1. Bakkerbaard

    Bakkerbaard Senior Member

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    Do EPUBS always look this weird?

    Discussion in 'Electronic Publishing' started by Bakkerbaard, Sep 12, 2021 at 2:00 AM.

    I just got my layout for the EPUB back from the formatter.
    I've never read an ebook, but it's... not what I expected. Example:

    Paragraph paragraph paragraph paragraph paragraph (ENTER)

    "Dialog in the same paragraph." (ENTER)

    Paragraph continues continues continues continues


    On paper, that should be a block of text, without the blank lines in between. Do ebooks usually do it like above?
    Seems confusing. Kinda makes the end of a line and the end of a paragraph the same thing.
    Might as well have written the whole book in one long sentence then.

    I've looked into several samples online and it seems about 50/50 between the print way and the weird way. Is there a "professional" standard?
     
  2. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Senior Member

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    Are you saying it should be ONE paragraph or multiple paragraphs with just indentation and no blank lines?
     
  3. SapereAude

    SapereAude Senior Member

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    What are you reading? Are you reading the ebook in an ebook reader, or are you looking at the raw .EPUB file?

    The .EPUB file format is basically .html, so a manuscript formatted for .EPUB should have HTML tags strewn throughout it. And "(ENTER)" is not a valid HTML tag.

    I'd suggest downloading Cool Reader or SumatraPDF and using one of them (or both) to view your ebook. Both are free. I have found that different programs that convert from Word .DOCX format to .EPUB all seem to have quirks, and the resulting files may appear differently in different readers.


    Based on your description of the issue, and the fact that your typesetter didn't do a great job the first time around on the print version, I'm wondering if this person is doing a bit of unsolicited editing along with formatting. There are some people who absolutely believe that EVERY instance of dialogue MUST begin a new paragraph. Perhaps your formatting consultant subscribes to this philosophy. If so, you may have to educate him/her -- or just instruct him/her that the task is to convert what YOU wrote to the .EPUB format, and NOT to play editor.
     
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2021 at 3:19 AM
  4. Bakkerbaard

    Bakkerbaard Senior Member

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    This.
    I think. It's kinda hard to describe without copy/pasting a large swathe of text.

    Yeah. I grabbed Aquile (something like that - not at my own computer now) for a quick check. Didn't look at the raw file. The enters I described were just to illustrate what I had typed in the manuscript.
    I think the EPUB sees those as a hard return (?). Same thing happens in my mailbox. Pressing enter creates a blank line, and I have to press shift-enter to get around that.

    I'll do that first when I get home. I had some suspicions that the e-reader I grabbed in a rush might not have been the best choice, but I also suspect this won't fix the Enter-issue.

    I don't remember where I implied this, and I might have been talking about the proofreader, but I'm actually very pleased with the typesetter/cover artist. She's been quite helpful and I'm confident she wouldn't just reformat my work. The blank line issue comes up at the points where I used an enter in the manuscript.
    My wishes to do the typesetting (I'm just calling it that for now) myself come from the lack of control that's driving me nuts.

    My current main problem is whether or not I'm going to tell her to get rid off all the enter-to-blank lines, and if I do, how I'm gonna make sure she doesn't then cut out the actual paragraph breaks (or whatever the bit where a blank line is supposed to go is called).
     
  5. SapereAude

    SapereAude Senior Member

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    The standard, as I understand it, is for ebooks to follow the same rules as print books: no extra space between paragraphs, and new paragraphs are indented. But, as I mentioned, it appears that some of the end result may depend on what software or device is used to open the file.

    If I can get it to import, here's a screen shot of the ebook version of one of Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter on Mars series. I downloaded as many of them as I could find from The Gutenberg Project.

    This is as viewed in Cool Reader.

    upload_2021-9-12_10-57-15.png
    But if I open the same book in Sumatra -- the paragraphs are spaced, but not indented.

    upload_2021-9-12_11-3-21.png

    To your immediate question: If the three sample lines in your opening post were all supposed to be in the same paragraph, why did you end the first two lines with an [ENTER]? An [ENTER] is a line break, signifying the termination of a paragraph. When the file is converted to .EPUB, line breaks are converted to the<br> tag -- which ends the paragraph.
     
  6. Bakkerbaard

    Bakkerbaard Senior Member

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    Thank you for the effort. From the moment I wrote the proverbial "The End" I felt I was punching above my weight. This helps.
    I've only just finally arrived at the opportunity to check my story in the e-readers you suggested, but it's good to know one EPUB can look different in several readers.

    I figured that would be confusing, but I couldn't find a better way of displaying at the time.
    The enters were meant to show the keystrokes as I did them in my manuscript.

    So basically I would write a bunch of stuff, which here will not be long enough to form a nice chunky block of paragraph, but at the end of the paragraph a character enters the room and speaks to the character that's already there. I would end the paragraph here. [press the enter key]
    "I'm here about blank lines," he says, and takes a seat across from the other character. [enter]
    The other character looks at him and shrugs, because he has no clue what caused the blank lines. [enter]
    [enter again, because you just need a paragraph break sometimes]
    And the story continues.

    So everywhere I pressed enter, the EPUB (meaning the file as viewed in Aquile) puts an empty line before continuing on with what should be one block of text.
    However, judging by your two examples, I might have tried two other e-reader apps that displayed it like Sumatra. I'll go and have a look right now and report back.
     
  7. Bakkerbaard

    Bakkerbaard Senior Member

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    Update:
    Yup. Cool Reader shows it "print-style", as far as an e-reader can, anyway. Sumatra shows it screwy. It also drops the italics, as did the first two e-readers did. So out of a sample size of four readers, three showed the EPUB 'wrong', but I'm still assuming the EPUB is actually correct.
    Not a very scientific deduction, but if the EPUB was wrong, Cool Reader would have also showed it wrong... right?

    I think the next logical step is the first step I should have taken: Talk to the formatter.
    Okay. Right after I compare a couple of other EPUBs.
     
  8. SapereAude

    SapereAude Senior Member

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    The above is supposed to be one paragraph? Then DON'T hit the enter key. If that's three paragraphs, then you did it correctly, up until "[enter again, because you just need a paragraph break sometimes]". No -- you don't "just need a paragraph break sometimes." If you're talking about a break in the action/narrative that's not important enough to be a chapter break, use a space, then a line with a glyph or a series of glyphs (such as tildes ~~~~~), another blank line, and THEN restart your narrative.

    You are working with a word processor, not a typewriter. And, for an ebook, you need to leave out as much extraneous formatting as possible in order to allow the margins and line lengths to adjust to the screen size and zoom factor. [ENTER] is used at the end of a paragraph -- nowhere else.

    New paragraphs should have the first line indented. That's best handled (if I understand things correctly) by the .CSS stylesheet that leads off the .EPUB file.

    I am convinced that there's a lot of black magic and more than a dollop of luck involved. I've done two ebooks so far, and both came out the way they should have -- but I don't know why or how. I tested multiple ways of converting from a Word .DOCX file to a .EPUB file, and none of them got it all correct. If I remember correctly, by far the worst of the batch was the free utility Microsoft provides to make the conversion. I also tried Libre Office and Softmaker Office, both of which offer the option to export to .EPUB. I don't recall specifics but, off the top of my head, one lost italics while the other recognized the italics but lost the center justification and font settings for chapter titles.

    And THEN you have the additional problem of different ebook readers displaying the same file differently, and ...

    In the end, I let the vendors do it. For the Amazon Kindle edition, I uploaded either the Word file or the PDF and let KDP make the conversion. For the .EPUB version, I uploaded it to Barnes & Noble Press and let them do the conversion.
     
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2021 at 3:49 AM
  9. SapereAude

    SapereAude Senior Member

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    Last edited: Sep 13, 2021 at 12:26 AM
  10. Bakkerbaard

    Bakkerbaard Senior Member

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    Yeah, that's what it's supposed to be. Like most things I do, I can make it look like I know what I'm doing, but I'll have no idea what's called what.
    A paragraph happens after every press of the enter, basically, yeah? Whether it's just one sentence, or half a page of narration.

    I was indeed talking about a break to skip a boring bit, but I have a tendency to get facetious. Though, as far as I figured from 'real' books, that's just done with a blank line (enter to end paragraph, enter to get the blank line). I thought glyphs were rather old fashioned.

    Yes. We can agree on this.

    Yes. We can agree on this.

    Out of the four I tried so far, I got four different displays. Seems to me that something like italics is pretty important in a medium where thoughts are generally indicated like that.

    Yeah, I've been wondering about that too.
    There doesn't seem to be much of a point to ebook-formatting when I can just upload my original material to any host of vendors.

    Meh. I'll grab Calibri on my way out for shits & giggles, and tell the typeformatter it's good to go.
     
  11. SapereAude

    SapereAude Senior Member

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    Whether or not to use glyphs is a design choice. You go with what looks right for the nature of the story, and what fits with the fonts you use for the body test and chapter titles. I've seen a lot of books that use a short, horizontal line, centered between the margins, to separate sections of a chapter. I can't recall seeing any books, printed or digital, that just used an extra line space. It's not "wrong" to do that -- it's your book and you can do whatever you wish. I just wouldn't think of it as common.

    [And now twenty people will beat me over the head with examples.]
     
    Bakkerbaard and montecarlo like this.

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