Friday, August 19, 2011

Plan Z and preparations

While waiting to hear back from my recent PLAN B excursion, I have been working on PLAN Z, which is release on Nook/Kindle and call it good.

To that end, I've been formatting the text, designing a cover, and in all ways doing a lot of "grunt work" on getting Memories of the Dead epublication ready. Which leads me back to an old post I made. To PDF or not to PDF, that is the question.

PDFs are indeed great, they keep formatting the way the author intended it, is extremely cross-platform, and everyone knows what they are, thanks to PDF being ubiquitous in the world of computers/Internet. So, I'm leaning in that direction rather than ePUB format--which is highly adaptable.

The problem with PDFs is that they don't scale well at all. Here's what I mean: take a PDF of your favorite novel, say Frankenstein, and put it on your ebook reader. Looks good, right? Yay! All is well. But lets say that the font is just a wee bit too small for your eyes--you might be nearsighted like me and like things just a smidgen bigger (blast my eyes!)

So, you hop into the side-panel that controls your ereader output and you select the option to increase font from "normal" to "large." Poof! Should work, right?

Well, it will make the print bigger; but the formatting will be all kinds of whacked out of alignment. It'll be really really screwy. Almost unreadable--that kind of screwy. Anything that can be done about it? Nope. Thanks to how PDFs display and are encoded, every PDF-able reader will have this issue, as near as I can tell.

This is why ePUB is the format of choice. It's really nothing more than plain HTML in a compressed file with some supporting configuration files that are specific to display setup. HTML, as you may know (or maybe not, depending on if you care) is very scalable to any resolution you want, and formatting is pretty much kept in check. Sure, it's not perfect, but damn, it's close.

So, logically, I should choose ePUB, right? Well, yes, but formatting under ePUB is more complicated than with a PDF. I can save literally hours of work just by hitting the button "Export as PDF" rather than "Export to HTML," which would require me to open the source document, and reformat practically every page independently.

And even then, the problem becomes this: not every ereader is the same size. Books, for the most part, are 6 inches by 9 inches (give or take). If I set my PDF preferences properly, I can emulate that size exactly, and when I export to the PDF, it's all as if it were to be printed on the appropriate sized paper. Which naturally looks correct. The only issue is the simple resizing of fonts.

PDF support in ereaders is still craptacular, but getting better. It's an honest and logical solution to take the format that has the longest legs and go with it, and wait for the future devices (like Kindle version 3 or Nook version 3) to keep up.

Every ereader now supports PDF natively, but not all ereaders support ePUB.

Ease of use, with a minor caveat, versus more work and less broad ability.... Hmmm. I think I'm going with PDF. Plus, you can transfer the document to your computer and read it there too...ePUB is harder to transition--there's special crud involved that most people don't have and don't really want to go find, but Adobe Acrobat Reader is installed on most PCs today.

So, I'm banking on PDF being acceptable in the event that PLAN B falls by the wayside; and if all this work, thought, and figuring all is for naught, I still learned a lot--and that's not bad.

Heck, I even designed a rather striking cover, if I do say so myself! You'll all get to see it if the time comes. But not now, not yet. There are miles to go before I sleep...and before you see what I've managed to do. I can only hope you'll all stick around and enjoy the ride.


  1. Interesting factoids and digressions here. Quirky, groovy blog:)

  2. Thanks! If you like, stick around...I say all kinds of weird things. ;)

  3. I hadn't known that about the different formats--thanks for the post!

  4. There's tons of formats: