Layout Design for eBooks vs. Print

I finished the layout process for the print draft of my book Undead Rising (woo hoo!) and then….had to work on the digital draft. I intend to release a print and digital version simultaneously, but because of the nature of my book–where the page really matters–I couldn’t just use the KDP automated tool to prepare the document. (Related: Did you know that after you upload your print book to CreateSpace, it offers to do the KDP for you automatically? Boy I wish someone had mentioned that beforehand!)
If I were printing a traditional book (rather than the kind where you turn pages to find the next bit based on your choices), the differences between print and digital may not have been as pronounced, but there are still things to think about:
  • Font: You may want to choose a different font for your digital composition. While they’re getting better and better, not all fonts are available for digital. You also want to pick something that is easy on the eyes, because digital readers can provide more eye strain (look for something with serifs, like Times New Roman–compared to the straight-edged Arial). Similarly, you may have to abandon the fancy typefaces you used in print, to make sure readers can actually read your font in digital form. (Sad, I know. Maybe one day!)
  • Page Numbers: You don’t need them for a digital book! Particularly because ereaders come with the ability to resize typeface for the reader, setting a hard page number on every page will just mess up the formatting. Take ’em off!
  • Table of Contents: Now that you don’t have reliable page numbers to tell a reader where to go, you need to swap out your ToC of page numbers to one that links directly to the start of that chapter. You can do this with Microsoft Word’s Bookmark feature, which will let readers “jump” directly to that page. It’s pretty neat.
    This is particularly important for books like mine. I don’t need or want a Table of Contents (that would kinda ruin the point!), but I do need to have lots (and lots and lots!) of working links between sections. To move to the next section, readers will just click a hyperlink–just like on a website. (The future is now!)
  • Front matter: This is a bit subjective, but you may want to reorganize your book’s front matter; the dedication, copyright page, prologue, etc. I moved some of those pages to the back of the book, because on an ereader I have very few pages to get the reader into the story, so I want to make the most use of those pages. I also doubled-up content on the copyright page, adding a “Survival Tip” exclusively for Kindle readers, to help explain the best way to read my book on that device. It’s a whole new world of book design, so it’s ok to rearrange things if you want! (You DO still need to keep the title page and the copyright page toward the front, however. But it doesn’t have to match the print 1:1.)
  • Images: If you have images in your book, you’re going to want to take extra care with them to make sure they are properly embedded in the document and don’t end up “floating” in the wrong puddle of text!
  • Reach Out: Particularly with an ebook (but also in print) you should provide the satisfied reader at the end of your book with a link or means to contact you to read more of your work! If you already have other books out, here’s your chance to drop in a referral link so they can click over and instantly read more of your stuff!
How do you find digital book layout to be different from your print version? Did you change anything?

1 Comment

Filed under Publishing

One response to “Layout Design for eBooks vs. Print

  1. shinyoliver

    The interwebz is effecting printing et al mos’ peculiarly.

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