The Nook Book Look: Default Settings

About a year ago, a publisher friend went into a tirade about how eBooks weren’t something publishers or consumers wanted but were being forced on the industry by “the tech people.” I was quite puzzled by his comment but knowing that my friend is not prone to hyperbole or paranoia, couldn’t dismiss it. Now I get it. In this thread on MobileRead some eReader developers are pretty down on publishers and book designers:
It’s a discussion about defaults on the Nook:
With the system upgrade in January to 1.4.1, Nook decided to turn off publishers’ settings on its eBooks by default. They make a reasonable argument. If a reader has carefully set their reading preferences, they shouldn’t have to reset them for each new title.
But, if the publishers’ defaults are off, the reader could well be missing part of the reading experience (even some of the non-English characters) that the writer intended, and never know what they were missing. Okay, I’m a bit ticked off that hours of my thoughtful work on a YA title may never be seen by readers. But I’m not so in love with my work that I’d want to overrule an eReader user.
It comes down to this, do you think most users take the time to adjust their settings, or expect that the book’s producers have made these settings for them? I’m far from convinced that every user thoughtfully selects their book settings, and publishers’ designs have been selling for decades. I think the default should be the publisher’s defaults, the Nook users who are most likely to set their own preferences are the ones who will know where to turn off the defaults.
Another argument for ignoring publisher’s code is that often the code is bloated. I can imagine the issues engineers face when the code vomited out by auto ePub generators is multiplied by thousands of titles.
I see this as an argument for Standards. Better adherence to standards across devices would lead to leaner code in ePubs. I feel like I have to carpet bomb my files with text-align: center; just to get a centered paragraph consistently across devices.
Ultimately, the reading public will show us what they want, buying books, apps and devices that they like best.
So let’s make cool stuff, work together on standards, and respect what we all bring to the table.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. simhal01
    May 05, 2012 @ 16:23:42

    I ran headlong into this issue with my book ‘A Maid of Kirin’. The ePub includes a small (-6k) custom font – which I designed so that I could use font-scalable glyphs in the story text. These appear on a handful occasions, as rune-like symbols. The font also included 3 ladybird motifs that I used on the dedidication page.

    On the Simple Touch, this works beautifully. My symbols render correctly, regardless of the publisher default setting. On the color Nooks, they only render in ‘publisher’ mode. In the default mode, the symbols are replaced with the equivalent alpha character from the default font.

    The obvious solution is to use images for these symbols – the downside being the lack of dynamic user resizing, and also the vagaries of exact positioning in inline text. In fact, I had to choose this route for the mobi (Amazon) version.

    Given all this, and that there are quite legitimate reasons for the publisher needing to retain control over a font, it would seem the best solution would be as follows:

    Content creators can, optionally, force ‘publisher default’ when the document opens (via an ‘option’ setting in the epub’s OPF).

    If the user wishes to override this , they can, but the e-reader will present a simple warning, to the effect that the open document contains its own embedded fonts and over-riding these may cause unintended display effects.


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