Formatting Your eBook for Smart Phones and Tablets

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Seasoned authors know they always put their readers first. Both fiction and nonfiction writers must immediately capture reader attention and keep them turning the pages. Fiction writers do that with compelling characters and dialogue. Nonfiction writers have the advantage of using brief stories, statistics and bullet points to maintain reader attention.

Today, authors need to do more than just think about the text when it comes to reader point-of-view. They need to think about the device readers are using to view their material. It makes a difference–the same difference as watching a movie on a 7-inch tablet or on a giant screen in a theater.

The Good News for Writers and Readers

The good news is that 50 percent will be reading your book on a dedicated e-reader like a Kindle or Nook, according to Nielsen consumer research. There many different models of e-readers, but they have two things going for them that help authors. The first one is that they were designed for people to read books. They all seek to approximate the print book reading experience and that bodes well for authors.

The second benefit is that ownership of a dedicated e-reader indicates that people are regular book buyers. This means you have the potential to sell more well-written ebooks if you have a personal following, or if you have written a series that attracts wide interest.

There is more good news according to Nielsen. That is, 66 percent of your readers are using a tablet to read eBooks. Android tablets captured 67 percent of the market in 2017, with Apple’s iPad garnering 33 percent. The balance belongs to Microsoft and their Windows tablet and other players. Tablets have the screen real estate to deliver a desirable reading experience.

Tablets also make Kindle books the most desirable publishing platform. Kindle has an App for virtually every kind of device, but eBooks published at Apple’s iBookStore, and other publishing platforms, do not offer that universality.

The Reading Experience on Smartphones Needs to Improve

The bad news is that 54 percent of eBook buyers are using smartphones to read eBooks. Except for the Samsung Galaxy S5, and the iPhone 6 (2014) and 7 (2016), all smartphone screens are relatively tiny, and that alters the reading experience.  The popular Samsung Galaxy S Series has an ever-growing screen size– from  5.1 inch screen in recent years to 5.8 inches now. All of them are suitable for reading eBooks. The Nexus Series smartphone touts a 5.9 inch screen, so this is a good trend for eBook authors. The movement toward “phablets”—phones that are tablet size—will strengthen the eBook market.

The issue is, how do you, as an author, provide a better reading experience for that 66 percent who are reading your eBook on tiny smartphone screens? The answer is found in using these techniques:

  • Suggest to readers at the beginning of the eBook that they adjust the font size to fit the device they are using. Most people use the default font size and that is often too large for a smartphone.
  • Use shorter paragraphs. More paragraph breaks mean more white space and that is a plus for people reading on a small screen.
  • Think about formatting. Block paragraphs, rather than indented first lines, will enhance the reading experience for smartphone readers. Even the spacing of bullet points looks odd on small screens.

Authors must always be reader-centric. Test your eBook file on various devices to understand how readers will see your book. The reading experience on smartphones and tablets is crucial. Adjust it as needed for greater readability.