Cross-Reader Compatibility With eBooks (Especially Poetry)

I am publishing Leslie Anderson’s excellent collection of poetry, An Inheritance of Stone.  Much like Matt Betts’ See No Evil, Say No Evil, this requires some spiffy keen eBook conversion-fu on my part.  I thought things were going pretty well… until I checked on my Android tablet.

When I put out Matt’s book, I didn’t have any of the Android eReader apps.  And let me tell you, they bloody well suck.  The “official” (nook, Kobo) ones are a pain to sideload… and for some reason, the nook app on Android won’t let you turn off page-turn sounds.  (No, seriously.)

But still, I loaded up Leslie’s book in the nook app, Alkido, Moon Reader+, FBReader, and CoolReader.  And this is what I saw at first… wait, actually, no, it isn’t.  What I originally saw looked even worse.  I had to turn on “publisher defaults” (or turn off the reader’s supposedly helpful restyling) to get anywhere like it was supposed to look.   Once I’d figured out how to do that across five different apps, this is what I saw:

Nook displays everything correctly.

Moon Reader+ displays these correctly (not pictured – paragraph indents are jacked up)

Alkido doesn’t show CSS-defined spacing between paragraphs

CoolReader doesn’t show bold and center from CSS styling or CSS-defined spacing between paragraphs

FBReader doesn’t show bold and center from CSS styling or CSS-defined spacing between paragraphs

Proper spacing between paragraphs (y’know, stanzas of a poem) are something that might just be a wee bit important for me here.  (I use a string of
to get line breaks within the stanza.)  Soooo I decided to just add a quick
inbetween paragraphs on those pages, and add a manual tag to the titles.

Alkido’s good…

CoolReader is good…

FBReader is fine now…
Little bit wider space between stanzas here, but not bad…
And Moon Reader+ LOOKS LIKE CRAP.

Suffice to say that I tried several different iterations before I finally ended up with something that worked on all of the readers – a string of

tags inbetween stanzas.  (Yes, that means each poem is essentially one big paragraph.)

CoolReader – one of the most annoying of the bunch – works fine.

I checked iBooks on my phone to be sadistic to myself.  The space between paragraphs is fine, thank goodness.

And finally, Moon Reader+ is happy as well.

This is – to put it shortly – FRAKKING INSANE

These are the five most popular eBook (specifically, ePub) reading apps on the Android Market.   Some of them are not free.   I don’t mean “not FOSS not free”.  I mean cost you freaking money not free.

Think about this for half a second.  For those of us who are small publishers (or are trying to sell our backlist, or, or or) we might be selling some of our books directly from our websites.  And while we might be using perfectly standards-compliant CSS, our readers are going to get pissed because our books look like dog crap on their non-standards-compliant reader.

I’ve already e-mailed the dev for Moon Reader +… but if we want anything besides the Kindle format to really be supported, we need a standards-compliant and cheap/free (or even FOSS) app STAT.