Looking Good in the Digital World

By: Heather McDonald

Lucky for us, you don’t need good genes or symmetrical features to make a good looking eBook.  What might be the hardest part of designing a great digital read is letting go of painstaking detail, and embracing the simplest formatting for the sake of your reader.

There is a huge selection of ereader and tablet options on the market—and new versions are produced each year. While this range of choice is great for the consumer, it means more variables and a greater challenge for publishers to replicate the same reading experience across all of those devices.

Plus, it’s no longer just ereaders and tablets. More than ever, users are taking advantage of smartphone reading apps. For example, a second generation Kindle Paperwhite owner may use his smartphone to read during his commute. Each device has its own unique screen resolution and screen size, not to mention the reader’s default personal preferences. An intricately detailed chapter heading that looked great on an iPad 4 may run together on the Kindle Paperwhite, and vice versa.

There are three major categories to consider while formatting your eBook. Here are some tips and best practices for each category.



The best fonts for eBooks may be the most boring. When selecting a font type before conversion, stick to the same font from beginning to end, as multiple fonts may create odd characters as the file is converted to the epub format. Indiedesignz suggests these basic types: Tahoma, Verdana, Calibri, Garamond, or Times New Roman. In selecting size, 12 point is the most readable for the body text. Chapter titles and headings should also be in the same font type, and sized only a few points larger (14-18 point) than the rest of the text.



If turning a print edition into a digital format, consider simplifying chapter headings and sections. Not all devices support drop caps in reflowable epub files. Enlarged icons or hard stops in the body of a chapter could disrupt the “flow” of a reflowable format. Be sure to use page breaks between chapters in your source file, so that the appropriate amount of white space appears between chapters.




In the digital store, the cover still counts. A potential buyer will most likely first see the cover as a thumbnail, a tiny image that makes the biggest impression (see: Judge a Book by Its Cover). Invest in a professionally designed cover that grabs a reader’s attention, yet is simple enough to scale down to a quality image on the smartphone. If converting from a print version, consider designing a new cover with a popping image. Cover images should always be at least 1400 pixels wide on the shortest side, and 300 DPI.


Consider these ideas for font, formatting, and covers for making a strong, versatile epub for your readers. The epub file should not simply be your physical book in e-format, but a new project developed with the digital reader in mind. Always feel free to check in with INscribe Digital’s Client Services team with any questions, and don’t forget to check out the INscribe newsletter for more conversion tips!


Check this out! INscribe Recommended Reads & Downloads:

Publisher’s Weekly. “Why Some E-books Just Don’t Look Right.” Accessed: April 17, 2014. http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/digital/content-and-e-books/article/44850-why-some-e-books-just-don-t-look-right.html

Publisher’s Weekly. “What Every Indie Author Needs to Know About E-Books.” Accessed: April 17, 2014. http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/authors/pw-select/article/61058-pw-select-february-2014-what-every-indie-author-needs-to-know-about-e-books.html


( Article image credited to Waag Society )