When I started writing this feature, I thought long and hard about making a pun on the word ‘times’ using both its temporal and typographic meanings.
When Kindles first began appearing, there were relatively few e-books about. As always, there were plenty of people who cried “It’ll never catch on!” and “Readers want real books!” but, bar a few die-hards, they’ve largely disappeared: e-books are the ‘now’ and the ‘immediate future’ – like it or not. In those early days, just about any book stood a chance of being bought. For example, in terms of the book’s cover, you could probably have got away with a black background with blocky white text saying “My Book” or even Amazon’s stunningly awful ‘holding’ cover (which is what you get if you don’t upload a jpg of your cover).
The marketplace has since been swamped by every man and his dog who decided that they were capable of stringing a few sentences together. “Hey! (they no doubt thought) Here’s a chance to get rich. Let’s use the spellcheck, the free conversion software and have a go.”
The trouble is that a spellchecker can’t discriminate between ‘where’, ‘wear’ and ‘ware’, everyone knows that ‘alot’ is correct (groans loudly at this point) and that the words ‘could’, ‘should’ and ‘would’ are all followed by the word ‘of’ (as opposed to ‘have’ which is completely wrong). Additionally, the free conversion programs are notorious for not removing the extraneous code that a certain popular word processing program insists on inserting (why?) – something which can cause e-reader devices to freak out when they encounter it.
Finally, many new authors decided they could stand out by using the fancy typeface (the typographical reference) which looked so blindingly good on their word-processed version. Unfortunately such a font would probably not be mobi-friendly and this, combined with the aforementioned strange control codes, resulted in a poor quality product which only served to deter would-be readers from buying the work of unknown authors.
Times have changed – times are hard. If you want your book to get sold, you need to get wise to the standard it has to be produced to. There’s nothing essentially wrong with ‘home-made’ as long as it’s been produced by professionals.