Book Trends Blog

December 7, 2010

Illustrations and Text in Ebooks by Bob Spear

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.



  1. All reasons why, if I had my druthers, PDF would be the eBook format.

    Comment by Stephen Tiano — December 14, 2010 @ 12:53 am | Reply

  2. […] Illustrations and Text in Ebooks by Bob Spear   (December 7, 2010) […]

    Pingback by Self-Publishing Review | Blog | A Bloody eBook Conversion Project — January 26, 2011 @ 4:34 am | Reply

  3. An illustrator and I are creating a Children’s Chapter Book Ebook. The illustrator will add illustrations and convert the manuscript to PDF.

    I’m sending the manuscript to him as a Word doc. Question: Should I use Headers and page numbers? I’m concerned, because when illustrations are added, page numbers may change, and pages with full-page illustrations should not have Headers. Also, Should I leave spaces in the manuscript for the pictures? Any advice that you can give will be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

    Comment by Carol Osborne — February 14, 2011 @ 7:03 pm | Reply

  4. Perhaps some of my answers will help:
    No, don’t send headers and footers such as page numbers. All of that will vary as to the different e-readers that are displaying the book and the choice of font and font size the reader displays them in. Pictures should be embedded in your Word file. For more information as to how Smashwords deal with it download their free style guide at . I hope this helps a little.

    Comment by bobspear — February 15, 2011 @ 6:47 pm | Reply

  5. Glad to hear you’re working on this, Bob. I’ve done some experimenting with illustrations on the gray scale Kindle. See: Can’t wait for the Fire to come out, because I anticipate the quality of illustrations on it will be much better.

    Comment by Thomas C. Davis — November 11, 2011 @ 12:22 am | Reply

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