Ebooks vs print books — it’s a rivalry that’s been around for a while. But why should you have to choose? Just do both!
In this excerpt from Book Design Made Simple, we lay out a few of the gains and losses for your book if you convert your InDesign file to an ebook file in either EPUB (most ebooks) or MOBI (Kindle only) format. Our guide to this topic is longer than we can show on this webpage, but read the entire chapter in our print book—or our ebook!
Ebooks vs print books
What you will lose in a reflowable ebook edition
Some of the features that you designed with great care are going to disappear in your ebook. Similar to a website, the way an ebook looks depends on the device that’s being used to view it. Most ebook readers have color screens, but some don’t. Some have built-in proprietary designs that take over all books and simply display them all the same. The only thing that’s guaranteed to remain in the ebook is the words. Once you come to terms with this idea, you’ll feel better about losing the features in the list below.
- Folios and running heads In an ebook, your folios and running heads become irrelevant.
- The back cover Sadly, this is not needed in an ebook. All that great information that you gathered for the back cover can go on your book’s website and in the online bookstore’s description instead. You can use it for your ebook’s and website’s metadata descriptions, too.
- All your careful typesetting In your ebook you will see widows and orphans everywhere! But try not to fret because someone else will see different ones—it all depends on their device and the size of the text on their screen. If there is some type that simply must sit just so on a page, alert your conversion service. They will isolate that section and treat it like a piece of art, placing it where you want it.
What you will gain in a reflowable ebook edition
In some cases, ebooks can give the reader a better experience than a print book. One reason is that they can see color versions of your illustrations (if they have a color device). For some people, being able to greatly enlarge the type makes ebooks the only viable way to read a book at all. Other readers simply like the fact that they can loads dozens of books onto their device at once. Also, because ebooks usually cost less, people tend to buy more of them. And don’t forget that reading ebooks saves trees, too.
Specifically, here’s what you’ll gain in your ebook edition:
- Color If your book is printed in black only and you have illustrations, save RGB color versions of the illustrations and use them here. Even without illustrations, your book can be made more appealing with color in your headings, chapter openers, sidebar backgrounds, and so on. You can go back now and create a new RGB color version of your book by making a few changes in your paragraph and object styles. (Aren’t styles wonderful?)
- Hyperlinks InDesign automatically creates links to websites or email addresses when the file is converted to EPUB. If the device is able, it will jump to the link on the Internet while the reader is still on the book page; this is indisputably very handy. Also you can add links to websites, to other places in your book, or to your glossary, and even have pop-up footnotes or definitions for your key terms. (Some reader devices support this, but others don’t.)
Create ebook and print editions
As you can see, readers have good reasons to choose their preference for ebooks or print books. Why not produce an ebook and print edition of your book, and thereby cover both markets?
Read more: Digital vs offset printing — which is better? » spells out the pros and cons of both.
And more: POD book publishing » explains reasons to use or not use print on demand.
Need more info about book design, InDesign, and publishing? Our website, book, videos, and blog cover every aspect of how to design and publish a book, whether you’re already an experienced book designer or a complete novice. Download chapters 1 through 9 of the book by subscribing to our blog—simply fill in the form below, and click the Join Us! button.