Well, duh, it’s the content, of course. How many cool, all singing, all dancing websites have you visited that amazed and dazzled with flash animation and video, music, etc., that then disappointed because there was no content?
There are a lot of them out there, and once visited you never return. But those websites and blogs that provide compelling content on a regular basis draw you back again and again. So, it’s obvious, isn’t it? Content wins over presentation every time.
Or does it?
I asked myself this question whilst reading a Kindle book last night. It’s a novel, and it’s a good one. Compelling content, in other words. But the formatting is poor. The first line of every paragraph is indented, which is good, but there is also a line’s space after every paragraph, which is distracting. And it’s distracting enough that I am not enjoying the story as much as I might.
When I read an eBook I expect my reading experience to be similar to that of a paper book. Sure, it’s going to be different in many respects, but with epaper technology, Kindle and Kobo have made the first step in replicating the traditional paper book reading experience for the digital age. Hence their popularity.
The next step is up to us, indie authors of the world. We need to make sure that the words and pages are formatted properly for the ereader. That means paying attention to traditional publishing standards in the way in which the printed page is laid out, inserting ‘hard’ page breaks at chapter ends, and maybe even, horror of horrors, having a clickable table of contents. Okay, that last one is applicable only to the digital format, but it’s cool, and it’s useful.
The standards set out above are a part of the publishing experience currently beyond the control of automated conversion technology (Smashword’s ‘Meatgrinder’ anyone?) The way in which the words, the sentences and the paragraphs are formatted on the page is an important part of the reading experience. As authors we should take great care over how our words appear on the page.
Think of those paragraphs. Ever tried reading a book without any paragraphs? I did once, but being presented with page after page of dense blocks of text is incredibly off putting. Lines, paragraphs, chapters, the white spaces on the page, all serve their purpose in drawing the reader into the story as much as the characters, the narrative and the plot.
So, what’s more important? Content or content presentation?
Neither. The two go hand in hand, both playing their part in the wonderful, mysterious experience known as reading.