Important thoughts for eBook writers

by Martin Avis 9 replies
Here is a sweeping generalization: People who buy ebooks tend to be early adopters of new technologies and gadgets.

And in the world of ebooks, there isn't much that is more cutting edge than the new Sony Reader.

Having now owned one for a couple of weeks I can categorically say that if you like reading ebooks you are going to love the Sony Reader. It is just a beautiful bit of kit that starts every gadget lover who sees it salivating.

My one has several novels that I've downloaded and dozens of Internet marketing PDF ebooks that I've loaded into it.

Frankly, the Reader's ability to display PDF ebooks is a bit hit and miss.

Think about it. Almost all PDF documents are created for US letter size paper or International A4. Most have big margins.

When the Reader tries to display the pages at normal size, it attempts to display the entire page on its 9cm x 12.2 cm screen - approximately one-sixth normal size.

The resultant text is incredibly small. If you have really good eyesight, or excellent glasses, you can just about read it, but it isn't a comfortable experience by any means.

This isn't really a fault with the Sony Reader - it can only try to display what it is given.

Where an inherent fault does come in is that the Reader can attempt to magnify the page, but whether that magnification will work correctly is somewhat patchy. I think it depends on how the PDF was originally created, and on what because some ebooks magnify quite well, while others lose their text flowing or, in one of two cases, for some strange reason, make the text smaller when magnifying!

A recent firmware upgrade (which was supplied as standard in the UK launch, but US owners had to download) addressed some of the text reflowing issues, but it still doesn't work consistently. Again, I think this depends on the PDF creation software used, but I haven't tested enough alternatives yet to have a definite answer.

Anyway, it seems to me that as PDF ebook writers, we have a responsibility to ensure that our customers can get the best reading pleasure out of the ebooks we sell them. And with the Sony Reader (and others) gaining in popularity, it would be a good plan for us to create versions of our products that would work well in the gorgeous little machines.

I've been experimenting and have come up with some settings for Open Office that result in a perfectly legible and comfortable reading experience on Reader.

When you first open Open Office Writer, go to Format -> Page and on the Page tab set the page width to 9.0cm and the height to 12.2 cms. Set the left and right margins to 0.3cms and the top and bottom margins to 0.5cm.

Edit the styles as follows:

default: Times New Roman 12pt; Line spacing 'At least 0.52cm'.
Headline 1: Arial, Bold, 18pt
Headline 2: Arial Bold 14pt

Then save all that as a template called 'Sony Reader ebook'.

Now, when you create an ebook, open up a new document using the template and paste the text straight in.

Don't include any headers or footers or line numbers - they will just mess up the document in Reader and waste valuable screen real estate.

Remember that pictures can display in Reader, but only in black and white, and if they need to be fairly large to be seen on a regular sized PDF, they will be impossible to see on Reader. If you can avoid using too many pictures and explain with text, all the better. Alternatively, you could always provide a web page with any really important pictures that just can't be shrunk down to the small screen size.

I think that personal ebook readers of one kind or another are here to stay. And are gaining in popularity quite fast.

By embracing the challenges of creating our ebooks specifically for the new technology we can stay on the wave of progress - and earn a lot of brownie points with our customers.

#main internet marketing discussion forum #ebook #important #open office #sony reader #thoughts #writers
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  • Profile picture of the author Ralf Skirr
    For those who haven't heard about sony reader before:
    Sony Reader - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Reader Digital Book | Sony | SonyStyle USA

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  • Profile picture of the author write-stuff
    You know, that's a great idea. Make separate versions of your ebook, formatted for eBook readers.

    I've been watching this market for a number of years (since before the Sony Reader and the Kindle). Once they get these machines optimized, I think there's no stopping them.
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  • Profile picture of the author John Taylor
    A very useful prompt to pay attention to other delivery channels.

    And excellent advice on formatting, thanks for sharing the detail

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  • Profile picture of the author Martin Avis
    Thanks everyone.

    I have taken one of the first ebooks I wrote, Kickstart Your Life, and converted it to use my Sony Reader display settings.

    I think it looks pretty good on Reader and would like to share it with any Warriors who have a Sony Reader. PM me and I'll send you a free copy of the Reader version of the book (previously sold for $47)

    Martin Avis publishes Kickstart Newsletter - Subscribe free at
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  • Profile picture of the author laynee
    I've gotta say, Martin, that I love my Sony reader. Although I was pretty miffed that the Sony bookstore only allowed downloads to the US, and not to Canada. I found a free app (somewhere) called PDFtoLRF, which converts PDF into a more readable Sony eBook format. You can trim the page, bold the text, rotate 90 degrees etc. I can't find the download page right now, but I originally found it through the forum. I also found a little work-around that lets me download a Microsoft reader-formatted book from and set it up for my reader. I'm a bit of an addict now. Can't get on a plane without it. My reader has about 20 of my textbooks for school on it. Definitely a worthwhile purchase.
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  • Profile picture of the author pmore
    Thanks for the advice, Martin. I'm so behind that I'd never even heard of Sony Reader until today!

    Will look into seperate delivery methods
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  • Profile picture of the author waken
    Hi Martin,
    Is it really no way that we can included the header and footer..probably also formatting it to a smaller size etc. The ebook will look awkward without those thing.

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    • Profile picture of the author Martin Avis
      You can include headers and footers, but as the page size is really small, you will lose a lot of real estate on each page.

      If you use graphics-heavy headers that have been designed to work on letter size (A4) pages, check that they would be legible when shrunk down to less than 9cm wide (under 3.5 inches).

      When creating content for the Reader (or the Kindle I guess) you have to think more like 'paperback book' than 'beautiful report'.

      But experiment!

      Martin Avis publishes Kickstart Newsletter - Subscribe free at
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  • Profile picture of the author Don Schenk

    In inches these sizes translate into...

    3.6 in width

    4.8 in height

    .12 in left and right

    .2 in top and bottom

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