Monday, September 9, 2013

What I Want From An Ebook

Like any avid reader, I have an e-reader and loads of physical books sitting in my tbr. Print books offer something more for the bibliophile in me; that new/old book smell, cool covers, books signed by authors, sentimental gifts by family, collected editions (Hardcase Crime, Penguin Classics etc.). Whereas ebooks, while convenient and easy on the eyes (by virtue of having the capacity to adjust font and size) do at times feel incomplete, lacking that same feel as the print product. I know, ebooks cant recreate that distinct book smell (not yet any way) or provide that same aesthetically pleasing look on the bookshelf but they can at least provide readers with a polished product that mimics the satisfaction if not enhance the experience of reading the physical counterpart.

Below is my list of essential components that, in my view, all ebooks must have in order to satisfy a bibliophile (as much as an electronic edition can). 

1. Full screen capable cover images in high resolution. When I open an ebook book on my Paperwhite, the first thing I want to see is the cover (I'm a visual kind of guy). Covers are generally what attract me to new books in the first place so this is important for me. It needs to fill the screen much as a hardcover doesn't have 'white space' around the edges.

2. Cover preview images. One of the reasons why I bought the Paperwhite a year ago was for this feature. I like seeing the book covers (6 to a frame) in my e-tbr collection. All books need to be formatted this way as when browsing my device for an ebook to read, again, covers pay a big part in the selection process.

3. Page numbers. While I like the % read indicator, I still want page numbers. Some books are huge (eg. Stephen King's THE STAND, George R. R. Martin's GAME OF THRONES) and without page numbers to actual show you're making progress, the continued page turns leave little by means of satisfaction from a good reading session.

4. Chapter breaks. Some ebooks have this, some don't. In my view this is essential for managing those shorter reading sessions where time is limited. The Paperwhite offers the 'time to read' function, the keyboard kindle offered a display at the bottom of the screen indicating where the chapter breaks were. I can flip through a physical book to determine the number of pages I need to read before reaching the next chapter, ebooks should be no different.

5. Formatting. I don't want to read a book where the formatting jumps throughout the text. Paragraph indentations shouldn't change chapter to chapter.

6. Editing / Proof Reading. There will always be the odd correction and that's fine but where a book is riddled with typos from a major publisher, then that's not acceptable. Same with the editorial process. Editors generally do a great job and should be used for print and ebooks alike.

Additionally, ebook prices need to be comparable to print or lesser. I don't see how an ebook can be priced higher than a hardcover.

I write this, not as an anti ebook advocate (I've read close to 200 ebooks on my kindle and kindle Paperwhite) but as a reader who has noticed a disparity in the quality of ebooks being produced today (this does not exclude the major publishers who often miss a number of my 'must haves').

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