So your designer has finished your ebook file. Before you rush to send your file off to ebook distributors, there’s still one crucial last step to go.
It’s vital to check what your book will look like to your readers when they read it on an ereader. It will help you spot errors and inconsistencies you wouldn’t otherwise notice. It will also help you to check the reading experience in ways you simply can’t when viewing the file on your computer.
To review your file properly, you’ll need to use an ereader too – that means a Kindle, an iPad, Nook or Kobo. Viewing ebook files on PCs or Macs is possible, but requires special software and won’t replicate what it looks and feels like to open your book on proper ereader.
In this guide, we’re going to tell you how to upload your file to an ereader to review it. We’ll also give you some tips on what to look for.
As you look at your file on an ereader, you may feel surprised at the difference compared to your printed book. Authors used to ebooks may be delighted (‘It looks just like a professional one!’). But if you’re unused to ebooks, you may find yourself taken aback or even disappointed by some aspects.
When you’re reviewing your file, it’s important to remember that an ebook is not a paper book. In some respects, it’s designed to look similar, but in many ways, it’s fundamentally different. So, as you think about changes you’d like to make to your file, make sure you keep the ebook’s limitations in mind too.
We’ll help you spot the difference between things you can change and things that you can’t later in this article. First of all, however, let’s upload your file.
Step 1: Load the right file to your device
Follow these steps to load a .mobi file onto your Kindle:
- Download the .mobi file and save it to a folder on your computer.
- Connect your Kindle to the computer using the device cable. Your Kindle should display as a new device.
- Go to the folder where you saved the .mobi file and copy-paste, or drag-drop, to the documents folder of your Kindle.
- You can now safely eject the Kindle from your computer.
- Your ebook will now appear in the Kindle library on your device.
Some people prefer to use this alternative method:
- Note down your Kindle address – you can find this in your Kindle settings. It will often be similar to your email address in some way so email@example.com might be firstname.lastname@example.org
- Attach the .mobi file to an email and send this to your Kindle email address.
- As long as you’ve connected your Kindle to WiFi or 3g, the file will appear in your library.
For further assistance please visit the Kindle website.
Follow these steps to load an .epub file onto your iPad or iPhone:
- Download the .epub file and save it to a folder on your computer.
- Make a copy of the .epub file which you should use to upload to your ebook distributor.
- Connect your iPad/iPhone to your computer using the device cable.
- Open iTunes on your computer.
- In iTunes, select File → Add file to library. Navigate to where you saved the epub file, select it and click OK.
- In iTunes, from the Devices on the left, click on your iPad icon.
- Click on the Books tab (at top-right of screen).
- Next, click the Sync books check box.
- Click on one of the two buttons: Sync All Books or Selected Books and select which books you want to be added to your iBooks library.
- Then click Apply to start synchronizing your iPad.
- After the synchronization you can safely eject the iPad/iPhone from your computer.
- Your ebook should now be listed in iBooks on your device.
IMPORTANT: You must make sure that you make a copy of your ebook file before opening it in iTunes. This is because iTunes will insert a new tag into the epub called iTunesMetadata.plist. This will make the ePub non-compliant with many distributors, so make sure you have an untouched copy saved.
For further assistance please visit the iBooks website.
Follow these steps to load an .epub file onto your Kobo:
- Download the .epub file and save it to a folder on your computer.
- Connect your Kobo to your computer using the device cable. Your Kobo should show up as a new device.
- Tap Connect on your Kobo.
- Go to the folder where you saved the .epub file and copy/paste, or drag/drop, it into your KOBOeReader device.
- You can now safely eject the Kobo from your computer.
- Your ebook should now be listed in the library on your Kobo.
For further assistance please visit the Kobo website.
Step 2: Understand ebook limitations
Before you review your ebook and make notes on any changes you want, it’s worth reminding yourself what an ebook is and what it is not. By this we mean, it’s important to think about which aspects of an ebook will look similar to a printed book, and which aspects have been made deliberately different. Have a look at the following article on what is an ebook for a really helpful discussion about this.
Understanding this should help keep your mind focused on the areas where you have choices and control. It will help you see which things are flexible and worth changing, and which things are simply fundamental to how an ebook works. When it comes to ebooks, it’s definitely a case of picking your battles as there are something you simply won’t be able to change.
Here are just a few examples:
Fonts. These will be different to your printed book. Many of the fancier fonts that designers use for book typesetting or cover designs are either incredibly expensive to license for use in an ebook, or not available at all. As a result, designers will typically replace particularly stylized heading fonts in an ebook with similar, freely licensed versions. Remember too that the main body text in an ebook will vary from device to device. This one is completely out of your control; each reader will set the font they prefer on their own device.
Layout. Unfortunately, certain layout features available in a printed book are not possible within a reflowable ebook. These include things like wrapping text around images, including images within paragraphs, background images, and text in multiple columns.
Keeping things together. Often authors hope to keep certain bits of text, headings or images ‘together on the page.’ The problem is that reflowable ebooks don’t have pages. Instead, the text flows freely from one screen to the next, depending on the size of your screen and your settings. If you changed device or reduced the font size, you’d find each ‘page’ looked entirely different. As much as it would be nice to keep things consistent, this often causes problems on ereaders. Trying to force certain things to stay together on the screen can result in lots of empty spaces throughout the rest of the ebook.
Color. Some ereaders are color, and some are in black and white. The most popular e-ink Kindle devices only use black text and images. This means that any elements of your printed book that were in color will now appear in grayscale instead.
Contents. If you have a contents page in your printed book and decide to include the same in your ebook, just be aware that readers will view and use it slightly differently. Designers often hyperlink text in an ebook contents page so that readers can navigate to the right section of the book. However, because of the integral design of an ebook, there is often no need for a separate contents page at all. Instead, you can integrate the table of contents into the ebook software itself. Readers can access this inbuilt navigation from their menu at any time, rather than needing to turn to a specific page.
Flexibility. It’s important that designers are free to optimize your ebook to work on the widest range of devices. This means that it’s best not to try and over constrain your ebook to suit the specific device you happen to view it on and the specific text size you are reading in. While any changes might make the ebook look perfect for you, it is now likely to be less than ideal for people viewing it on other devices.
Step 3: Mark any changes clearly
If you’ve spotted anything that does need to change, the next step is for you to mark those changes nice and clearly. You and your designer both need to feel confident that you’re looking at the same thing.
This is particularly tricky with a reflowable ebook. With so many devices and viewing choices, it’s unlikely that two people will see the same things in the same place and the same way. As we’ve said, you can’t use pages as a measure of position on an ebook. An iPad might show 160 pages or screens’ worth of material for a book, whereas a smaller Kindle screen might show 200 for the same material. Things will be in totally different places and positions.
As a result, the best way to ensure everyone is looking at the same thing is to add a PDF comment to your book file. This will let you explain what changes you need at exactly this position in the ebook. PDF comments make problems nice and clear to your designer so they can easily find and fix any issues in your book source files. See the following article on how to use pdf comments well: http://www.wordzworth.com/blog/add-comments-to-pdf/
Finally, it’s worth being aware that when a designer converts your book to an ebook format, they’ll convert all the text into reflowable HTML. When this happens, it occasionally means that a line of text breaks in an odd place or the ereader misinterprets a symbol as something else.
Designers will quality-check the file for this sort of thing, but they won’t have time to read every line of text and will occasionally miss something. If this happens, just let them know, and they should quickly fix it for you.
You might also want to check that you’re happy with the positioning of any images in relation to the text. If your original print book had a particularly complex layout, then the designer will need to have made some choices around these. It’s worth checking that you’re happy with any changes and understand why things may look different, so flag it up and ask if you need to.
A final word
Reviewing your ebook is your chance to see your book through your readers’ eyes. With digital book sales soaring, creating a great ebook experience has never been more important. And if you don’t own an ereader yourself, now might be the time to consider getting one! Prices have come right down, and there’s a lot to be said for their flexibility and convenience. If nothing else, it will help you see what your book will look like and feel like to a reader. For an author, this is an essential step to help you build a connection and understanding with the people who will drive your sales and your success.