We Are Gods 1: Indies create the eBook

Before the Kindle or even Amazon, programmers raced to develop on-screen images that looked like open books with pages that turned. But turning the page on those books took 4 or more seconds! Readers just want to get to the next part of the text as quickly as possible.

And programmers responded. And huge kudos and respect to them! They are the ones inventing the paper and binding and printing press of online publishing. But—

There is no “traditional” eBook format guide. We’re writing that guide. You and I. By the choices we make, we’re our own formatting gods.

I had an exchange with another author who disagrees. Their argument, in part:

… adhering to publishing world standards … speaks to upholding tradition and consistency … of respecting all the author’s work who’ve come before us …

  1. Indie writers are the “publishing world.” A portion of it, anyway. We are authors and editors, promoters and publishers.
  2. “Upholding tradition.” The trad standards for print books developed to make the book readable and most profitable for the publisher. For instance, paragraphs are indented instead of set off with a space to save paper.
  3. “Consistency” is relative. Trad publishing formatting guidelines often differ from publisher to publisher. And those guidelines evolved, too—different in the 30s than the 60s than now.
  4. “Respecting author’s who came before us.” I imagine if Shakespeare showed up today, he’d be Stephen Spielberg, not recreating the Globe theater. Respecting him, or any great artist of the past, means serving our art by learning our trade, using all our tools, innovating when it serves better, and depending on familiar modalities when they serve the reader best. Trad authors do what publishers require because they have very little control over their own creations.

Just as Shakespeare invented new words and new ways of using old words, the true tradition is doing the best thing possible to deliver the work to the audience.

This series of posts explores ways of doing that in ebooks. 


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