Archives for posts with tag: design

There are 3 quick changes that I like to make to ebook css, whether starting a new ebook or doing QA on an existing ebook. These changes help me to:

  1. Read the running text more comfortably
  2. Visualize the information hierarchy more clearly
  3. Give the design a bit of personality

I achieve this by:

  1. Resetting the p selector’s line height
  2. Resetting the p selector’s margins
  3. Adding color that matches the cover to the heads

Here’s what I’m usually looking at before I make these changes to the CSS.

And here’s what I’m thinking:

So I open the CSS and make these adjustments:

I find most ereaders’ line height default to be too tight to be comfortable. Bumping up the line-height fixes this. While I’m in there I throw in hyphenation, widow and orphan, and text-align declarations. I also set the text-indent to zero if I intend to push the epub through Kindle Previewer because older Kindles that read Mobi files (instead of KF8) put a text indent on every single paragraph, whether I want it or not. Note that if I have lists in my ebook, I need to repeat some of the declarations in the selector so that my design choices remain consistent.

While I’m in there I set the margins to zero so that there is no space between paragraphs. But when I do this, I make a p class for a text indent so that readers can see where the next paragraph starts. And that p class with the indent picks up all the good stuff I threw into its parent … the p selector. Now the space around the heads is more noticeable and this strengthens the information hierarchy.

To set off the heads even more, I add a color that matches the cover. Unlike adding color to print designs, adding color to ebooks doesn’t cost a thing. The proliferation of color tablets on the market makes this a quick win. On eink screens the color simply goes to grayscale (but check to make sure the color you choose doesn’t look too faint). The color doesn’t have to be flashy. In my example below it’s navy but it’s enough and it matches the cover to help make a polished package. And while I’m in there I throw in hyphenation declarations to prevent hyphenation in case the heads wrap to a second line. I also like to set the heads as sans-serf, at least in the beginning, to see them more clearly.

Now, of course, some ereaders will override or ignore some of these declarations and human readers have the choice of changing the line-height, font, and other aspects of the text. But as a designer I become familiar with the material first and my job is to present it in a way that will make it more easy to comprehend. If the reader doesn’t agree, they are empowered to make their own choices.

Here’s the before and after:

(click on image to enlarge)

So there’s my 3 favorite CSS changes that get me started on the road to developing an attractive and useful ebook. Feel free to try them yourself. And feel free to share your own favorite “resets.”


The popular Print + ePublishing Conference is rapidly approaching! PePcon is the creation of AnneMarie Concepcion and David Blatner, the powerhouse behind InDesign Secrets. This year, the conference is back in San Francisco and will be held on Monday, May 14 through Wednesday, May 16. It is three days of learning new skills, becoming cutting-edge current with skills you already have in print and digital publishing, and uniting with all sorts of your people—people in the publishing industry. If you decide to go to PePcon (and if you’re in publishing production, you should), you will come away empowered to make real-world, scalable changes to your current workflows … what you’re working on right now. It’s about being smarter about tools and more efficient with time. Who can’t use a good dose of that?

As I’ve been looking over the sessions I’ve been figuring out which ones apply directly to what I’m working on today … and most likely will be working on tomorrow. Here’s the real-world take-aways that I look forward to. My perspective is from that of an in-house ebook developer at a book publisher whose workflow is very template-based and heavy on QA, who is tasked with helping to inform co-workers on the latest developments in ebooks and ereaders, and who doesn’t have enough hours in the day. Here’s what I’m excited to be learning at PePcon this year:

InDesign to iPad and Android Apps > They had me at “get your content out of InDesign and on to the iPad” because, unless you work in an XML environment, it’s likely that your print publications are edited and finalized in InDesign.

Top 10 Scripts and Resources for EPUB Production > Prepping content in InDesign for ePUB export is a challenge if the print publication was prepped without the digital export in mind. Scripting is a way to make the export process faster.

XML for Print and Digital Publishing > At this session you will not only learn why digital prep should optimally start before content is imported into InDesign, but you will also get the opportunity to meet Matthew Diener, the editor of ePUB Secrets.

Producing eBooks from InDesign: ePub and Kindle > If you don’t know the difference between the .epub ebook format and the ebook format for the Kindle, you’ll be in for a treat. Trust me.

Working Smarter: Building InDesign Templates for Print, Tablet, and EPUB > Much of my workflow is based on templates because it is an efficient way to produce a lot of titles quickly. Can I be doing it smarter? That’s a safe bet.

Stay on the Cutting Edge: Five Tools to Learn Now > Looking forward to learning more about TypeKit for digital products.

Long Documents: Ten Essential Techniques > As a print designer my life was long documents. I don’t want to lose my skills as a long-document wrangler. Too, when I use InDesign templates in my ebook workflow I’m still working in long documents.

Creating One-Off Tablet Apps from InDesign > We haven’t produced many apps for our content because one of the challenges is the cost. If I can produce a few in-house it could pay off.

Making Data Beautiful > My designer’s heart sings.

Preparing Images for ePub / eBook > Hoping they will cover the new iPad and what its retina display means for image prep.

Creating Enhanced eBooks > I’ve produced ebooks with audio and video but that was a year ago, which is ages in ebook years.

Let’s Talk Future: How to Prepare for the Next Two Years > Yes, tell me how to keep my job!

The Future of eBook Publishing EPUB3 > Although there are no ereader devices or apps on the market that support EPUB3 right now, we know it’s coming.

Moving Your Publication From Print to Tablet > “Small design elements can make a difference.” Yes!

InDesign Beyond Print: eDocs and Tablet Apps (additional fee) > A day-long seminar is a good chance to dig deep.

These are the sessions that are most applicable to my job as an ebook developer, but you can’t go wrong with any of them. Publishers depend on all of us in production and design to produce print and digital content efficiently and with the highest regard for the author’s voice. Content that visually appeals and connects to the content’s audience. And all this using technology that changes quickly. This conference is valuable in that it’s not just about theory and it’s heavy on the tools and the let’s-get-it-done, can-do attitude. I only wish AnneMarie and David could offer more hours in a day, but hey, maybe that will be coming in 2013.

So make your plans to attend PePcon soon … it’s only 5 weeks away. And AnneMarie and David are offering a $25 discount with the code GEEKME when you register. I hope to see you there.