When taking an unprepared approach, the process of creating an eBook can have some undesirable effects on your publications due to automation tools and processes and dated materials that may or may not be in a digital format. Add to that the complexity of multiple devices and formats and you can have a disaster in short order. One way to prevent these shortcomings is by defining your quality standards up front by creating an eBook Quality Standards Document. There are three fundamentals you should consider when creating an eBook Quality Standards Document: Formats, Style Guide, and Metadata. A cohesive document that includes instructions for your conversion partner with these fundamentals will help to lead to a better quality eBook.
When defining your Quality Standards it is important to identify your targeted formats ahead of time. Each format has different capabilities and restrictions with regard to content display and functionality.
- ePub – ePub is the most widely supported and popular eBook format. It is based on XML and works on iBooks, Barnes and Noble Nook, Kobo Reader, Sony Reader, Blackberry Playbook, Adobe Digital Editions, and many Android-based tablet devices.
- Mobi – Mobi is the proprietary Amazon Kindle format that is best supported on Kindle devices, though these books can also be viewed on other devices using the Kindle app.
- PDF – PDFs can be read as eBooks and are supported on most devices that support ePub. This format is a practical alternative for highly complex titles that are not suitable for ePub or Mobi.
Fixed Format vs Standard Layout
Fixed layout ePub and Mobi formats are starting to become a more popular choice for eBook conversions due to their improved layout and design capabilities. Unlike the standard format, it preserves the design of the printed pages, regardless of the device and screen size. This format is not suited for all types of publications, but can be a very viable solution for books with heavy image and graphic content.
After you determine your desired eBook formats, a style guide can be created to identify specific requirements around the display of your content. This document should include instructions for your conversion partners on how to handle things like images, tables, hyperlinks and the Table of Contents. A full list of components is provided below along with some key points that can be considered when drafting a style guide.
- Cover – Cover image pixels and size should be provided if available. You should also indicate if you would like the cover listed in the Table of Contents.
- Front/Back Matter – Instructions should be provided for pages to include/exclude and any hyperlinking that should be added into the publication. Additionally, you should ensure that the print ISBN is changed to the electronic ISBN.
- Table of Contents – With the electronic version, you have the opportunity to include additional elements into your Table of Contents that otherwise would not make sense in the printed publication. Any instructions on inclusion/exclusion of pages should be indicated.
- Forms – Forms will generally be captured as images. It is important to note if it is desired to keep these elements as text so they are searchable.
- Tables – Tables are displayed differently on devices due to the variability in screen and font sizes. Some conversion houses will automatically convert all tables into images. It should be noted if you would like your tables to remain as tabular data so the text is still searchable. Some formatting changes may need to be made to your original files in order to support this across all formats.
- Hyperlinks – Hyperlinks can be included in eBook conversions and you should include instructions on when to create hotlinks. It is important to note that link checking is not a standard service provided by many conversion houses.
- Images – Images are generally optimized for readers and reduced to 72dpi. If desired, these specs can be changed, but only upon request. One other thing to note is image placement. Floating images are difficult to manage and it is best to include images above or below the paragraph they fall within.
- Inserts, text boxes, drop caps and sidebars – Most devices do not support floated design elements and careful consideration should be made when determining your requirements. These elements may be best suited to fall beneath the paragraph. You may also find that adding additional stylization is a good way to visually identify these items as sidebars.
- Page Breaks – Most readers do not supply functionality to generate forced page breaks or rules for including a break below or above certain paragraphs or sections. It is best to only include breaks for between chapters and front/back matter.
- Footnotes & Endnotes – Footnote & Endnote linking is a standard feature of most eBooks. Any changes in the standard functionality should be indicated.
- Index – Indexes become irrelevant in electronic content since page numbers do not match up with the printed publication. Consider directing your readers to use the search tools provided by their device, or change the page numbers to roman numerals to indicate the number of times terms show up.
- Additionally, you may provide specific instructions on use of the following elements:
- Chapter/Section Starters
- External References
- Font Formatting
- Line Spacing
- Editorial Reviews
- Title Page
The last component of your eBook Quality Standards Document is Metadata. Metadata is a key component for electronic content and it is essential to identify this and provide it to your conversion partner to include within your eBook files. There are two types of metadata for eBooks: file metadata and title metadata. The file metadata is included within the ePub or Mobi file and is used by readers and devices to present on the “bookshelf.” This allows users to see the title, author, and general information about the book they just purchased or downloaded. The second type of metadata is the Title Metadata. This information is used with retailers (and within your own website) to describe the book to consumers. This metadata expands on the creators, reviews, categories, price, and other important information.
The list below outlines the optional metadata components that can be included within your ePub and Mobi file. Items with an * are important and should always be included if available.
- Publication Date
- File Name*
- Coverage (Localization)
Following these guidelines in creating a Quality Standards Document will make your eBook production process a little easier and will result in a better quality eBook. For further advice or questions, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.