Kindle and NOOK readers and tablets are flying off the shelves this Christmas season. I hope Santa’s bringing you one, but I also hope that Santa’s bringing them to all your family members too. As a family historian, these readers offer you some great opportunities to share your family history. Kindle’s Personal Document Service makes it email-easy to send a PDF document to other Kindle devices and cloud storage services like Dropbox are available via free apps on the NOOK Tablet and NOOK Color. NOOK e-Ink readers can easily transfer files to the device via USB.
The challenge for us is to design a layout for our history projects that best fits the readers’ screens. While any one of these devices is capable of reading an 8½ x 11 PDF document, it will involve constant zooming in and out as the person tries to read the text. Not a very pleasant experience. By setting the layout size down to something more fitting for the device, we can build projects that make the reading experience much better. It’s a shame to have a good story and great photos that are – literally – a pain to read.
The current stock of Kindle and NOOK e-Ink readers have 600 x 800 pixel screen sizes while the Kindle Fire, NOOK Tablet and NOOK Color are 600 x 1024 pixels. Working with the smallest size, I created a document with a page size of 6″ x 8″ (Yes, I know that’s over simplistic, but it worked.) and 0.25″ margins all the way around. It’s an e-book so don’t waste effort and space on headers and footers.
Here’s what my results look like on an e-Ink Kindle and a NOOK Color. Unfortunately there’s no screen capture on either devices so you’re stuck with my amateur photography.
One issue I discovered right away is that neither device especially likes the way Pages (Apple’s word processing app) manipulates images. On both devices, the images that were rotated a bit to the right or left had pixelated edges and the shadow effects set up using formatting tools in Pages were downright ugly. If you want to do a collage of photos, include special effects or arrange them in any way other than straight up and down, do it in your favorite photo editor and pull that into your project. [More on images in upcoming posts.]
Another concern is type. I was using a “creative” font – Teckton Pro – in this project. Although it’s readable, it appears a bit blurry. It’s best to use a font similar to the default ones on your reader. Good choices would be Baskerville, Garamond or Times New Roman. Keep your font size on the large side – 12 or 14 pt is good. Designers recommend sticking with left alignment for text instead of full justification. Unless you intend to spend a lot of time hyphenating words in your text – and re-hyphenating every time you do any kind of editing – full justification makes e-reading more difficult.
PDF documents do not allow the reader to adjust font size, but they do offer a way to combine text and images in creative layouts not yet available using the e-reading formats. Unlike those formats each PDF page is a separate entity – a small vignette. This means more layout opportunity for you, but it also means more effort. Start with a small project and ask for feedback from your family members. Once you’ve got a layout that works for you, save it as a template and use it as the starting point for future projects.