Ebooks, you’re doing it wrong
After having read several ebooks in the very popular and enthusiastically marketed Kindle and iBook formats, I can vouch for the claim that ebook typography is terrible. Dashes do indeed become hyphens. Section headings are indeed stripped of their boldfacedness. Etc. These are minor irritants, yes. The world has more pressing concerns. But ebooks, while less expensive than their paper and ink counterparts, still aren’t cheap, and it’s obnoxious to pay twelve bucks for something, crack it open — “crack it open” — and find mistakes that could have been corrected by a Knopf intern taught how to make regular text bold.
Another example. I have not examined a physical copy of Alan Brinkley’s The Publisher, but I would bet that, in the middle of chapter 5, one will find the 20 or so glossy pages of captioned photographs that one often finds bound in the center of history books. Because for no good reason at all, that — right there in the middle of the chapter, between two adjacent paragraphs — is where they appear in the ebook.
With a little effort, the makers of The Publisher’s digital incarnation could have one-upped the printed book by positioning these photographs to accompany relevant bits of Brinkley’s text, illustrating, e.g., a description of Henry Luce’s childhood with a photo of Luce as a toddler. You can’t do that sort of thing in an old-fashioned book book, where the difficulties of using glossy paper (the cost, the positioning of glossy pages in arbitrary spots throughout the text) sink the whole prospect. You can get that fancy — “fancy”; this is simple stuff — in an ebook.
But no. The people behind The Publisher didn’t take the time. They didn’t even move these photo pages out of chapter 5 to, say, their own section at the end of the book. They just left ‘em.
It makes me wonder if people are reading over these things before they’re Kindlized or turned into iBooks.