Traditional publishing produces cheap and nasty ebooks, as an afterthought.
There is nothing more annoying than paying good money for an ebook and then discovering that it was produced as a trivial afterthought by a publisher, who took no care whatsoever in preparing the book for electronic publication. This is often the complaint about self-publishers, but it holds true for traditional publishing as well.
I stumbled on this example today after my wife suggested a book about teaching that I might be interested in reading. It was available on Amazon, so I went to have a look. The first thing I noticed was that the Kindle ebook price was only two dollars less than the hard cover price. My first hint of a rip off on the horizon. But I read the two line book description, (thank you kindly Mr. Publisher for offering so much information about your book!) and then a few of the reviews. Yes, they were outstandingly positive. Traditional publishing is very good at posting positive reviews.
This wasn’t surprising as the book was published by Harvard University Press, which is, of course, a highly reputed traditional publishing company of text and reference books. Can I just emphasise the word, books, here? It was also published very recently in April 2014, which is why my ire struck when I clicked for a preview read of the Kindle ebook version.
How long have ebooks been around? One would think that this was the first ebook ever published by Harvard University Press. Within the first couple of pages, the formatting made my head spin. It was a total and absolute disaster.
Here are two screen shots of only the first two pages of the preview, which clearly show totally different heading text formatting.
“So will we centre them, left align or indent? Or make them a hyperlink? Big, small or huge, Oh, let’s do them all. And what about paragraphing? Yes, first line indent, for sure. Oh, oops. What are those big gaps? Who cares, leave them. No one will notice a few line breaks.”
These screen shots are only from the very limited preview on the Amazon website, so I would shudder to think what the book would read like on a Kindle. Are the big gaps page breaks? How annoying is an ebook with three blank pages in a row? Who knows? I doubt Harvard University Press do either.
My suspicion is that this is certainly not their first ebook, but is in fact one in a long line of e-books, published as an afterthought, using a text document formatted for the printed version, with only the addition of contents links, and then uploaded in a few minutes to Amazon, and only caring about charging near the full hardcover price for such a pile of rubbish. Surely for the price, an hour or two could have been invested by the publisher in producing a readable ebook.
Needless to say, I didn’t buy this e-book. Nor did I order the hardcover version. My interest, along my thoughts of being ripped off were already too far developed to bother looking any further at this book.
However, this is good news for self-publishing authors. At least you know how to format an e-book, and don’t kill off your potential reader’s enthusiasm by page two of your book’s preview.
*Footnote: This is definitely not the first example of horrid ebook formatting I have seen from traditional publishing (and very well known) publishers. So many treat ebooks only as an afterthought, but happily rake in the profits on doing next to nothing for their ebook buyers.