Readers Ask Questions About Ebooks

Since I've received this question a couple of times and have answered it each time, I thought I might address this issue on the blog too. There may be other readers wondering about the same thing.

Differences In Ebooks

Some readers wonder why ebooks aren't formatted exactly like print books. For instance, in print books, scene changes are indicated by a blank space between paragraphs, like 2 double spaces. Sometimes you see 3 asterisks between paragraphs.

In print books, it's very easy to indicate a scene change, but it's not so easy in digital books. In print, you can just double space twice when you're typing the manuscript. The copy editor picks it up. In digital books, although you can use HTML code to force a blank line, doing this to create the equivalent of 4 blank lines is not a cut and dried issue because of the varying protocols from the many ebook sellers.

No Extra Blank Lines

1. Some digital publishers will reject a file that has more than 1 double space between paragraphs.

2. Some files that are uploaded for Kindle or Nook or Smashwords are read on devices other than dedicated e-readers, i.e., computers, laptops, smartphones, Palm Pilots, iPads, iPods, etc. so extra lines between paragraphs, while looking fine on a Kindle or Nook, may end up being a multitude of extra lines when read on some other device. There are simply too many variables in how a digital book can be read.

3. When formatting for Kindle, every space break--best indicated by blank line, centered asterisks, blank line--must be formatted individually. In fact, every thing that is not a paragraph--special emphasis of italics or bold or centering--must be formatted individually. For this reason, a lot of writers will simply ignore space breaks as we call them.

Print Publishing

Whether blank lines or a blank line-centered asterisks-blank line are used in a print book is entirely a style issue established by each publishing house. The "double line blank space" or the centered asterisks preceded and followed by a double line blank space are both used and are both correct to indicate a change in scene, time, or viewpoint character.

Digital Publishing

As stated above, each digital publisher has specific format protocols to follow. Remember with paragraphs and pages that flow rather than end at specific points, having a lot of empty space is not a good thing.

Viewpoint Changes Changed

Another reader wondered why viewpoint changes aren't indicated by a new chapter or at least a scene break.

In recent years, in popular fiction, viewpoint is handled more casually than in the past. I, and most popular fiction authors, do not use asterisks or blank lines to indicate a viewpoint change because if the change is clearly indicated by narrative signals, readers know whose "head they are in."

This relaxed attitude about viewpoint changes started several years ago, primarily in romance, where in intimate scenes, viewpoint flows back and forth between the main characters. To interrupt that flow, especially in a love scene, with asterisks, blank spaces, or whatever "hard signal" you use, breaks the reader out of the story.

Personally, I use space breaks and special text formatting, i.e., bold, italics, etc. when necessary even if it takes longer to format a manuscript.

Takeaway Truth

Readers notice things. I'm pleased when they ask questions because in articulating the answers, I learn.

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