Epub Blues

Some of our digital editions (in the epub format) don’t read very well on certain devices. Sigh.

You might have seen an error screen like the image above instead of a nice cover page. You might also get problems with some of the line breaks.

To this I say: Grr.

For much of our original run, people would ask after digital editions. For a long time I said “NO! There will be no digital edition under any circumstances! New Escapologist stands against screens and electronic gizmos.”

To which some people would say: “But what about minimalism?”

To which I would say: “I see what you mean but even minimalists own some books. Have our periodicals among your treasured possessions. Or pass them on once you’ve read them. Ebooks are the devil’s dinner.”

But then others would say: “For me it’s about access. I can’t read the printed page. I need to be able to zoom in on the text.”

To which I would mumble: “mm, okay, fair enough.”

I don’t want to exclude anyone from our blistering wit and wisdom. So I made our future editions and back issues available in PDF. For minimalism and for access.

But even then, some people said they wanted epub since this is apparently the best format for embiggening text and hopping between items in a table of contents. Honestly, Gutenberg didn’t have to contend with any of this.

This time around, in advance of Issue 14, I tried to get the epub format nailed down, despite not really understanding or liking or believing in it. This is why there are errors. I’m not entirely sure what to do now.

I’m tempted to offer PDF as the only digital format from now on. They work on every device so far as I know and they have the happy bonus of displaying the work as it’s supposed to look. A lot of thought goes into the design of the print editions, you know, and the epub format strips all of that thought and craft and beauty away.

On the other hand, I don’t know if PDF meets the accessibility requirements of most people who need it or if it can have the metadata useful to digital library platforms.

What do the digital media preferers among you think? Here’s a quick survey, open for the next month.


Robert Wringham is the editor of New Escapologist. He also writes books and articles. Read more at wringham.co.uk

3 Responses to “Epub Blues”

  1. Radhika says:

    Leaving a comment because I don’t exactly have a clear answer for the form… Epub is the most accessible, however, if the PDF is still “textual” (not scanned images), it can work with magnifiers and especially, text-to-speechreaders. Hopefully that makes sense… I’d say DEFINITELY a textual PDF, and if it’s too much work for the Epub, I don’t think it’s worth an extra expense if the only people who can successfully make an Epub to your vision are professionals.

  2. Radhika says:

    Oh, it’s also worth asking this as a question here. If we bought the print edition, do we also get access to the PDF? Some of us can kind of see, and kind of not.

  3. Thanks for both of your comments. That’s great. I have been thinking about giving the PDF to everyone who bought the print version. It’s just a question of how to administer that. I’ll look into it properly.

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