Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Not so brilliant observation about ebooking

Minor thought here as I once again wander into the labyrinth that is formatting a ms for e-publication:

I think long paragraphs aren't going to work well in ebooks. So many are read on electronic readers like Kindle, even on phones. and the font size is adjustable. So anyway, there are fewer words on a "page" or screen than we'd have on the average print page. (I'd say an average of about 200 rather than 300 words per "page"-- I say "page" because ebooks aren't really paginated like print books because the reader can change the font size, rendering page numbers unhelpful.)  So a really long paragraph will fill one screen and into the next. That's visually confusing to the reader.  So that's what I'm noticing right off-- shorter, or at least "non-longer," paragraphs. That has interesting implications, the paragraph being the way a writer organizes information bits. So ... maybe information is going to be broken into smaller bits. (That's already happened because paperback books have smaller pages than hardbacks-- compare, say, a Henry James paragraph with a Barbara Kingsolver one.)

That's as much wisdom as I can muster now. :)



Gayle Carline said...

Wow, that was a long paragraph. LOL.

Pam Torres said...

Interesting I hadn't even considered that as we move into the e-book world that our format will inevitabl change. Great post!

Whirlochre said...

When the digital information for every book ever written is encoded onto our DNA so each of us is born having already read all mankind's literary wealth I'm guessing this will no longer be a problem.

Until then, maybe writers of books will have to wrestle with what ought to be vs what looks inevitable in the same way TV scriptwriters have to factor in adverts every 25 seconds.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

I've thought of it, as I am an e-book person, both as a writer and reader.

One interesting thing is how you see a change in the tension and pacing between James and Kingsolver. You could argue that they are entirely different genres of fiction and I'd agree -- this is how fiction and literature have evolved.

The one-sentence paragraph is starting to reign supreme.

If we follow that shorter paragraphs increase tension and pacing, we're in for some wild rides ahead. It's going to be an interesting evolution.

Coolkayaker1 said...

By the same token, the short chapters--and now the shorter book length--is becoming much more prevelant in this age of, well, shorter attention spans.

Twitter me your latest self pubbed novel, and I'll twitter you mine.

Edittorrent said...

To me, the one-sentence paragraph works only as emphasis after longer paragraphs. When I read a lot of 1-s paragraphs in a row, it sounds like a kid's book (especially disconcerting in erotica, considering the subject matter :). And it's like our political rhetoric, all assertion, no evidence; all bombast, no analysis.

I hope that James's 15 sentence paragraphs aren't going to be replaced with that! How about a period of nice, sensible 3-5 sentence paragraphs?

Remember how Faulkner's paragraphs would go on for PAGES? That guy never took a breath until he was about to suffocate.


Adrian said...

I don't think you're giving readers enough credit.

My wife and I have been reading on eReaders for about two years now (she also reads on her phone in VERY large type). If a paragraph is longer than the amount of text the reader can display at once, I don't think that really confuses the reader. Nor do I believe it has a substantial impact on the pacing.

A long paragraph is still a long paragraph, and a short one is still a short one.