elf: Computer chip with location dot (You Are Here)
elf ([personal profile] elf) wrote in [community profile] ebooks 2012-04-27 02:24 am (UTC)

A lot of print standards were based on two conflicting goals:
1) Cram as many words on a page as possible, because paper and ink are expensive, and
2) Make it as easy to read as possible, given the incredible number of words they're trying to shove on a page.

Artistic features are secondary. Missing entirely, in cheap publications.

Indented paragraphs are because you need a way to spot the beginning of a paragraph, and that's the least space-consuming one they could come up with. The whole "two spaces after a period" came from monospace typography systems; it's irrelevant in modern publishing.

The extra return between scene breaks is simple and space-saving; more extravagant publications would put in a swirly-bit or other graphic, but paperbacks wasted no effort nor ink on that--and the extra line often gets lost in the transition to ebooks, because the OCR often isn't proofed at all.

Page headers--author name, book title--are designed to make the *printing* process easier; they were never designed to help the reader.

Font sizes on most books are uncomfortably small for reading; we've forced ourselves to deal with 9- and 10-pt single-spaced type because paper costs money and it's easier to learn to read small type than print 400-page novels. But ebooks don't have that constraint, and a lot of people discover it's easier to read them at larger font sizes.

Mainstream publishers have dug their heels in and avoided ebooks as long as they possibly could, fearing (accurately) that ebooks would cut into their precious hardcover sales. So instead of learning how to dominate the ebook industry as they dominated print, by finding out what standards worked best for readability in a world where 100,000-word books don't weigh any more than 10,000-word stories, they let the open source movement do the research for them.

And it's sloppy as hell, but we *are* slowly sorting out what features ebooks do & don't really need to be readable. Indie & self-publisher are pushing the limits of people's expectations and discovering that a lot of the features the big publishing houses believed to be essential, don't matter to most readers.

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