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User-Hostile eBooks

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11 Jul 2013, 11:12 PM
Post: #1
From our "didn't they bother proof-reading it" department another tale of woe:

I've just stumbled upon the most user-hostile ebook I've yet found. I'm currently doing some work on a new Internet cloud product and they offer their technical documentation for download as HTML, PDFs or ePUB files. I'm familiar with the documentation, having read most of it online - it's clearly written, perfectly presented and there is not a typo in sight. However I wanted to skim through it on the Underground, and so decided to download the ePUB version and stick it on my Kobo Mini. What could possibly go wrong?

Downloading and transfer to the Kobo was quick and as straightforward as ever. I opened the book on the Mini and it locked up solid. The book is mainly text with only a few diagrams, and not excessive in size, so this was something of a mystery. Never mind, I could stick it on the Nook...

The book did open on the Nook Simple Touch but paging took ten or more seconds and every couple of pages Android threw up a "Sorry! Activity Reader (in application Reader) is not responding. [Wait] [Force close]" dialogue. The warnings seemed to be related to crossing the page boundaries of the original pagination of the document.

I wasn't going to give up without a fight, and so I emailed the PDF version to Amazon's auto-converter and a few minutes later the ebook appeared on my Kindle - totally unreadable. Most words had extra spaces embedded in them ma kin g it ve ry har d to r ead!

I'm afraid to say that the final score was Dead Trees: 1, eBook Readers: 0!
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13 Jul 2013, 11:01 PM
Post: #2
Sounds like someone is a little unclear on the concept of ebooks. And formatting.

Author of -
The War of the Second Iteration
Book One The Luck of Han'anga
Book Two Founders' Effect
Book Three The Plight of the Eli'ahtna
Mr. Olcott's Skies
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14 Jul 2013, 12:28 AM
Post: #3
I took the EPUB file apart and had a look - although I'm not that familiar with the EPUB format, I am very familiar with the technologies it uses. There is a lot of CSS being applied compared with a 'normal' EPUB book - about 7 Kbytes. The HTML is quite a bit more complex than usually found in books - with <div>s nested two or three deep, images embedded in lists and so on. There are also a lot of redundant files in the ZIP - at least 54 of the files I found are not actually ever used in rendering the book.

It very much looks like the EPUB was generated from the Web version of the book with minimal changes. Nothing looked wrong but I can now well understand that a low-powered processor in the typical ereader is going to struggle to render these files.
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