Whether you program your eBook yourself, or hire an eBook conversion firm like AuthorImprints to help you, you are ultimately responsible for making sure your book looks and reads well for your readers. Did you know that Amazon offers eBook refunds within one week of purchase? Poor eBook quality is one of the reasons people return eBooks.
Poor quality is not limited to Kindle eBooks
In this article from The Guardian the author (and commenters) talks about their experience reading Kindle eBooks and how images, typos and mis-hyphenations ruin the experience. The author also refers to information that would be more valuable if it was linked to from the table of contents.
The fact is that all these issues can apply to any eBook, no matter what store you buy the book from. The reason is that many eBook conversion companies will create an EPUB file and then convert it to the Kindle format. These two files are then uploaded to the various stores.
It is also true that many eBook conversion firms do not take the time to study the print book design and look for ways to improve it as an eBook. I won’t get into this topic here but keep this in mind if you are publishing a book that is more than simple narrative text or if you have more than one book to promote.
How publishers and authors can improve eBook quality
When you receive your files back from the conversion company that developed the eBook files you should perform several checks on the files. Depending on how thorough you want to be you’ll need to download one or more eBook reader programs. Depending on the complexity of the eBook I usually rely on the Kindle Previewer tool, Kindle reading app, Nook reading app and Apple iBooks.
- Validate the EPUB file using the EPUB Validator. There is no validator for Kindle (Mobi) files.
- Open your eBook in the appropriate eReading software. If you use the Kindle Previewer tool—it’s good because you can see what your eBook looks like on several different device types—be aware that it won’t let you change the reading background to black or sepia. Here is post I wrote about the problems people have reading with a black background.
- Click the menu button and make sure it links correctly.
- Check the images and enlarge them. Are they legible?
- Does the table of contents link correctly?
- Is the text comfortable to read? i.e. Can you tell when there is a paragraph break?; how is the spacing between lines?; can you easily resize the fonts?; etc.
- Do endnotes link both directions?
- If there is consumable content (fill-in-the-blanks), is there a link to a PDF that the reader can download?
- Open your PDF or source document and find lines that have hyphens at the end. Now look those up in your eBook file. Notice any problems?
- If you have tables or sidebars, make sure they look right in the eBook.
- Do numbered lists and bullets align properly?
- If you notice problems in the review you should dig a little deeper because it might be indicative of further problems. Look for patterns. This is especially true of mis-hyphenated words, spaces within words and a missing space following punctuation marks. Always compare the source information (book, PDF or Word file) to the eBook.
- If you checked all this in the Kindle file you should also check the EPUB file.
It’s a lot of work, no? This is why eBooks get a bad rap when it comes to quality. Unfortunately it isn’t simply matter of “pushing a button.” You know your book best so be prepared to invest a little time to make sure it is consistent with your source manuscript or print book. Send it back to the eBook conversion company if it isn't right.
Reporting eBook quality problems
The above notice is at the bottom of all the eBook pages. Amazon at least is encouraging readers to report problems and a reader doesn’t have to return the book to do so. (In fact, they can download a sample and report problems on that basis.)
Perhaps if enough people start doing this publishers will invest the time necessary to improve the eBook reading experience.
I hope you found this helpful. If you are a publisher or self-publishing author interested in eBook conversion services please let us know. We take eBook quality seriously and do each of these steps for all of our eBook conversion projects. We would be happy to help you on your next project.