Since I acquired my iPad, I’ve been devouring ebooks. I’ve discovered that, aesthetics aside, there’s no real difference between reading a book in its dead tree version versus a book on a screen. Either format can transport me to into that magical state of consciousness where the world outside disappears and I am absorbed in a world of words, whether those words are made of ink or electrons.
One thing really bugs me, however, and that is formatting.
Without fail, every ebook I have read has suffered from broken words or other typographical glitches. I recently began Lev Grossman’s The Magicians, for one example, and in my first reading session I’ve already encountered at least four broken words—words that were probably hyphenated in the original text but are broken by Amazon’s formatting (I think those are referred to as “soft hyphens”). Also missing was a drop cap from a chapter opening. And it’s not just Amazon at fault—all of the books I’ve purchased from Apple’s iBooks store have had the same problems.
Are publishers not doing enough quality control before submitting their texts to Amazon, B&N, and the iBookstore? That seems to be the case. I understand that one benefit of electronic readers—the ability to resize and change fonts—is what causes some of the broken words and other glitches. It doesn’t kill the reading experience, but it’s annoying and kills the all-important immersion in the material. And it’s just plain ugly, too.
I expect my electronic books to be as carefully edited and formatted as any I’d buy in dead tree form. And they aren’t. I wouldn’t accept multiple typographic errors in a hard-copy book from a major publisher—why should ebooks get a pass?