Kindle Direct Publishing has added a new option to its publishing services, that of turning eBooks into paperbacks. I found this pretty interesting, considering how popular electronic books were when they first appeared, and how many self-proclaimed prophets declared print books dead. So much easier and economical to carry an entire library on one small, lightweight device than to buy expensive, burdensome hard-copy books, right? I confess that I never bought into this (see “Why A Print Book?“). Even though I’ll acknowledge that eBooks are convenient for fiction, I have remained staunchly in the print book camp for everything else. With KDP now offering the paperback option, I can’t help but wonder if the electronic
fad, er, trend is fading.
So, being the champion of print that I am, why wouldn’t I recommend clicking on that “Create Paperback” button? For several reasons: page numbering, images, indexing, and formatting options such as charts and tables.
Electronic books are formatted differently than print books. Pages in print books have a fixed design that the content fits a particular page size, including images, text placement, white space, and page numbering. To someone with an eye for aesthetic design, the placement of these elements is important. Because of the variety of eBook reading devices, however, eBooks are formatted so that the text is flowable, i.e. not fixed in terms of page placement. This is to accommodate any brand of eReader on the market. In the printed eBooks that I’ve read, I’ve found the formatting is often too haphazard to be professional looking. Depending on how the author formatted their original file, the print version can be distractingly “off.”
Images, if you include them, are formatted differently for electronic versus print books. Electronic devices render images small enough to fit the screen. Because of file size limitations, low resolution and low DPI (dots per inch, usually 72 DPI for electronic rendering) images are recommended. Most of us probably know how pixelized an enlarged jpg image can become, but smaller looks crisper and cleaner. Images formatted for an eBook will often have that same pixelized look in print. Recommendations for print images are 300 DPI and the specific physical measurements you want on the printed page. In addition, tall, narrow images can be offset side-by-side with text in a print book. This can’t be done with an eBook.
If images include maps, such as I did in 5 Acres & a Dream The Book, then size becomes important for readability. My Master Plans are barely legible in the 6-inch by 9-inch paperback. A reader wouldn’t be able to make them out on a smaller electronic device.
eReaders all sport search functions, just like a search engine does on the internet. Obviously a print book can’t do this, which is why a good index is important, especially for nonfiction. At least it is important to me, although considering how many poorly constructed indexes there are out there, it apparently isn’t as important to everyone else. A paperback from a Kindle version will have no index, so there would be no way to search for specific topics and text.
Another consideration for nonfiction books is tables. I used quite a few charts in the paperback version of my How To Bake Without Baking Powder, whereas in the eBook version, the charts had to be lists. Why? Because charts are usually created in a word processor as tables, and eReaders can’t support tables. Yes, a chart could be supplied as an image, but remember what I said about image size on an eReader? You’d have to make sure that chart is legible in a two or three inch width, which is what an eReader will likely do with it. On the one hand, I agree that charts aren’t absolutely necessary, but on the other, I think they make information visually more accessible to the reader. If I feel I have information that is useful to my reader, then making that information easy to find and access is important to me.
I’ve already mentioned some issues with formatting. One other to be aware of is that eReaders can only read a limited number of fonts. In the professional publishing world of print books, there is quite some snobbishness about fonts (not that I can personally tell muc difference) as though this divides the masters from the novices. Or in my case, the Lobster 2 font for my 5 Acres blog and book title are sort of trademark, i.e. part of my brand. For a print book file, I can use any font I please, as long as I embed it in my desktop publisher. For an eBook, the title would have to be an image.
So, off the top of my head this is why I would recommend not simply opting to print a nonfiction book from an eBook file. It would certainly be the easiest route, but if the author things her or his book has quality and worth, then it makes sense to take the time and give it the respect it deserves.