by Joseph T. Sinclair
Unfortunately in the current digital typography environment you do not have complete control over typesetting for your ebooks (i.e., Kindle). The biggest problem is complex typesetting such as used in textbooks. Kindle just can’t handle it. The second problem is that any kind of complex typesetting that looks good on a tablet will likely fail to be readable on a phone. Since 70% of the people reading ebooks read them on their phone, this is an important consideration.
Until the major players reset their typography environments to accommodate complex typography, it will continue to be difficult to provide rich typesetting for all ebook systems. Unfortunately, the most important ebook system is Kindle, which has the least capable typesetting of any ebook system.
One of the most important typesetting schemes in complex typesetting is a table. Tables comprise a very important learning device common to many textbooks, how-to books, and other informational books. Fancy or attractive typesetting aside, tables are essential for many genres of books and are not easily accommodated by the Kindle typography environment. Therefore, how do you handle tables if you can’t typeset them?
Well, the concept is easy. You simply typeset them wherever you can (e.g., in Word), take a screenshot of the table, and include the screenshot in your ebook as a photograph. Although the concept is easy to understand and the technique is easy to use, it does raise certain problems.
If you make the type in the table too large, it’s going to be hard to fit your table on a page. If you make the type in the table too small, however, it’s going to be very difficult to read it on a phone. Thus you have to strike a balance between large and small when you choose the size of the type.
Keep in mind that the size of the type that is read (not part of the screenshot) can be changed by the user of the device. So you don’t know what size type the reader will use to read your ebook. On the other hand, the table is in a photograph (screenshot), and it varies whether the device (e.g., phone) enables the photo to be enlarged or reduced in size to make the type more readable. The size of type is fixed in the photograph.
Ebooks for many genres need to use tables. You will need to provide tables to the reader in some form that’s readable. In the digital environment for ebooks it appears the screenshot of a table is the best way of providing tabular information.
Another way to deliver an ebook is as an app in the Apple App Store, Google Play, or the Amazon App Store. In an app, you can do whatever you want to do in regard to typography and are not restrained by the typographic systems for ebooks. Consequently, you can typeset your tables for apps to effectively accommodate readers without worry.
The author of this article, Joseph T. Sinclair, is the author of twenty How To books published by national publishers.
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©2015 Joseph T. Sinclair. All rights reserved.