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What is Your Favorite Layout For E-books?

Published: 06/09/2009
By: larry

Back in mid-August when I sent out the latest update to the Business of Real Estate Photography e-book update John Driggers of Adelaide, AU pointed out to me that he likes to read the PFRE e-books on his computer screen which is a horizontal format. Since the PFRE e-books are a vertical two column format it makes reading them on screen awkward. John suggested that I change the layout of the books to a single horizontal that would fit on a laptop screen best. He actually wants me to have to versions, one like they are now designed for printing and a second version designed for on screen reading but I'm not sure I'm ready to maintain two different layouts.

So, I'm asking e-book subscribers and blog readers to use the poll on the left side-bar to tell me which e-book layout you like best. Many subscribers tell me that they immediately print the PDF files after they download them so I've always assumed that most people read them in printed form.

I'm thinking that a vertical single column format may be a good compromise that would work for both printing and online reading. But first, I wanted to get some feedback before I make at he change. What do you Think?

Update 9/10/2009: Thanks everyone for the input. As of today 55% like the current format of the e-books and 35% would rather have it a vertical single column format. I'm going to look into producing a dual format that would satisfy almost everyone (85%). I think it will be possible but can't promise when I'll get this done. Stay tuned.

21 comments on “What is Your Favorite Layout For E-books?”

  1. Larry,

    The point John made for reading on-screen would apply to just about every other book I've purchased in .pdf format, but for your two books I always print them out and put them in a 3-ring binder.

    Go figure...

  2. I'd like to put in my 2 cents as a designer. For the sake of readability, never make it too long to read it on the screen. Between 10 to 15 words per line is good. Anything more than that is painful to read. So horizontal single column is out... If you want to have horizontal layout, you MUST have two columns.

  3. Larry,
    I have a tablet PC which (in this case) serves a dual purpose - tethered to my camera for assignments and used in portrait mode to read all my PDF books.

    Keep the orientation as it is - ergonomically it makes more sense.

    PS - thank you for a great resource

  4. I am quite happy with the way it is now.

    I have noticed before that some users dont know that you can zoom a .pdf document that is fills the whole screen. Scary but true!


  5. I've thought of printing it out, but my laser printer, the fastest and cheapest printer is only black and white; I don't want to spend the ink on printing out color when I have access to beautiful color on the screen. It is a minor inconvenience to go down one column and then up the next to continue reading on that page. If the layout were single column and attractive that would be better; if many people are printing out each edition and so really want the present format, I can live with that. I've found that trying to zoom out to full page view makes the text and the detail in the pictures to small for my tastes. --Bill

  6. What you have now might be better described as a 'handbook' and it looks like many are using it in just this way - as a printed reference. I don't print and read it both on laptop and desktop and am only in the smallest sense annoyed that the page doesn't "fit" the screen vertically. There are so many different screens that fitting a screen-defined page in readable type is not always possible. The iPhone is 480 px wide - does it need to be readable on an iPhone?...

    This is a book about photography, and needs to be illustrated with images of a decent size, so the current two-column format is best for that (and for the reasons Colin pointed out).

    Maybe this is just a marketing problem to be solved. Change the name to "handbook" and put a "download" button in plain view so it is clear that it comes in "e" format....

  7. Hello Larry,

    I personally read your e-books on my computer. So for me, it would have been easier to not have 2 vertical columns.

    I recently read an e-book in .pdf format from my computer that was a single column of 78 character spaces wide. It was very comfortable to read which was important because it was 350 pages long.

    In your e-book Larry, your Acknowledgements section on page 3 is 93 character spaces wide and it is very comfortable to read from a computer. This format may be a solution for everyone.

    When your e-book goes into double vertical column, you are able to cover about 100 space characters, which is not a great advantage over 93 space characters if someone was to print the whole document.

    Thanks for the great books!


  8. I've been fine with the format of your books to date Larry. I agree with a previous comment that it seems some people don't know how to change views of PDF files in Acrobat Pro or Reader.
    I suppose, when I view full screen width, I'd prefer to have one column, but it's not a big issue for me.
    Thanks for asking.


  9. I prefer the two-column approach, as you've been doing. I actually do not print out the pages, but read on my monitor. I have a large enough monitor (23") to comfortably see a whole page at readable size without scrolling. If I were using a small monitor, then a single column would probably be preferable, but I think most people have sufficiently sized monitors for full-pages these days. However, in NO case would I want a single "wide" column in landscape format. Visually tracking long line breaks across wide columns is a nightmare for readability -- and one reason that narrow columns have become so universal. Thanks.

  10. Horizontal, single column would be my vote. A two column article on a computer screen requires scrolling. Thanks for being so responsive to your readers.

  11. I read your e-books on my monitor, in Adobe Acrobat Pro, using the magnification setting of 'Fit Page', and the view/page display setting of "Two-Up'. This gives me two pages side by side, just like an open book. I also use Acrobat's built in highlighter and save a highlighted version for my reference. Works great! Can't imagine any format change would be better.

  12. There seems to be a misconception that if you go to a landscpe format that fits screens better [esp widescreen laptop screens] that you'll have to go to a wide single column - not so. You can still have two colums, just layed out on a landscape page.

    Personally I almost never print pdfs and constantly grumble that they aren't optimized for screen reading.
    I occasionally let out an audible 'whoop' of appreciation when I open a pdf and find that it's layed out like a good webpage, with everything 'above the fold', readable columns and nice graphics. All I need to do to read it is tap the next arrow to flip the pages, ahhh that's better!

    A perfect example is the rather good and free seo kit for photographers by photoshelter:

    Having said all that, it seems that a lot of your customers are happy with the status quo, some even print it out !
    Ideally it would be available in both formats, which I guess wouldn't be too big a deal depending on how much you felt it needs editing / massaging to fit well on a landscape format.

  13. @marcus- I looked at the photoshelter seo kit your refer to and I see your point. That's a very readable layout. It's interesting... this horizontal format feels more like a presentation than a book but it works well for on screen viewing.

  14. Larry,

    I use the book both ways. I keep an original, unaltered electronic version. Then I save and extra copy to read and use highlighter tool in Acrobat Pro to markup this onscreen version. I also print a copy in B&W and mark it up too! So I guess this doesn't help your dilemma much. I did find it a bit harder scrolling up and down when reading the screen version, and yes I know you can zoom in Acrobat, it just takes longer to read a selection that way. Whatever you decide won't matter much to me, because I love your material!


  15. Even with an iPhone, I still like to print your book and read it that way. Call me old fashioned...