Robert J. Sawyer

Hugo and Nebula Award-Winning Science Fiction Writer

eBooks that really aren’t properly hyperlinked

by Rob - December 22nd, 2007.
Filed under: ebooks.

I’m getting tired of ebooks that aren’t properly formatted, and so I posted the following on the Fictionwise discussion forum, in response to Fictionwise’s founder Steve Pendergrast saying it only costs $20 or $25 to convert a title to an ebook, and they can convert 50 or so a week, with just one staffer doing it:

If I may be so bold, both your in-house and outside service-bureau converters are doing a crappy job of late on conversions. It used to be if you bought an ebook in a secure format, footnotes or endnotes were properly formatted as hyperlinks that you could jump to; now, they very often aren’t — making the ebook harder, not easier, to use than the printed version, because of the difficulty of flipping to the footnotes.

A recent example: Steven Pinker’s The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature.

For an ebook that you’re charging six dollars more for than Amazon charges for the print edition, that the notes aren’t hyperlinked is just unacceptable.

Rather than getting the process down to the cheapest, most quick-and-dirty method, I respectfully submit that the long-term health of ebooks depends on making the ereading experience more rewarding and user friendly than the print experience. But have a look at, say, your mutliformat release of this book, which you say you did in-house:

The Complete Guide to Writing Science Fiction.

Your hyperlinked table of contents is completely useless in this anthology of articles, because there’s no clue as to what topic the links will take you to. All the chapters actually have titles and individual authors. Chapter Four, for instance, is “The Many Faces of Science Fiction: Sub-Genres” by Kim Richards. But your quick-and-dirty table of contents just gives a useless list of non-descriptive hyperlinks:


No doubt it did cost you only $20 or $25 to do this conversion, but spending a little more to get it right would have been preferable from the consumer’s point of view. Touting the hypothetical benefits of ebooks over printed ones but not actually delivering those benefits in the finished product is no way to grow an industry.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

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