Tuesday, November 1, 2011

"Art Escapes" ebook format comparisons

I just found out an old favorite book is now out in ebook format: Art Escapes by Dory Kanter. (US link.)

It pays off to shop around, perhaps even more so with ebooks than anything else (since an ebook can technically be sold at a profit at almost any price). I bought this book at an impulse at the Google Ebook Store for £15.44. Then I read Dory's newsletter which I'd just gotten in the email, and found out the book is out in all the ebook stores, including Kindle, which normally has not featured many graphically rich books. So I checked with Amazon, and there I could buy it for £6.31! (In the US Amazon store it is $10.18) (What's with all the small fractions? How do they decide between 10.18 and 10.19?)

But it is interesting to compare the formats though. The Google format (PDF) is used here to show the whole page from the paper book as a unit. Whereas the Kindle format is chopped up in bits of text and graphics, so it will show better on small screens like the Kindle (or for that matter the Kindle Fire).

I would say the Kindle format is easier to read, and if the reader uses a small screen an ebook format like that is far superior, sometimes necessary. You can set the text size to fit your eyes and mood.  But if one uses an iPad, the PDF full-page format is much more fun to look at, and one gets the full aesthetic impact of the writer's and designer's intentions. (The downside at the moment being that for some reason the Google Ebooks app won't zoom into the pages for easier reading, a big flunk. I hope that gets fixed soon. Their Mac app does it, so they know it can be done...)

Here are samples from this book in the Kindle version and the Google PDF version so you can compare. (Obviously they are both viewed on an iPad.)

Kindle-formatted page (I've used the Sepia view here): 

PDF format:  

Another set:


PDF page: 

I don't mean to imply that this is the only way these formats can be used, of course the ebook designer has a lot of decisions to make. But I think these are typical and show the pros and cons well.

It should be added that with "ePub 3", and Apple's "fixed-page ePub" format, and now with the new Kindle Format 8, full, rich pages are clearly destined to become more common on all the major platforms. I don't know how they will decide how to sell a Kindle book, if a single file will have versions for small kindles as well as for large screens or what, that will be interesting to see.

For further comparison, here is how it looks on the Kindle device itself, in photo and screenshot. (Of course the screenshots show it in clear black-and-white, like I wish the screen itself did.      :-) Apart from no colors, it's actually not a bad experience.

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