How to review your ebook

Ebook conversion

Now you have your ebook converted you want to review it in exactly the same way as your readers will.

Opening your ebook

You cannot just double-click an epub file and open it in your browser. The filetypes are not supported in most cases but the ebook won't appear anything like the way it will on a small ereader device. The best way to review your ebook and see how it will look on a range of devices is to use Amazon's Kindle Previewer software which is free to download and is a great way to see your ebook as it will look on a tablet, a phone or a Kindle device.

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. 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 e-readers. 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 e-readers 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.

Mark 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.