Book Design: eBook Formating

Published by audenjohnson on

Bad formatting makes it hard for me to enjoy the story. I don’t mean the odd hiccup like a sentence with too many spaces between the words. I mean obvious formatting issues.

Book design is one of those things you don’t notice when it’s done right, but it screams at you when it’s done wrong.

A while ago, I opened an ebook and was knocked back- not in a good way. It didn’t have any indents or paragraph breaks. The book was one long paragraph. I tried reading it, I really did but I gave up less than half way through. The formatting bugged the crap out of me.

I’m currently reading an ebook that has odd formatting. The dialogue and any short paragraphs between the dialogue are formatted beautifully. I love those parts. The expositions, however, are block paragraphs. They have white space between them, but for some reason, those paraphrases aren’t indented and they’re so long.

The ebook has pages of just block text. It’s such a pain to read. It’s hard to really get into those parts. I have to push through, purposefully ignoring them.

I’m a skimmer, even in books. I know, it’s terrible. I’ll read dialogues and short paragraphs, but when it comes to long descriptions and narrations, I tend to skim that. This book has some travel scenes where nothing happens. I skim it. It’s hard to skim when the entire page is one long paragraph.

I don’t have the patience to sit through a scene I don’t find interesting. For this book, because of the formatting, skimming means not fully reading entire pages. Don’t feel like I’m missing anything either. Block paragraphs have their place in ebooks. I don’t think they belong in fiction. Feels too much like I’m reading something for school.

How To Write For the 21st Century Reader: 6 Tips to Modernize Your Prose

White space is magic. Not just for books. Even blogging advice says to keep paragraphs short and break up long posts with images. Look at the behemoths that are the last 4 Harry Potter books. They were about 1,000 pages each yet it didn’t feel like I was reading a long book. White space helps with readability.

Book interior design goes with having a professional looking cover. Poorly formatted ebooks, at least to me, scream self-published. Although self-publishing isn’t looked down on like it used to be, the “self-published feel” is still something you want to avoid. You want your book to stand beside those from traditional publishers. You put just as much work into your book.

On the other hand, I was having problems with indents disappearing when I previewed my book on

Amazon KDP. I talked about it to a person who doesn’t read ebooks often because it was bugging the crap out of me and I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong. The person asked why it mattered. Valid question.

I’m wondering if poor formatting bothers me because I know too much about book design. What do you think? Do readers/reviewers care about formatting. Although the book I’m currently reading is poorly formatted, I’m still reading it. The story’s pretty good.

But, I doubt I’ll buy another book by this author. I stick by the statement I made at the beginning. You don’t notice formatting when it’s done right. It pulls you out of the story when it’s done wrong.

BookBaby: eBook Formatting: How to Properly Indent Paragraphs
David Gaughran: Formatting
The Book Designer: How to Publish Your eBook from Word to Kindle in under Ten Minutes
The Book Designer: 3 Keys to Beautiful Book Pages
The Book Designer: Does Book Design Really Matter?
JA Konrath: Ebook Parts


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