Ebooks are not STATIC like print books.
So, what does that mean?
Well, to start off with, let’s look at print books. A print book is a work of art. Every word, every bit of punctuation, every heading and footnote and glyph—they are printed on the page in a specific place. The floral pattern at the start of each chapter—half an inch from the top right corner. The chapter heading—three lines down, and then another two lines before the start of the text. Justified lines don’t always flow beautifully, which is why in print, one utilizes hyphens, or the artistic method of rewording and adding until the text is displayed with just the right amount of white space. There is a lot of planning that goes into making a print book beautiful. All of the aforementioned things are what make a print book static—embedded on paper and immovable.
Sounds like a lot of work, right? It is. But, it’s what sets apart your book from the crowd, so I personally believe print books deserve that kind of love and affection.
Now, let’s talk about how ebooks are completely different.
Ebooks are NOT static. When you open a print book, the words are exactly where they’re supposed to be, no matter who you are, where you are, or what you’re doing. This is not so in the ebook format.
What you have to remember is that not all ereaders display the same way. There are people read your ebooks on tablets the size of a piece of five-subject notebook paper, and there are others reading on screens as small as their tiny Android phone. Not only does screen size have to be taken into account—there is also the fact that nearly all ereaders allow for the reader to change the font face and the font size. This means that your book will never display exactly the same as it does on YOUR ereader/app.
Ebooks flow to the size of the screen based on font size and face. Bigger font size means less words on one screen, and skinnier font faces mean more words on one screen. Your app may display a single lonely word at the end of a chapter—obviously hideous to the eye for that one word to be on its own page—but you must remember that’s not how everyone will see it!
Individuals who own ereaders are well-aware of the idiosyncrasies of their device. It’s like one’s favorite sweater—yeah, there’s a hole in the armpit and the hem is unraveling, but you know that’s just how it looks and you love it anyway. Readers will recognize when they see a single line on a single page that it is meant to be with the text on the page previous—cut ‘em a little slack, they’re pretty smart if they’ve joined the digital revolution.
This is why its important to understand formatting if you’re going to attempt to do it yourself. The above reasons show why you should never have page numbers or headings in your ebook. You should never plan for your ebook to have one-page chapters (your reader on her Android phone is gonna see a single paragraph at a time, if that, so your “one page” turns into ten for her.) Leave those nuances to the print books, and go for simplicity in your ebooks.
Your ebook CAN be gorgeous, as long as you understand the limitations of the formats.
(This post isn’t about the fancy stuff that can be done in ebooks, like glyphs and images. Those things are possible, but to put it simply, leave them to the professionals if you want your book to look its best. Those people are the ones that know the issues that come from formatting and can act accordingly.)