A Question of Format

Well, it’s been a little while since I got my kobo mini eReader, and I’ve spent a fair amount of time either reading or trying to organise its contents.  Having shelves is useful but I’ve discovered that there are definite failings, though I’m not sure that they’re unique to the kobo.

I like to have the best metadata (information about the ebook) possible, and the nicest covers I can find, for all the ebooks I’ve got.  Neither the kobo desktop app nor Adobe Digital Editions allow the metadata to be altered from within them, any more than the eReader does.  As a consequence, I’ve been using Calibre to perform the task, and also to keep a track of my full library.  It’s a very useful tool for such activities as updating metadata, converting formats and maintaining a database of contents, including moving books to and from the kobo.  Unfortunately, problems are thrown up very early on!

First, and perhaps the most frustrating, is that when you obtain an ebook through the kobo store, adding it to your library but not actually downloading it, a “virtual book” record is created on the eReader.  This shows up in Calibre as being a book but is in reality just a pointer – you can’t save the book to your Calibre library or to disk!  The first ebook I opted to read on the kobo was The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, which I added to my library on the kobo site.  All was well, until I discovered that I didn’t actually have the ebook – just that pointer.  Naturally, I downloaded it then, from the kobo store.  The metadata was very poor and the cover was transformed into something of no interest.  Naturally, I updated the data in Calibre, though I first had to copy the ebook to disk and add it to my Calibre-kobo library.  To get the information back onto the kobo, I then had to copy it back to the mini, which left me with two copies!  Deleting the original, uninformative version was the obvious thing to do – until I ran the Synch process – which proceeded to reinstate the version on the kobo store.  I had to delete it from “My Library” at the store to avoid duplication on the eReader.  What’s more, I lost annotations and bookmarks in the process.  Updating metadata leaves much to be desired!

Next, there’s an issue with the way ebooks are rendered.  Pages don’t flow properly.  I constantly encounter situations where large areas of the screen are empty – with fragments of text which are completed on moving forward in the ebook.  Also, bookmarks don’t work!  Periodically, a muddled piece of text is displayed, where a page number collides with a word, at the right edge of the screen.  Putting the eReader to sleep, or powering off, causes a complication in that the automatic bookmark, which is supposed to remember where you got to, restores you to an earlier position in the ebook because the page numbers don’t equate to the number of actual screen pages you’ve read.  This has happened in both PDF and ePub versions.  I don’t know whether it’s a question of the kobo getting it wrong, or the publisher/author!

None of these problems are truly critical, but they are niggles which cause some annoyance.  Interestingly, the pagination/bookmarking worked perfectly for the Sherlock Holmes ebook when it was just a virtual book!  It was only after I switched to a genuine copy of it that the pagination/bookmarking errors started.  It’s not a good advertisement for ebooks.  I’ve also discovered a problem with the Facebook connectivity function – which may be a consequence of using different email addresses for my Facebook and my kobo accounts – I’m still investigating that.

I hope that these problems can be addressed and solutions found.

~ Steve

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About Steve

An author since the age of 13 years, writing again dominates my activities. My "Imagineer-ing" blog is my primary site. Also: Beginner knitter since November 2010. Favourite knitting techniques: cable and lace. Beginner cross stitcher. Beginner jewellery maker. With the promotion of self publication and all the other work that has been going on here, Dad decided around 2am this morning (22/11/2013) that it was time to begin his next adventure. He was seen off earlier the previous evening by myself, my brother, my sister in law, and my sister, as well as his wife (our mum), and an enigmatic being known only as A Lorraine. After this time of story telling, laughing, crying, joking and mickey taking, we saw how tired both mum and dad were, and we decided to leave them under the (sometimes) gentle care of The Lorraine. When Dad found the timetable for his travels, he let Mum know gently, which woke her from her drowsing, then, with the same gentleness he showed in this universe, he boarded his favourite mode of transport, the Interdimensional Steam Train, and set off with a smile and a wave. For those of us closest, that smile was a reminder that his pain has ended, and the wave, an indicator that he will pop in to all those that knew him, from time to time. Usually at the most inconvenient and in opportune moments he can. While we are sad that he is no longer here, we are happy he now has no pain, and is experiencing more extraordinary things that his writers mind will be frantically weaving into a new story. Posted by Son Damien

6 thoughts on “A Question of Format

  1. At least for Kindle, one of the formatting rules is to add page breaks after chapters. I think a big problem is that e-books for different e-readers must adapt to fit many screens, so I’m not certain if they’ll have an easy formatting fix. The quality of the book is important, and one of the biggest issues relating to purchase and value of the e-book. I’m not sure if there’s a way to format to prevent the huge blank spaces. I’m still learning about the formatting process myself.

    • Thanks for your observations 🙂 Having investigated further, I suspect that the problems lie mostly in that the ebooks involved were originally posted to Project Guttenberg, as PDFs. It’s quite possible that the formatting we now expect simply didn’t factor inj at the time the books were converted. Short of converting them to RTFs and then running them through an ebook program (a very lengthy process of amendments), I guess it’s necessary to accept the faults.

      You may be interested in trying Jutoh for creating your own ebooks. I’ve found it to be excellent and it will produce several different ebook formats.

      • Thanks for the suggestions! I know that whenever I’ve converted anything into PDF files, words get changed completely, so I don’t trust it a bit. It’s great for images, I’m just not comfortable using it for e-book formatting. Jutoh sounds interesting. Thanks again.

      • You’re very welcome 🙂 I’ve not tried any other conversion software, except Calibre, but Jutoh certainly doesn’t change things unless you tell it to 😉

  2. I didn’t know that you could save books that were purchased from Kobo. How did you save the bought books to disc? I use Calibre, but didn’t know about this.

    Nic

    • I had the same problem as Kobo apply DRM 😦 As I was getting free ebooks I looked for them elsewhere and downloaded from there, Project Gutenberg is the best place for the Classics 😉
      Steve

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