|Yes, the Kindle is UL rated!|
Think about all the things you didn't have to think about today. If you nuked a mug of water for tea this morning, you probably didn't consider whether the microwave's magnetron would fry you. You probably don't even know that your microwave oven has a magnetron. Our modern civilization is built on being able to not think about these things. Quality standards such as those developed by UL help us to think less, and help marketplaces sell more.
Unfortunately, if you're an avid ebook reader, in 2011 you have to think more than you want to about ebook quality. When Neal Stephenson's new novel, Reamde, came out, early purchasers of the book were dismayed to find that it was rife with typographical errors. (But not the title. That "typo", for ReadMe, is intentional!) Amazon was forced to suspend sales.
I've been watching an important effort on ebook quality. It's worth supporting. The entry deadline for the Publishing Innovation Awards is this week, November 15. Entrants submit ebook files which are evaluated for quality, innovation and design. New this year is the "QED" seal, which is awarded to entrants that satisfy a checklist of basic ebook quality no-brainers:
Next year, I hope they add a checklist item for typographical errors. If a publisher can produce print with minimal errors, there's no excuse to allow them in digital books. As the Reamde debacle showed, even typos can create significant customer service expenses for retailers.
- Front matter: the title does not open on a blank page.
- Information hierarchy: content is arranged in such a way that the relative importance of the content (heads, text, sidebars, etc) are visually presented clearly.
- Order of content: check of the content to be sure that none of it is missing or rearranged.
- Consistency of font treatment: consistent application of styles and white space.
- Links: hyperlinks to the web, cross references to other sections in the book, and the table of contents all work and point to the right areas. If the title has an index, it should be linked.
- Cover: The cover does not refer to any print edition only related content.
- Consumable Content: The title does not contain any fill-in content, such as workbooks and puzzle books, unless the content has been re-crafted to direct the reader on how to approach using the fill-in content.
- Print References: Content does not contain cross references to un-hyperlinked, static print page numbers (unless the ebook is intentionally mimicking its print counterpart for reference).
- Breaks: New sections break and/or start at logical places.
- Images: Art is appropriately sized, is in color where appropriate, loads relatively quickly, and if it contains text is legible. If images are removed for rights reasons, that portion is disclaimed or all references to that image are removed.
- Tables: Table text fits the screen comfortably, and if rendered as art is legible.
- Symbols: Text does not contain odd characters.
- Metadata: Basic metadata for the title (author, title, etc.) is in place and accurate.
A few years from now, it's likely that any ebook that doesn't meet these standards will be unsaleable; for now, a QED seal is a great way for publishers to realize the value of making a good digital product, and for readers to be able to think less.
- In building Unglue.it, we've realized that we need to give book lovers some assurance that the ebooks they support for ungluing will be of a quality that they will be proud to have contributed to. We'll point to QED as a reference point for the quality we expect from unglued ebooks.
- I read the print version of Reamde. I thought the spin-up was Stephenson's best, but there was a lot of carnage as things spun globally out of control.