Three ebook formatting tips, part XI

Ebooks follow different formatting rules than books printed on paper. That’s because a book made of ink on paper is a different platform for presenting information than a book made of digital bits on an electronic screen. Even though the same content (your book) is being presented, the platforms will need to be handled differently, just as certainly different production methods are used for a play presented on stage and on a television screen.

Because of that, there are a number of things you might do when formatting a paperback but never would do when constructing an ebook. Following are three tips about what to differently.

Add space function
Don’t use the “Add Space Before Paragraph” or the “Add Space After Paragraph” function on your word processing program when formatting. Since you’ll use a block paragraph structure (rather than tabs to indent the paragraph’s first line) when formatting an ebook, the add space function can result in paragraphs that are squished too closely together as well as uneven spacing between text and images. The better solution is to use a hard return to create a blank line that will ensure the spacing is equal to the height of a line of a text, resulting in a cleaner appearance. In addition, should you have extra lines that need to be deleted between paragraphs, locating and using the search and replace function to resolve the problem will prove easier with a hard return.

Tab key
Don’t indent the first line of each paragraph by either using the tab key or the space bar. Doing so usually will result in one paragraph beginning so many spaces from the left margin and the next paragraph at another spot. This occurs because most ereaders automatically distribute your text evenly between the margins and ignore the word processing program’s instructions to begin at a specific location relative to the left margin. Instead, use block paragraphs in an ebook, just as you would if designing a web page. This means no indentations but a blank line between paragraphs.

Text wrap
Generally, text can be wrapped around photos and graphic elements in an ebook. Even if you are able finagle some text to do so, as soon as a reader changes the font and font size, your work text will move out of place. Instead, place all images and graphics with the text above and below it.