A Rant on eBook Problems — or One in Particular

Dear M/M Publishers:

My name is Aunt Lynn and I am a great consumer of your books, the vast majority of which are in electronic format. First, let me thank you for making so many titles available in eform. It is much appreciated. My beloved Sony eReader 700 has about 300 books on it and I am going to have to look into removable storage soon to accommodate all of them. I love ebooks; they’re portable, I can change the font size, I can easily switch between books, I can search for specific words, I can easily (generally) copy lines to use as quotes in my reviews. I pimp my Sony all over the place to whoever will listen because I lurve it so muchly.

That being said, I have some issues with ebooks that have been, over time, quietly grating on my nerves. There are several — inconsistencies in font-size formatting between you pubs so that one requires a magnifying lens and another can be read from arms’ length, line wrapping problems (see Jenre’s post on this), security blocks and DRM to name a few — but this here post is about one specific problem, one that has little ol’ mild-mannered, laid-back me riled enough to put my fingers to the keys.

Last night I had the opportunity to load eight books onto my reader (PDFs, each one from a different of you pubsies) and all but one of them had titling problems of some kind. I am not talking about the filename. What I mean is this: once I have transferred the file (i.e. the book) to my reader, when I open the book list there are entries that have no title, no author — sometimes both — incorrect titling, the editor instead of the author, etc. Imagine going into a library and on the shelf are 300 books, all blue and all of the same size, and a third of them having no title, some no author, some with titles that have no relation to what is inside, some with what may be the editor’s name and nothing else. It would be a mess and this is what I am up against.

In this recent group:

  • one book had no author or title at all
  • one had the filename (not the title) and no author
  • one had a single letter for the title (“T” — not the title of the book) and a single name for the author that didn’t match at all
  • one had the filename of the book and the credited company for Layout and Formatting as the author
  • one had “book title” as the title and a single name for the author that didn’t match
  • one had the correct title, though there was no spacing or capitalization so itallrantogetherasoneword; the author was correct
  • one was missing a word in the title; the author was correct
  • one was correct in both places

This is unfortunately a fairly common occurrence, but EVEN THOUGH I SHOULDN’T HAVE TO, many times I can fix it. Now, I’m pretty tech savvy, so I know that the control for the title and author is located in the properties area of the PDF. Probably half the time or more I can go into the properties and make the change easy peasy to the correct title/author EVEN THOUGH I SHOULDN’T HAVE TO, but there are times when I can’t because the file is security protected from any changes. Five of the eight instances that I list above are the latter, meaning I now have three books that I have no idea what they are just by looking at the list (I can deal with a filename as a title as long as it tells which book it is, though the librarian in me doesn’t like it even one little bit). I can  export the PDF to a RTF doc, fix the properties, then re-save it as a PDF — or leave it in RTF as my Sony can read that format — BUT I SHOULDN’T HAVE TO (besides, that screws up the spacing).  Unless I do this to these files— and I’ve done before to other books — I will take them off the reader and only read them on my laptop.  But I have a reader for a reason; if I wanted to read on the laptop, I wouldn’t have spent $400 on the Sony.

I am tired of shoddy, sloppy work on the part of some of you publishers (don’t get me started on non-ebook-specific issues; see Wave’s post from yesterday on criticism of the genre, and no, this was not an intentional follow-up). There is no excuse for this to happen.  Would you consider printing a book with no title or author listed on the cover?  I think not, and this is how I view this problem. While I am sympathetic and understand that books go through many different hands during the process, some publishers are very small and/or new with limited staff, and many times the file is made into numerous formats, whoever has it last should make sure that this part of the file is correct. This is how many of your readers find books in their devices. It literally takes me less than 30 seconds to make the change and re-save the file — when I’m able to do so, that is — so I don’t want to hear time as an excuse. If it’s an oversight and you didn’t even know this was an issue, here is an impassioned plea for you to realize it’s a problem and correct it from here on out (and go back and fix your backlists as well for new buyers). And if you choose to ignore me — which is your right, certainly — at least give me the ability to make the change by not having it secured.

Thank you for your time and attention,

Aunt Lynn (in Berkeley)


Okay, now that that’s out of my system…  🙂

Does this bother anyone else?  Am I the only one who finds this to be a problem?

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  • I have a Sony and all the problems with the file names, as well as PDFs that have part of the font normal sized and part really tiny, and no way to modify the font size on the tiny stuff. Like so many others, I have been trying using Calibre to convert to epub.

    Since I read this post, I downloaded a free read from James Buchanan’s website and a title that should have been “Measure Up” became “mesure up” which sounds like a bad porn title.

    Reply
  • P.S. To clarify–I mean, I don’t see the metadata in Acrobat or Preview unless I go to the menu option to show them (I think it’s Properties in Acrobat and Inspector in Preview). I don’t think Goodreader has a way to view the metadata but I’m not sure.

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