35+ Tips for Quality and Streamlined E-Book Production
A key challenge for Cohen is creating the smallest number of files that can render accurately on all platforms. "It's a fairly simple task to create an EPUB file that looks great when rendered in iBooks, and another that suits Kindle 3, and another that's appropriate for Nook. But creating a single EPUB that looks good on all platforms—not just good enough—is a skill that we are constantly developing," she says.
(Simon & Schuster stopped making device-specific platform files in 2008, instead creating one (EPUB) file that is converted by vendors to a proprietary format.)
Because no file-creation tool takes into account all unique characteristics of each reading platform, certain design elements have to be dropped and compromises have to be made, Cohen says. "These differences are not just the obvious ones like color versus black-and-white. I'm thinking of more subtle issues like differences in the display of charts, graphs and tables; indentations; drop caps; text alignment; fonts; and images. I could go on, but the truth is that nearly every element of a book will display differently from platform to platform unless the e-book developer explicitly accounts for that. And even when we do, we can only control so much; if a device doesn't display embedded fonts, it doesn't display embedded fonts."
Quality control can be especially challenging with backlist titles. Texts that were carefully proofread and copy edited in their original print editions may not translate perfectly when scanned for digital conversion, and "you can't expect a data-conversion vendor to have the same understanding of your content as your editors did the first time through," Brooks says. He gives an example of a textbook on logic, which is the last place you would expect to see verse—but as it turns out, Medieval logicians used verses as mnemonic aids. "Sure enough, there was a verse in the middle of [a logic textbook]," he recalls. "It got tagged wrong, and it was only when we were doing a design review that we spotted it."