eBook: Font Size & Line Spacing

by 23 comments
I'm currently in the process of writing my first ebook - no great chore as I am accustomed to writing technical manuals & user guides anyway - but I have a question.

When I write a report / technical manual / user guide for a consultancy client I will generally use 10 point Arial font, single line spacing, 'normal' length paragraphs, and 2-2.5cm margins (depending upon intended binding). This ensures that I get as much information as possible onto a page, and doesn't end up putting people off "because at 100 pages it's too long to read".

In complete contrast, the vast majority of ebooks that I have read seem to use 12pt or 14pt font, either 1.5 or even double line spacing, frequent paragraph breaks to create very (even unnaturally?) short paragraphs (as in a webpage sales letter), and wider margins. The effect of course is that when printed out, the same number of words cover around 3 times as many sheets of paper.

My question therefore is why this is done?

Is it because the author considers it easier for the reader, assuming that they perhaps lack the reading skills/ability/concentration to read something that is more normally formatted? Or is it because it gives the perception that the ebook is about 3 times the size (and subconsciously therefore has 3 times the content/value, if number of pages is mentoned in the marketing) than is really the case?

In my own case, my ebook is likely to be around 45 pages of close-packed quality content (well, I would say that!!!) in my normal style when finished, but by reformatting to what appears to be the de-facto IM ebook delivery standard I can probably make it appear like 120-150 pages! It won't have any more content though!!!

Are there any experienced ebook authors here who have actually tested publishing in the different formats/structures, and can explain the differences between, and results of, that testing to me (in terms of customer feedback / satisfaction / refunds / future purchases etc.), please.

#main internet marketing discussion forum #ebook #ebook format #ebook structure #font #font size #line #line spacing #size #spacing
  • Profile picture of the author Vince Runza Online
    I can tell you that the tightly-packed content route is NOT what you want to do if your ebook is intended for customers. That's because they skim the work and get impatient if there is just columns of text to read.

    All the screenshots, bullet points, frequent headings and the like serve a purpose: spoon feeding content to an intended reader who fits the profile of an intelligent, motivated 8 year old. Small, bite-sized chunks of info work better.

    Obviously, this is not the same as a tech manual or user guide. However, I wonder if that kind of info might not benefit from some of the same tactics?
  • Profile picture of the author Lynn Stivers
    Hi Andrew,

    The way you're used to writing is the way it's supposed to be done offline and that's what works best for regular books, reports and manuals. It doesn't work so well on the computer though because it's harder to read.

    The difference you describe in ebooks - the larger text size, double spacing, shorter paragraphs, wider margins, etc. all make webpages, ebooks and anything else read on the computer a LOT easier to read.

    If I ever downloaded an ebook that had small sized text, was single spaced, and had large paragraphs there's a good chance I'd never read it. I get eyestrain from being on the computer most of the day anyway - that would just make it worse - seriously.

    Anyone who knows anything about ebooks knows that a a regular 45 page book will make a 100 to 200 page ebook if it's formatted to be read on the computer. I can easily skim and read that in a couple of hours.

    The best reason to format ebooks that way is not because people don't know how to read and it's not just to fluff up the content - it really is a lot easier to read. And customers appreciate it if ebooks are easy to read.

  • Profile picture of the author Anthony J Namata
    I think you guys have pretty much summed this up. eBooks have got to be easy to read. In an online / computer environment reading puts enough strain on your eyes as it is. Make it easier for them with THE format that works!
  • Profile picture of the author Loren Woirhaye
    Regarding fonts:

    Advertising comprehension tests have shown that sans-serif
    fonts like Arial cause catastrophic drops in comprehension and
    response in print ads. This was the conclusion of master
    direct-response marketer Ted Nicholas - don't use sans-serif
    if you want people to buy from your ads.

    Serif fonts - Times New Roman, Georgia, and Courier, are easy
    to read. That's what I use now. It's what I prefer to read as well.

    Small typesetting is hard to read on computer screens. I
    prefer 12-16 point type for computer reading - set in serif-type

    I'm 37, I wear glasses but my eyesight is pretty good. I read
    a lot. I get eye fatigue from a lot of online stuff and documents
    set in weird fonts (several Warriors are guilty of this).

    Sidebars and Subheadings increase comprehension in rapid
    reading of e-books. Dense paragraphs are harder to scan so
    shorter paragraphs of 1/2 dozen lines or less are preferable.

    Bullet points, indenting, Johnson boxes and so on help to
    break text up but more important isolate important lists and

    This is my opinion and my experience as a reader. I'm probably
    about average for a college-educated person who reads and
    writes a lot.

    I would probably hate one of your technical manuals set in Arial.
  • Profile picture of the author Easy Cash
    Tightly packed content is hard to read - just look at your post.

    Naturally the eye can't glance at it and determine what it is about.

    Keeping the text open - using bullets - using images all makes it easier to read - particularly on the screen.

    If it was a novel it would be a different story.
  • Profile picture of the author ragnartm
    My friend made up a term for that kind of writing, in Morwegian, which translates to "Wall of text". Not meant in a positive way, wall signifies that it's a lot harder to get through than text with a little more space in between.
  • Profile picture of the author Loren Woirhaye
    I've been interested in this for awhile. This thread inspired
    me to dig a little deeper...

    Michel Fortin makes draws some sensible conclusions here:

    What Fonts Should I Use?

    I'll probably just start using Courier unless writing for Generation Y.

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