Should Your Ebook
Be Kindle/Nook Compatible?
So you’ve got your ebook in PDF format… think that’s enough?
Recently, I was talking with the author of an ebook that I’ve enjoyed and suggested that they include a e-reader compatible version to go with the pdf they released.
I was met by some confused looks and questions.
It turns out that most people have heard that kindle (and the kindle app) handle PDF just fine and do not understand that that is a half-truth.
Let me first explain that while I’m a young technophile I’m also one who’s been dealing with vision loss issues for several months and because of it I’ve become very aware of readability… and eyestrain.
This topic came up because I was sitting in the doctors office the other day throwing some hate-darts at some PDFs I have on my phone. You see the kindle reader tells me it can read them, but because PDFs are “pictures” you’d need a freakin microscope unlike a regular kindle book where you can make the text larger.
I’m going to reference the Kindle here but the same applies to the Nook e-Reader and is why the ePub document format is more flexible for the end user than the kindle document (The ePub doc can be converted and read on the Kindle but not visa versa most of the time.)
Often when I suggest to an author that they provide their readers/subscribers/customers a e-reader compatible version the first they they do is to pull their PDF up on an iPad and say… “it works, why would I do anything more??”
The Trouble With E-Readers
While the iPad and Kindle Fire are not great devices for anyone with eyestrain issues (eInk screens are vastly easier on the eyes) these devices are incredibly common today.
However, what is actually MORE common is smartphones and Kindle classics. Both of which have a smaller formfactor.
What’s easy to forget is that the iPad has something close to the same screen width as a printed page. An iPad2 offers 9.7 total inches, but if I recall correctly the app itself probably only takes advantage of 7.5 or 8″ which is close enough to a 8.5×11 paper to be sensible. (And the Kindle android Fire on the other hand is only about 7″ wide)
A kindle classic has only about 4.25″ useable. An iphone or android kindle app has 3″ useable (many have less). In your mind reduce the entire size by well over half and consider readability at that point.
You end up having to use your finger to scroll to the right 3-4 times to read the line then back again to get to the next line!
The screen dimensions of my HTC Incredible (android) is about 3 inches by 2 inches and actually larger than some smartphones (though there are some larger).
So why is a PDF a problem?
A pdf in it’s native form is a image (picture) file instead of being text like a Microsoft Word file. A PDF is rather like a photograph of a document.
So, on a PDF, to make the text bigger, you zoom into the whole document… pushing part of it off of the screen. You can not create line-wrap that adapts the way text does.
This is why epub and kindle formats are a big deal. On a Kindle you can make the characters larger and the word-flow of the book re-arranges itself to fit on the screen (brilliant!).
Your PDF is just about twice the screen width of my kindle classic and that is at its default font size (and truth is I honestly need something zoomed in a bit).
Your PDF will certainly display just fine on a iPad in (or out) of the Kindle reader application. This is because the screen size is very similar to the optimum size for a PDF. The same is true of using the Kindle application on your computer.
The problem is when you deal with the smaller devices. I’m certainly not the only person online who goes from a PC/laptop to a smartphone with no tablet device in the middle. To assume your customer has a device of that type is still a really big assumption… yet they likely have a smartphone.
In addition to keeping your customers happy (or at least making them feel you’re trying to adapt to what they want) offering a pre-formatted file they prefer you are going to cut down on plagiarism (It likely won’t help mitigate piracy though, but that’s what good branding is for).
How Do I Work Around This?
Generally, PDFs help prevent republishing of the included content on the web by making copy-paste a pain in the butt. However, anyone that sets out to “rig” your PDF into working on their small device will first run it through a PDF to text converter. Out pops your beautiful book in a text document which then is MUCH more likely to turn up on some random blog somewhere “just because”.
Personally, I usually run the PDFs through a PDF to text converter to change it back into raw text and then convert it into a kindle/epub format. This gives me a rough workaround when ebook authors do not provide me a compatible file. And this gives me something to read while I’m waiting in the car on someone at the store or sitting in a doctors office or otherwise find myself with time on my hands.
What About Your Ebook?
Many modern successful self-published authors now attentively take care of their fans by providing their books and novels in MANY file types to ensure the reader has what they need for comfort. For example, see Rebecca Woodhead’s highly successful Palaces and Calluses book.
While digital readers used to be a “techy thing” now more “soccer moms” and other non-tech-types have e-readers than ever before!
While only YOU know if converting your ebook is a good answer for your audience, it’s important that you are aware of the reasons why it might be helpful. Taking care of our fans and ensuring their comfort is more important than ever before!
And if that isn’t enough, producing these formats opens up two more markets for your book!
As you prepare your ebook for sale or download, keep these things in mind!
Do you read ebooks? What is your preferred way to read them? Do you use an e-reader? Have you tried the kindle app on your desktop or smartphone? What do you think of the current lifecycle of PDFs?
Drop me a comment below and let me know!
~ Kim ~
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