23 8 / 2011
Kindle formatting is different.
The Kindle’s been my preferred reading method for some time now. Here are some formatting suggestions for publishers of nonfiction work:
- Simplify your hierarchy. Your readers can’t see as much context as they can in a printed book, so there’s no need for eight levels of header. Two is probably fine. This goes for other content, too.
- Ditch the sidebars, or figure out a sensible way to integrate sidebar content into the rest of the text. Some “info box” content might be best grouped and given its own section.
- Ditch margin pointers and other widgets. Since you can’t flip pages and browse chapters the way you can in a printed book, these little visual aids don’t serve the same purpose.
- Make pull quotes distinct. The Kindle edition of Code Complete has a bunch of quotes flowed right smack in the middle of other text, with no divider before them. It’s easy for a reader to get all the way through a paragraph before finding out he hasn’t been reading the author’s words for a while.
- Rewrite simple tables as text lists. Nobody wants to scroll right, and we’re probably losing the benefits of comparing the alignments, anyway.
I’ll add to this list as I think of more.
Amazon encourages publishers to chuck whole Word files at their custom converter, but many nonfiction and technical books require thoughtful finessing to translate well.
Publishers, I would love to do that for you. Drop me a line.
Note: It has been pointed out that most publishers have no interest in spending time or money on converting their properties, and would wish this whole e-book thing into the cornfield if they could. Sad but true.