Ugly Ebooks / What makes an Ebook an Ebook?

Ugly Ebooks
This article was written back in 2009; and yet ebooks are still ugly! The new version of the Kindle has not improved the look of the ebooks themselves because the publishers are not putting the time into making them work properly let alone look nice! To be honest I have only bought a few ebooks so far but from what I have seen and heard from others too it's just that no-one commercially seems to want to invest the same amount of time designing an ebook than they would designing a print book. I am extremely disappointed that all my bought Kindle books use the same font, have confusing, often double pagination (one page no. referring to the print version, one to the e version), and when it comes to non-fiction books their ease of use (contents pages and indexes) is just not really thought about. I would really like someone to come along and tell me I am wrong and that I am just looking at the wrong ebooks, but really until the books I want to read on my device are up to the standard I would expect I am still going to be disappointed and thinking twice about spending more money buying them. If they want us to spend almost the same amount on an ebook as we do on physical books they need to actually function well. Digitizing an already existing book does not make it an ebook!
[rant over!]

What makes an Ebook?
What makes an ebook a book? [and not a website/page or media file?] Should it now just be defined text with added extras, a form to read from? Is a PDF an ebook, or just a document that we can read on a handheld device? Is it the device itself that makes what we read on it a book? Is a book just a reading machine?
[just some questions I have had running through my head recently, especially after Elaine Treharne's (@etreharne) keynote 'The Numbered Days of The Page' at The Future Perfect of The Book symposium back in November.]


Amanda said...

I haven't put much time into thinking about it, like you have, but I'll have a spontaneous go at some of your questions.
1) an ebook (to me) is an edition that is readable on a screen -regardless of device.
2) not just a pdf - that's just a document
3)like hardback or paperbacks, ebooks can be poorly designed, and I don't think publishers are really thinking about design yet. They're barely coping with the new technology - they need to get intimate with it, fall in love with it and learn what it has to offer. I wonder how many of them actually read ebooks? Perhaps they still don't think they're *really* books?
4) as for artists ebooks - the same demands and rigour apply, IMHO. If you go with an ebook for your book "structure", then it needs to work for your concept and be fully utilized to further your concept.

Abigail Thomas said...

thanks for your interest Amanda, and yes I totally agree with the last one that's specific to artists' ebooks; just like a structure, you wouldn't use an accordion structure of book if it wasn't relevant to the content or made the book into something it wasn't without it...