The prickly question of formats

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a publisher in possession of a book must be in want of an appropriate digital publishing format. Laura Brady, principal at Brady Type, a digital + print book production studio, thinks publishers should ditch their prejudices when looking for the right format.

Reflowable. Fixed-layout. DPS app. Multi-touch. Buzz words or evidence of a digital embarrasment of riches? The truth is, this plethora of digital publishing choices is bewildering for those making the decisions. 

The question of formats is a thorny one. In the past two years, I have spent hundreds of hours counselling publishers and authors on the right format for their content. My focus has always rigorously been the content and which digital file type will suit it the best. Ya know, the lofty goal of serving the content.

That said, there is a definite and perceptible trend of publishers opting for the static fixed-layout format, regardless of content, because they’re attached to the design of the print page layout. This is partly because of the ease of using the tools on the market (InDesign and Circular Flo, for example), and partly because of their own print hangovers.

Fixed-layout serves the content well when it’s an image-based page with static dimensions. It is the polar opposite of responsive, and requires precise coding to work well. Opting for this format limits the publisher’s retail outlets dramatically. And the conversion to the KF8-FXL format is still a tricky hurdle to jump.

Despite the new InDesign-to-FXL easy button, I urge publishers to consider the content, semantics, and lifespan of their ebooks. The static fixed-layout format won’t stretch and shrink on yet-to-be-released platforms. And text-heavy books will be hard to read, especially on devices with no pinch-to-zoom, as the font size can’t be altered.

At my “Opting out of FXL” ebookcraft workshop, I will suggest some strategies for creating complex, reflowable titles that are well-designed, semantic, and future-proof.

Don’t want to miss out on Laura’s workshop? Sign up before registration closes on Feb. 25.