Real-Life Conversion Problems – and your WorldWide Audience

I think small errors – like the one pictured here from The Ocean at the End of the Lane – are a big deal.  Yes, it’s the only eBook conversion error in the entire book… but it also immediately threw me out of the story.  THAT is a big deal to a storyteller.  Because someone didn’t catch where a double-dash in a different font was used instead of a true em-dash, we have a weird looking thing.  (Again, this is the official eBook on the official device – not some rip or weird conversion.

But I am becoming aware of some bigger issues around eBook conversion that will be extremely relevant in the next decade.

I finished Jim Hines’ Codex Born (and gave it a well-deserved review) not long ago.  There were, however, two small problems the eBook converter didn’t catch.

It’s not really their fault – both are due to people now reading on devices that are not just eInk.  The first is the chapter headers.  As you can see, I wasn’t reading with the page set to completely white, and…

Not bad, just slightly annoying.  Design with eBooks should be unobtrusive, not noticeable.  The desire to keep the book image as the chapter heading – especially given the book in question – is absolutely understandable.  The execution, however…

But then there’s the bigger – and to my mind – more troubling problem.  There are some portions of the book that transliterate some Chinese
into English.  Jim – and the publisher – obviously spent quite a bit of
time and energy ensuring that they were presented correctly.  They knew that unicode extended support is spotty at best (and there’s actually quite a bit of argument as to what “extended” characters are), so they embedded them as images.

Yeah, you can see where this is going – because I was so taken with the book that I stayed up late reading and switched the screen to inverse:

You can also see that the font size I read at is a bit different than that font size of the image.  But what are you going to do?  When the official apps aren’t all supporting the same character sets or encoding but you suddenly have international audiences – well, that’s a big problem.  It’s even bigger when you think about the existing devices out there that cannot get a firmware upgrade or can’t handle new/fancier apps.

I don’t know a way around this, folks.  This is not an error – this is a hardware and/or software limitation.

But before you start thinking that you’re only writing in English… you’re not safe either.

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