Now that I own a Kindle, I bought myself the latest Wallander novel by Henning Mankell.  The book is a big disappointment, but one of the things that irritates me most as I read has nothing to do with Mankell.  It's the nasty habit this particular electronic version has of centering text on the page and leaving large spaces between paragraphs.  In dialogue sections, each speech acts as its own paragraph. All are centered and spaced widely apart. And all short lines are centered.

 

Clearly that is a poorly formatted novel, and in this case, the formatting was done by one of the big publishing houses.

 

How common is poor formatting in your reading?

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Yes, I go over and over my books in the Kindle as I format them.  It's great to be able to see just how they will appear. 

Actually, it's a pain.  But at least, once it's formatted, the formatting errors will always be in the same places.

Yes!  ;) 

I wonder how long it'll be before Amazon offers a formatting service to its self-pubbing authors.

Theoretically, if you have a very clean Word document, it should publish reasonably well on Kindle without extra formatting.  I had a friend who submitted that way, and the novel came out pretty well.  However, he wanted to get the next one perfect, so we worked together to learn formatting, including a little bit of HTML. 

We've had problems with centering and with poetry.  It also skips lines quite a bit -- or repeats them between page breaks. That was on files that Amazon worked on.  My formatters don't have those problems. 

If the freebie Amazon job my agency uses is any indicator, I wouldn't bother.

Yeah, poetry is going to be a problem.  Right now, I'm working on formatting block quotes for a biograpny I'm going to publish in June.  The formatting there seems to be okay.  The comforting thing is that, if you go ahead and learn how to format using Mobipocket, you can check the formatting on your Kindle until you get it just right.  The problem is that all this formatting work takes time away from your writing. A lot of writers don't want to cheat themselves on writing time, and I certainly understand that.  But once you learn, it gives you an incredible amount of control.  If anyone wants to give it a try, work with the CJ's Easy as Pie blog.  CJ is incredibly wonderful.  Her blog is far better than any formatting book you can buy.  Find another writer to work with while you are learning, though.  It helps to share the successes and the frustrations.

Thanks.  I'm sure you're right, but for me the money is well spent.  Formatting is not expensive.  Other services are.

A few years ago, there was a woman on a discussion board who worked for a company that did formatting.  She complained that a lot of publishers were suddenly wanting to convert their books to e-format and couldn't see the point of it, since obviously no one would ever want to read them that way.

I've read a number of ebooks that had formatting problems in them, everything from words that didn't scan in properly, to entire missing endings of chapters.  One was a new book, but others were ones I'd read years ago in paper and probably wouldn't have noticed the missing bits except I remembered them being there.  For older books, the scanning process, if done by someone who didn't know the material and didn't particularly care (see above paragraph), could easily result in missing bits.  You'd think someone would at least give the files a quick glance to be sure everything's there, but like everything else, they probably just don't have the people available to put the time into it, not with getting new books ready to get out the door at the same time.

Ah, two of my novels were scanned in by someone.  That was last summer.  I don't recall how thorough my proofing was.  Alas, one thinks that scanning is foolproof.  Formatting from Word seems to have different problems.

Thanks.  Not sure I have the time to proofread two old novels again at the moment.

I wrote a blog post a couple of months ago over on the Huffington Post on this topic based on comments from a book typesetter about why so many traditionally published books are riddled with errors. 

"E" Stand for "Errors"

The topic really hit a nerve!  254 comments, hundreds of "likes" and Tweets and Facebook shares. The Huffington Post featured my post at the top of the blog rail, in the Books Slider all weekend, and by the next Monday, on the main page, holy cow! As a result, I was contacted by a Calgary, Alberta radio show and interviewed on their morning show the next day. (I had less than a day to become an errors-in-e-books "expert" - scary!) Obviously, the issue of errors in e-books is a hot topic!

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