Please Stop Complaining About E-book Design

There is a lot of complaining about how badly electronic books are designed. It’s true that 90% of e-book designs are crap. Most designers can tell you that. Probably exactly the same thing they say about paper books. The only difference is that in case of p-books they sometimes spot and share a good stuff.

When we talk about e-books the one single design association is a mix of white background, smiling photostock figure and a huge “how-to” title. Does that mean, that well designed e-books don’t exist? And this is what really bothers me: recognized, experienced book designers either ignore e-books or reject them.

Please stop it. Open your imagination to e-books. There is a lot to be done. 90% of designs are waiting to be improved. This would be much better, if we all start to find and share great, inspiring examples of e-book design. I have a perfect collection to start with. Fiction e-book covers designed by Paul John Lyon. They’re amazing. Look at them. What’s even more exciting is that PJ Lyon is a self-published fiction writer. The one, who represents the best of what author 2.0 can give: passion to create a book at every possible level.

Yes, yes, some designers probably doubt: can a cover designed by a writer be good at all? Well, definitely yes. Just the same as the book written by a designer.

9 Replies to “Please Stop Complaining About E-book Design”

  1. Oh come on.
    Really, when you say “ebook design” all you can see is the cover? (At least that’s what the title of this entry suggests – not to mention the phrase “every level”). It has very little to do with BOOK design, regarding readability for example – and as far as I can see, we are still talking Feedbooks here that does not care at all about actual design.

    And yeah, tell me about how hard it is to be serious about ebook design… I’m planning to write my disertation about ebooks in few years and I have already been told by bunch of people than nobody will take me seriously if I do. But I’m not discouraged ;)


  2. >Ingie
    We have to start from something and cover is always a good place to start from:-)
    Designing a book will have to change, as flexible formats are flying in (ePub is not only a Feedbooks thing), but you know better than myself. There are tech gyus to dominate this, but I’m sure designers can also find ways to control the behind-the-cover..
    “Every level” was meant to be writing a book, designing a book (yes, cover is enough) and promoting a book.
    And if you found somewhere sth, which is both e-book AND great design – share the link.
    Don’t be discouraged, you’re not alone;)


  3. >podpisany
    Yeah, they also said that web will be dominated by tech guys… and where would we be now without webdesigners? ;)
    And no, cover is not enough. You of all people should know, being such an interested person when it comes to ebooks, that it’s not a bad cover that drives people away from reading on screen. The most popular concern, as I have read, is the fact that eyes get tired very quickly when you are reading an ebook – and I think, I am almost sure that most of the problem lies with poor design of the *text* and not cover. Or lack of design, for that matter.

    From my point of view, such websites as Feedbooks do not help. Allowing customization is one thing, where an actual book designer wants an ebook he might be capable of choosing the right parameters to secure his comfort but I highly doubt that there are many people both aware of the problem and willing to customize… And don’t get me started on the default setting ;)

    I’m afraid I haven’t seen an ebook that would be a great design both by my and your standards, most of the pretty ebooks I have read don’t have covers at all, they’re articles that don’t need advertising or selling :) and they’re pretty not because the designer was thinking about making a pretty ebook but a pretty p-book, as you call them, and a good design is a good design.
    When I have sth worth sharing, you know I will.


  4. >Ingie
    Please stop complaining;-)
    Start to think what would you do to improve it. You’re the one to give a lot of positive input here.


  5. Text design for e-books is mostly on the rendering engine side.
    The content producer isn’t responsible for the lack of hyphenation, ligatures or kerning in the text of an EPUB or a Mobipocket file.

    As a content producer you can select a different font, margins, line & paragraph spacing but these are all things that the user/reading system might override (that’s the case with Stanza for example) and you don’t get much control over real typography with only these CSS properties.


  6. The cover design will evolve and adjust, but it’ll still be a single design for a single book.
    There is a completely different story with book content. With new generation adjustable formats like ePub, one-to-one work will not happen, as a final book design will not exist – users will have space to adjust a book to their needs/devices.
    A structural change is needed: designers should be involved where the design standards are created:
    – electronic book formats
    – e-reading applications
    – e-reading devices
    – in between
    The better designed “in”, the better designed “out”.
    Seems like a fantastic challenge:-)


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