....and not just thrown together and put out there.... Kevin bdadtopper@gmail.com
May. 14th, 2010 11:39 pm (UTC)
Re: Ebook question
I agree about sloppy ebooks, Kevin. There's just no reason for it! Yes, sometimes small flaws sneak through no matter how many times you comb through, but I have the feeling you're talking about the really hideous ones! I always figure natural selection will help the more careful publishers do better, the publishers who care about good covers, good formatting and good editing. I just wonder where the line is between good and obsessive ;-)
May. 14th, 2010 11:23 pm (UTC)
So I guess before I had Stanza / Kindle for my IPhone (yes, I just posted on your FB about this too) I was just using an MSOffice app. Back in those days (you know, a month ago) I avoided PDF like the plague -- pdf won't word-wrap on the small devices. So unless it's formatted to a very short line width, I always ended up horizontally scrolling, which is disasterous for reading.

I always purchased .html if I could. And .pdf if I HAD to - and then converted either one of those to word docs. I found with my previous smart phone, that while word docs and html both would word wrap nicely, something was dramatically different between the memory management, so for long stories in HTML - towards the end of the book the delay from one page to the next was very irritating. Word docs took alot longer to open - but I never had page turning delays regardless of how long the book was...
May. 14th, 2010 11:42 pm (UTC)
Do you still buy HTML? I noticed HTML converted pretty nicely in Stanza. I really enjoy reading on my iPhone. I don't care that the screen is small.
(no subject) - grl_harlequin - May. 15th, 2010 12:07 am (UTC) - Expand
May. 14th, 2010 11:35 pm (UTC)
Availability. I just want to read the thing. So long as I can download to my kindle or computer, I'm a happy little thing. Of course, a good description of the book, as well. Most of my spontaneous purchases are because the book sounded fascinating.
May. 14th, 2010 11:43 pm (UTC)
Nice, you're the first one to mention blurb. Blurbs are so important. (And OMG your icon...I still haven't seen that movie yet and I'm dying to. I should fix my Netlfix queue.)
May. 15th, 2010 12:03 am (UTC)
I prefer to read PDFs on my desktop. Good cover art is more important to me than I would have thought - I can't help but judge a book by its cover! I would never pay more for an ebook than a print one, and typos and weird page breaks drive me crazy (especially when it's in PDF -- it's like, come on!!)
May. 15th, 2010 12:56 am (UTC)
I know it's irrational but I just can't even open an e-book with a crappy cover. You know how some of 'em are just doozies? Those.
May. 15th, 2010 12:25 am (UTC)
The most important thing in an ebook is the story :) but editing comes a close second. I buy mainly pdf because I've been burnt by other techno-format battles in the past and I read on my laptop. I like html when I can get it (and remember to look for it), but that is mainly so that I can convert it to Word and fix the editing to my preferences where necessary - not that that applies to your work.

The cover and blurb are only important before I buy; and the blurb is much more important than the cover. Unless the cover is truly hideous and frightens me away from the blurb, in which case the cover is the most important thing in a very bad way.

I generally read start to finish at one sitting so I don't use the table of contents much. Whenever I do want to use it I come unstuck and either there isn't one or it isn't interactive. Or I forget which chapter I read to.

I'd rather have blurbs than excepts at the back of the book. I find it irritating to read a chunk of sequel (or other book) only to find that it isn't available for months or years - that goes for paper as well as ebooks. I only want to read a good sized sample when it is by a new-to-me author so I can get an idea of their style. I've found that if I read excerpts and snippets I often think I've read the book when I'm browsing to buy because it sounds familiar - so that is a lost sale! I know other readers love teasers, but I try and avoid them.
May. 15th, 2010 01:01 am (UTC)
Oh, that's a very interesting idea, putting blurbs instead of sample chapters. I might try that on some standalone stories.

I think I use a table of contents in a general way, like to jump to the 2/3 part of the book trying to look something up, for instance. But it seems like it should be there as a mark of quality or something.
May. 15th, 2010 12:31 am (UTC)
I want to be able to read the story. No page numbers, headers or large expanses of empty lines. I read on a pda and my phone so I don't have a huge screen. Thanks for asking.
May. 15th, 2010 01:02 am (UTC)
I hear you! I read on my iPod and I have similar preferences.
May. 15th, 2010 12:42 am (UTC)
Hi, I just downloaded a bunch of ebooks (celebrating end of Finals), and here are what I like and don't like -- note that some aren't really possible, but while I'm filling out a list, might as well engage in wishful thinking.

I like for them to be formatted like a print book, with plenty of type per page. I hate constantly hitting the down button and then having to find my place again (because on my PC, when you page down, what was on the bottom before is now somewhere in the middle of the screen). So not an overly large font, and *pls* no double spacing.

I don't mind a trailer sample at the end, but yes, get a little annoyed when there are lots of them (in part because I have it in my head that there is plenty of actual book left when there isn't).

I wishwishwish there were ways to bookmark so that I don't have to try to memorize the page number I was on when I had to stop. Can you talk to the e-publishing gods about this? Maybe someone will come up with a bright way to mark a file without actually modifying it. Hmm. Or am I using a dinosaur in pdf's. Do Kindles allow this?

I don't need (or want) a table of contents -- for nonfiction sure, but not for fiction.

I only read PDF's on my laptop (the day I start reading from my phone, I KNOW I have to do something about the addiction), so I can't help with comments about mobility etc.

I kind of wish they didn't always open so huge, and I wish there was a way that AdobeReader remembered what zoom factor I wanted (is there?).

I like for there to be a 'backcover blurb' at the beginning, so if I'm doing a reread, I can easily locate that one with the snarky delivery boy and overbearing cop (or whatever).

I like for the filename to have the authors initials and a couple of words of the title (not abbreviation). Again, for locating rereads. Because I do.

What someone said about page numbering in pdf's, yeah. Read one recently where they matched, and I appreciated that. Especially since I can't stick in a bookmark. :p

Okay, have fun filtering the crap from the useful. :)
May. 15th, 2010 01:05 am (UTC)
Oh, I love all this info, Dawn. I found that on my PDF reader, sometimes my preferences on the reader affected how the PDF looked. (I use Preview on the Mac.) I was aggravated because I knew I'd set up my ebooks so the page numbers matched the text page and not page+front matter, but my sidebar was "off" and it turned out to be a Preview preference set funny.

Some iPhone readers allow you to bookmark, but I don't know if any PDF readers have that capacity. I'll burn some incense to the epublishing deities about it.

May. 15th, 2010 02:14 am (UTC)
My first concern is if I can buy them at all. :P So I hate sites that no longer sell to european credit cards but doesn't make that clear until you've gone through the whole sales process.

I read e-books on my laptop, and have no experience of reading on a true e-book device.

I prefer my e-books in .lit or the eReader format. Mostly because I love the easy access I get with MSReader. I open the reader and boom! all my ebooks are listed, showing cover and author. And I love the bookmarks that makes it easy to continue reading another time.

I seem to be one of the few who really doesn't like pdf for ebooks. It feels less like a book to me, too big and I find it easier to switch pages in the other readers. Honestly, I would never make a pdf impulse buy. If a book I really want to read only is in pdf, I would buy it, but not when I'm out looking for something new. So my suggestion on format is to offer more than one file choice. ;)

The first thing I do when I look at a book, is check the back. As long as the description of the book on the back looks interesting, the cover is less important to me.

A good cover can get my attention, but it's the blurb on the back that decides if I buy the book or not.

I hope you can make some sence out of this. I's over 4 am right now and I can't sleep because there's a party somewhere in the building. That's the joy of living in student housing. ;)
May. 15th, 2010 02:33 am (UTC)
I think the .lit format is pretty spiffy for laptop reading. It will also read to you in a robot voice. Sometimes I export to .lit for proofreading and look at the file in MSReader because it's easier than reading in Word.

I will definitely continue offering my stuff in PDF/html/Mobi/Lit/ePub. Every time I think of phasing out one of the lesser used types (html and lit don't get a lot of love anymore) I hear about someone who really loves that type.
May. 15th, 2010 02:18 am (UTC)
Price is the main one because if it's under $10, I feel I can buy it without too much thought (and obviously the lower, the faster I hit the buy button). Over $10 and I have to think if I could get it at the library, if it's probably going to suck or not and if it's really worth the risk. After that, format, I suppose - I like pdf and epub.

To be honest, I usually ignore covers. Occasionally they draw me in - I loved the covers on your Petit Morts - but for the most part, because I'm reading a lot of m/m fic, the covers are usually modelly types in various stages of undress and I'm not as down with that. There's several reasons why but I won't bore you with all of them unless it's a point you actually want opinions on.

I don't care that much about classic book format - table of contents and all that - for a fiction book. If it was non-fiction, I'd want that there, of course.

All that said, if it's an author I enjoy and follow, I'd buy it no matter how messy it was and just find a way to make it work. Some people are just worth it. But I'm assuming you're looking to attract new readers or on-the-fence readers, not those who would send you $20 and a self-addressed stamped envelope to get a few lines you scribbled on the back of a napkin while drunk.

Which I would do, btw. Just saying. :)
May. 15th, 2010 02:42 am (UTC)
That's interesting that your price point is $10. I was about to buy a streaming TV show season priced at $30 and something about that price point made me back down. Even though I pay so much more for satellite service I will be getting rid of, so the $30 is no big deal in the end.

I have trouble paying more than $7 for an ebook. That must be my threshold. And like you, then I start thinking, "Well, I'll just get it from the library."

I wouldn't mind hearing what you don't like in cover art! I have my own dislikes, headless naked guy being a big one. Not that I'd ever do that. I can't imagine writing a story that would benefit from a headless naked bodybuilder on the cover.

I'm not sure I'm worrying about attracting new readers...I think I'm worrying about me placing too much value on time-consuming things that my readers don't see as a valuable. That dissonance translates into me putting my effort in the wrong place. Like maybe blogging occasional fun 100-word microfics would be more valued by my readers than table of contents, you know? But I'm overvaluing the table of contents and spending an hour per book making sure it's just so.
May. 15th, 2010 03:02 am (UTC)
Price is an important factor ... then I'd have to say format. I prefer html, because I always print out e-books if I can. Pdf. format doesn't always convert to word in an easily printable format for me.

I'm a reluctant e-book purchaser. I still much prefer the "real thing". ;D

*last of the dinosaurs*
May. 15th, 2010 04:36 am (UTC)
I'm curious....
PDF is an end format (not made to be convertible into anything, which isn't to say you can' rip stuff out) and it's designed to mimic the printed page and print nicely, if the publisher didn't totally muck it up with weird paper sizes. Why would you try to put it into Word to print?! Is it an paper size issue???

Re: I'm curious.... - gaycrow - May. 15th, 2010 06:29 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: I'm curious.... - jordan_c_price - May. 15th, 2010 10:45 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: I'm curious.... - gaycrow - May. 15th, 2010 09:11 pm (UTC) - Expand
May. 15th, 2010 03:07 am (UTC)
I tend to "read" my ebooks via mobireader, but try to buy them in pdf or html. I do my reading on my netbook 9in bed or out and about) or my desktop, so I like using the same reader, regardless of the situation or the format.

Consistency is not my middle name. *g*
p.s. It is Saturday afternoon here - sunny now, although there was thunder and lightning earlier (when I was out shopping).
p.p.s. And an lj post actually opened for me (a rare occurrence these days). Yay!
May. 15th, 2010 10:49 am (UTC)
I read ebooks all over the place too. Mainly on my iPod lately. I think with the formats PDF and html you'll always be safe from them going extinct.
May. 15th, 2010 04:51 am (UTC)
My prefs :-)
I only buy DRM-less PDFs of M/M, erotic romance, that kinda thing. In fact, I have only bought a FEW print books in that genre, which is weird since up till I started reading it, I didn't buy ANY ebooks!

I love Dreamspinner since they let me download multiple formats. It's the only reason I've tried any other formats. I mean, PDF JUST WORKS (for me) so why would I risk money on something that might not? Case in point, my ePub trial with Stanza failed miserably. I know that's Stanza's fault (it has many issues; no idea why so many people seem to like it). My lit trial with Stanza worked better, although either the publisher, the lit format, or Stanza didn't support italics. Anyway, so when PDFs are an issue on my iPhone (and it's from Dreamspinner, and it's available in lit), I download the lit, too, for Stanza on the iPhone. But mostly I just stick with PDF and don't read book X if it doesn't reflow right in Goodreader.

Another plus to PDF is that I can read it on any device on the planet, same file. I read mostly on my computer, but got Goodreader a while back for my iPhone and read a little there sometimes. Goodreader extracts the text to reflow, using paragraph spacing to figure out where to break paragraphs.

I found one ebook where the text wasn't completely extractable; occasionally, a line of text was visible in the PDF but wasn't extracted so I didn't see it. (eyeroll) Publishers shouldn't screw up their files like this, as I'm guessing it could cause other problems (e.g., screenreaders?).

The bigger problem is that only some PDFs have enough space between paragraphs for Goodreader. I know PDF isn't designed to have things pulled OUT of it and is designed for print, so I don't expect publishers to know/worry about arcane software I use. ;-) But it's still annoying, especially since almost all publishers make you buy one specific format a a time.

I read most of your works before I got Goodreader, but most of your PDFs have good spacing and work fine in Goodreader--yay! :-)

For now I avoid DRM and love PDF; lit's a nice backup format but only if I can download it TOO. And given my italic experience, I wonder if publishers just focus more on the PDF and all other formats are second-best....

Preview, Goodreader, and Stanza pick up where I left off, but the list of chapters in the TOC is nice. I'm amazed that takes an hour (or do you mean something else about the TOC taking an hour?)....

Sorry to ramble,
May. 15th, 2010 09:56 am (UTC)
Re: My prefs :-)
I agree with the DRM issues.

I understand why authors and publishes want to DRM their titles but it really bugs me.

I like Dreamspinner for the same reasons you do, it let me try out different formats and I could find the one that worked for me.


An example of why DRM annoys me. I brought some DRM books, reg them to my reader and they worked fine. I updated my readers firmware and it changed my readers reg no. My DRM books would no longer open on my reader because of this.

Not to mention the fact that different readers read different DRM books. The Bebook (Hanlin V3) used to read DRM mobi files. Now it doesn't, the DRM contract has been redone with Adobe so it only read DRM PDF files now. When they did that people only had two choices if the had lots of mobi files. Choice one - never again update your firmware so the DRM mobi reader remains. Choice two - Rip and reconvert the files of there DRM which kind of defeats the point of having the DRM in the first place.

Wow, what a pain! - (Anonymous) - May. 15th, 2010 06:23 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: My prefs :-) - jordan_c_price - May. 15th, 2010 11:02 am (UTC) - Expand
Good to know! - (Anonymous) - May. 15th, 2010 06:28 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Good to know! - (Anonymous) - May. 15th, 2010 06:30 pm (UTC) - Expand
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