My eyes are stinging and my brain is dizzier than usual. I just finished reading for my bookstore’s review two excellent young adult books for consideration of including them on our shelves and hand-selling them once we do. OK, so why the physical impacts?
Both books were interior designed using serif-less fonts. They’re OK for ads or internet usage, but they are horrendous for reading on paper. Why? and Why were they used? Ah, here is my best guess. It may all be about laziness on the part of the interior designer/typesetter. Follow along as I explain more:
Text fonts that use serifs are easier to read. The serifs, those little tittles that come to points on each letter’s lines, bring closure to the letters. They let the eye know what the each letter is (try to figure out if a letter is a capital I or a small L in a sanserif font). Reading the text in a book without that help is daunting at best.
The two books I read were The Eleventh Plague and Cinder, and both were excellent, except for the typesetting. I know whereof I speak. I am an interior designer for books and a design judge for the Ben Franklin Awards. Neither books would have made it to the Ben Franklin finals but would have been rejected out of hand immediately.
So, why would a designer use sanserif fonts for his text paragraphs? I don’t know for sure, but I’d guess it was done out of sheer laziness or for a publisher’s cost cutting guidance. Many people prefer using sanserif text fonts for computer screens, where serifs can become too complex for screen resolutions. For this reason, many ebooks are set with sanserif text fonts. OK, so the designer makes the ebook version first thing since they are cheaper, easier, and quicker to publish. Why go back through and change all the text paragraphs to serifed fonts. After all, they are wider (which may add to the page count) and may create some widows and orphans that weren’t there before (again screwing up the layout throughout the book).
It’s my guess that is what happened with these two books I just struggled through to read with my aging eyesight. I think that many self-publishers may fall into this trap as well (both these books were from major publishers). Give your readers a break and design your books correctly. There is a reason for every designing tradition and standard practices.
As a Smashwords ebook author and publisher and an independent bookstore owner, I have been concerned about the direction ebooks are taking us. At times I have been feeling like I was running a buggy whip business while folks down the street had started to sell gasoline. How could I compete?
That has been the quandary for many independent bookstores. If they didn’t have a very expensive website with the American Booksellers Association on their IndieBound.com system, they had no access to sell ebooks to their customers. That has changed with the advent of book distributor Baker & Taylor’s new service for independent bookstores who use them as their primary first-choice for book orders.
If you go to
you will find a landing page similar to what you would find at Amazon, but easier to navigate. Halfway down the page you will find:
This will take you to an information page and also allow you to download an e-reader app onto your computer. When looking for books on the site’s search engine, if there is an ebook version available, it will show up along with the hardback version, the various audio versions, the reinforced library version, the trade paperback, and the mass market paperback. If you want the ebook, click on it to go into the shopping cart. It will give you a choice of formats. The rest is business as usual. Notice that we have built automatic discounts into what we offer through our site on Baker & Taylor. Oh, BTW, if you need to rent textbooks, click on that tab and perform your search. Once found, that goes into either the shopping cart or the rental cart, depending.
In addition to the ebooks for fees selections, you can also peruse GoogleBooks for their thousands of free open-source materials. I’ve downloaded eight free ebooks about Buffalo Bill Cody and Leavenworth’s history that I can use for research material in support of my historical performer gigs. These were written in the late 1800s and early 1900s and are no longer protected by copyright.
In all, this really levels the playing field for us. Anything bought through this site goes toward our bookstore’s account. In other words, we get our share. Now we have the ability to sell in two markets we’ve always wanted and didn’t have the ability to do so. This may prove the salvation of mom & pop stores like ours. We’re really grateful Baker & Taylor recognized the need and came up with a solution in which everybody wins.
We sell a book in our bookstore that elementary school teachers have been clamoring for. Roaring Brook Press published it and Lane Smith wrote and illustrated it. The title is It’s A Book. A picture book for 4-7 year-old children, it’s also hilarious to adults. It features three characters: a mouse, a monkey, and a Jack Ass. Like too many of our youngsters today, Jack Ass has never seen a book. Why? Maybe it’s because his parents have been too ready to use electronic babysitters. For example, when we asked our son what our grandson needed for Christmas, he said, “Anything, as long as it’s electronic.”
Given this all too common attitude, Lane Smith’s story progresses. Monkey is seated, quietly reading. Jack Ass approaches and asks, “What’s that?”
“It’s a book.”
“How do you scroll down?”
“I don’t. I turn the page. It’s a book.”
“Do you blog with it?”
“No, it’s a book.”
The conversation continues in the same vein. Finally, curiosity gets the better of Jack Ass. He asks to see the book and gets totally hooked. At the end, he reassures Monkey that he’ll charge it up when he’s done.
Monkey replies, “You don’t have to. It’s a book, Jack Ass.”
Although this is a cutely funny book, it’s also scarey in that it’s the direction our society is headed. Because of the convenience and relative cheapness of ebooks, we are steering a new generation away from printed books and into the high technology of now and in the future. It’s a brave new world we’re headed toward. I keep predicting that bookstores may be things of the past within 10 years. Can any of you make a case that proves me wrong? I’d love to hear your opinions. Remember, we all love physical books; however, are they on the outs? What do you think?
Tis the season to be jolly in the book retailing business. This year’s season has been busier than many. Our sales are definitely up; however, they have also been unusual. I will give this my best guesses as to why. I will address:
- Mid Lists
- Impact of Ebooks
Although many industry watchers tend to focus on the NYT’s Bestseller List, they do not tell a representative story and here is why. First, the NYTs is tainted by the way books are reported and manipulated by the big publishers. Sometimes the same books get counted multiple times: when the publisher sells them, when the bookstores buy them, and when the book buying public walks out the door with them. Of course this all greatly skews book buying reality, as does how many of these books are sold. One can go to most large-scale grocery stores and big box discount chains to find these same books discounted 30 to 50%. They’re used as loss leaders. We independent booksellers purchase our books from distributors and publishers for discounts of 38% to 50%. That makes it difficult for us to compete. Most of our bestseller sales are to folks who are loyal to us (bless their hearts) or who find a bestseller book convenient to purchase when buying other, less touted books. For independent booksellers, NYT’s bestsellers are not where we make our important sales.
What we’re seeing a lot of are sales of series books, adult and young adult, and what I would call the old war horses—books that have been popular for years and new books by the same authors. We’re also seeing a lot of long tail niche books being special ordered. Books this year have represented the awareness and caring for the tastes of friends and family. Our shoppers have expressed their opinion that books are a convenient way to one-stop-shop for the holidays. For that reason, although the number of shoppers is pretty much the same, they are buying a lot more than they usually do.
Impact of Ebooks
Although we’ve had a number of customers who have freely admitted to owning an e-reader of one form or another, they’re still buying regular books for themselves and others. We’re just not seeing much of an impact as compared to the major bookstore chains. I still think we are aways off being hurt by e-books at the independent bookstore level.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all my readers.
With the exploding popularity of ebooks, especially with Google’s announcement this week of selling their ebooks thru Indie bookstores, it’s time to address this subject. Illustrations in ebooks are problematic. Unlike printed books, which require a skilled book designer to meticulously layout and place illustrations, especially in nonfiction books. Tables and the like must be kept with their pertinent text.
Ebooks have the unfortunate reality of an ever-changing playing field, which makes the placement of illustrations more difficult. Those who use their e-readers have the ability to vary the font type and size. The e-publishers have strict submission requirements to make the ebooks as simple as possible so they can be translated into the various e-reader formats readily.
This is why one must work closely with the ebook publisher or distributor in order to give one’s illustrations the best possible chance of successfully working with the text of all the e-reader formats. In addition, there is the issue of color, especially important for children’s picture books. I believe the newest iPads may have a color capability. As fast as the technology changes, I think most of the e-readers will have this capability in the not-to-distant future.
Finally, unlike print books, which encourage careful font selection, drop caps, and chapter head designs, ebooks require the use of only the most universal of fonts and as few text styles as necessary to universally support the various e-reader formats. This means the designer must be able to accommodate both print and ebook styles in their designs. Ebooks are simplistic enough for most anyone to produce a Word version of their book formatted to the ebook translator software’s requirements; however, some would rather not bother and leave this to a designer.
Ebook illustrations and text are important subjects to keep on top of as the emerging technology has the potential to affect their structure and requirements. It’s important to read industry newsletters and magazines to stay current on digital developments.
In deference to storage space and other issues, I have cleared the boards, so to speak, of all the first year’s posts. There is a lot of good information and comments in them which is now contained in an ebook titled TRENDY TIPS FOR WRITERS AND PUBLISHERS, The first year of the Book Trends Blog, 2009–2010, which you can see, sample, and even purchase at Smashwords,
. The posts have been rearranged by theme to make it easier to find the subjects you’re looking for. I will continue to add to the current year’s crop through September of next year, so you will continue to have good, timely info and a ready reference for it next year.