Book Design for eReaders

There’s a whole lot of Kindle going on in my family. Even before Christmas arrives it looks like just about everyone owns either a Kindle or an iPad with the Kindle app installed. Since Kindles can also read PDF documents, this opens up a whole lot of family history opportunities for me. The challenge will be designing my projects to be read on the small Kindle screen.

Unlike e-books, PDF documents don’t flow to fit the screen on the device. PDFs are paged documents and the whole page is resized to fit the screen. This means a PDF document designed for 8½ x 11 paper will be reduced to fit the 6-inch screen. Yes, the reader can zoom in to read a section, but all that zooming and scrolling can quickly become quite irritating. Why not design your document for the small screen from the beginning and make it easy for everyone?

Both the new Kindle readers and the iPad have screens sized with a 3:4 ratio in portrait view. The Kindles’ screens are 600 x 800 pixels and the iPad is 786 x 1024 pixels. If you format your projects around the Kindle’s smaller screen, you’ll insure your work will be very readable on either device. My first project is a sample book which I will pass on to each of my sisters for reviews. I have a couple of friends with Nook readers and I’ll probably ask them for help too.

For my template, I set my page size at 6″ wide by 8″ high with .25″ margins. I’m guessing a larger font like Palantino at 12pt or even 14pt will be a good choice for my body text and something like Bodoni 72 Smallcaps will work for my headings. Why these fonts? I chose these fonts because they are also available on my iPad and chances are good that I’ll be working on projects both on my iPad and on my desktop. This just makes things easy for me.

I will be using color photos and design elements in my project so that it will provide the best experience possible on each reader’s device. But, because many of those readers are using monochrome e-Ink Kindles, I’ll keep the designs simple. Instead of patterned paper mats behind photos, I’ll stick with the simple photo-style frames my word processing app provides. I won’t try placing text over an image either since chances are good that will result in a muddled mess. However, I can still add some style to my project by putting text inside shapes, by using some of the more decorative fonts or by including some typographic embellishments.

I recently sent a simple test document to my sister who’s had a Kindle since day one. She had a problem with the font (Techno Pro) being difficult to read – it was too “thin”. The photos appear much darker on the monochrome screen. Once we find the sweet spot for document formatting, I’ll save the results as a template so I can easily create and share family stories.

Now I need to work on getting the rest of my family Kindle users to give me the secret squirrel email address for their Kindles so I can send stories straight to their readers. Hmmm . . .


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