After years of evolving and refining, the digital world has shown suitable competence in the area of formatting and styling eBooks. There’s a standard set of practices to be followed by digital publishers and self-publishing authors in making their eBooks Mobi for the Amazon Kindle and ePub for Nook, iPad, etc and given that the screen sizes of all these devices vary considerably, it is a big factor to weigh in on while formatting an eBook. Further, a paper book, once printed, with text and images all wrapped up in a happy communion, doesn’t easily lend itself to an in-depth structural analysis. There are several layers of texts, images and boxes embedded in every paper book, and translating them as-is into digital format may not be as easy as it appears. Here are some insights into the challenges faced in trying to make a replica digital version of a print book, and how they had to be overcome with more re-work. In conversation with Joyce Eisenberg, co-author of our latest digital (already fairly popular in print) titles, Scoop On Breasts: A Plastic Surgeon Busts The Myths.

1) What was the biggest challenge you faced in trying to get your eBook made based on the exact format used in the paper book?

The paperback had more than 200 photographs and illustrations. When the tech team worked with the design file, they had to manipulate it and make some changes in fonts. When that happened, there were issues with the spaces, capital letters, some newly introduced misspellings, etc. It was all resolved and the final iBook looks perfect – and is an exact replica of the print version – but the process was more difficult and labor-intensive than anticipated on my side and yours.

2) Would you have rather made the eBook simpler? (I think you eventually did, right?)

For the mobi and ePub versions, we decided that instead of working from the complex design file, I would submit the original Word document of the book. I had to update the document to reflect our final corrections, but I also had a chance to reconsider how the book would read in an ePub version. I had to remove any internal references like “read more on page 125.” I moved all of the boxes and sidebars to the end of each chapter so text could flow more easily, incorporated captions that went with photos into the text (since we removed almost all photos), and rearranged some of the front and back matter. I was actually happy to have a chance to do this to make the ePub version the best it could be.

3) Would you recommend that authors consider making eBooks first, before they think of print? Or choose different ways to stylize each?

I think what comes first depends on the project, but it does seem to be wise to stylize each in a different way.

4) Are there limiting factors to heed within each eReader device, while formatting eBooks?

I learned in this process that there are numerous versions. Our book is highly illustrated, but for the basic Mobi and ePub readers, it had to be stripped down to just text – with a few photos. The iPad and Kindle Fire versions are fully illustrated – exact copies of the print version.

Are authors who look to self-publish in digital formats only, much better off with respect to formatting and structuring within digital parameters? There is no clearly defined answer, but it would pay to heed the limitations and the leeway allowed by the digital platforms before considering turning a manuscript in.