Modern technology took the way we used to communicate and completely turned it on its head.
Letters that use to take weeks to arrive appear in virtual mailboxes in seconds, movies and shows from remote parts of the world are streamed to us right in the comfort of our living rooms and now we can literally hold thousands of books in the palms of our hands.
Reading devices such as the Amazon Kindle, Kobo Glo and Nook GlowLight have surged in popularity over the past few years as well as other handheld devices that have eBook reading capabilities like the Apple iPad.
However it's the humble cell phone that's poised to take over as the number one reading device of the future.
Here's why in a couple of interesting statistics:
- Recent studies reveal that approximately 70 percent of the adult population in the United States owns a smartphone.
- In that group, approximately 54 percent of the people who purchase digital books read them on their smartphones.
Those numbers are expected to rise in the coming years because of the convenience that having a smartphone offers along with the fact that screens are getting larger and easier to read.
What does all of this mean for self-publishing authors like you who want to reach as many new readers as possible?
It means you should always optimize your eBooks for smartphones to improve your chances at book distribution success. Or, in other words, create your book so that smartphone readers have the best experience possible while perusing your pages.
How to Optimize your eBook for Smartphones
The process of optimizing your books for easy readability on smartphone devices is twofold.
First, you have to ensure that the book is published in one of the formats necessary to be opened and read on a smartphone. Second, you have to ensure that the book itself is formatted properly for readability.
1. Use the Correct Publishing Format
The main goal of any good publishing format should be to improve the user experience and be available across several platforms and / or devices.
With that in mind, there are three major publishing formats available for eBooks meant to be read on mobile phones:
- ePub – ePub is one of the most widely used digital book publishing formats that works with most e-readers and smartphones, with the exception of Amazon's Kindle.
ePub formatting makes your eBook behave in a similar way to a web page, which makes sense since the format is also XHTML and CSS driven. This means that the look of the book's pages automatically changes to suit the dimensions of the mobile device it's being read on.
- AZW or (Amazon Proprietary Format) – This format is exclusive to Amazon and was developed for their Kindle readers. But do not think that will stop readers from accessing your work on their mobile device.
Amazon provides free apps that make eBooks published on their platform readily available for consumption on Android, Blackberry or iPhone smartphones.
- PDF (Adobe Portable Document Format) – PDF eBook formats are considered universal and work with practically any device. As one of the oldest formats for eBook publishing, it also happens to still be one of the most widely used.
The only shortcoming with PDF eBooks vs other formats is that it is typically a fixed with layout, which can affect optimal readability depending on the size of the mobile screen.
Once you complete a new manuscript and you're ready to format it for digital publishing, consider making it available in all three of these formats for the widest smartphone distribution and highest quality readability possible.
2. Format for Readability
The second piece of the puzzle is ensuring that your eBook is properly formatted for enhanced readability.
One of the biggest reasons why mobile phones are not the number one choice for reading books is the size of the screen (usually 4 inches wide and higher).
Throw poor formatting into the mix and your eBook has about as much chance of being read as someone does proving the world is flat.
There are several ways you can improve your reader's experience, but here are some of the most important:
- Select a readable font – There are thousands of font styles available, however the vast majority of them are not optimized for eBook publishing. Remember the goal is to design your book so that it's easy to read on multiple devices, smartphones in particular.
The big three fonts that are ideal for eBook typesetting are Times New Roman, Courier and Ariel. Using any one of these fonts also ensures your book renders properly when it is converted to ePub, AWS or PDF formats.
- Use a readable font size – Another important aspect of optimizing your eBook for smartphones is using a readable font size. Mobile phone screens are already small, so disregarding this optimization step will definitely get your book passed over for one that's easier to digest.
Although your reader will likely have options for adjusting the size of the font they see on their screen, starting off with a 12pt or 14pt font is recommended as these are neither too big or two small to be read comfortably.
- Avoid large blocks of text – The biggest key to making your eBook easier to read is using whitespace liberally. Hitting your audience with a big wall of text is the fastest way to get them to not want to read your eBook on a smartphone.
Instead, improve readability, flow and interest by breaking up large chunks of text into smaller more manageable sections.
Sometimes single sentences work very well for this purpose.
- Use short sentences – Nothing makes an eBook harder to read than very long sentences. Keep sentences brief and limit paragraphs to no more than 3 or 4 sentences.
- Highlight important content – Using bold, italic and underlined words, sentences and phrases are a simple way to highlight important snippets of content. It also helps your reader to scan each page for the major points in your thought process or story, which is perfect for readers who like to skim.
If you're still not sure about formatting or how good your book will look on a smart phone, pull out your own smart mobile device and have a look at how some of your favorite eBooks render once you open them up.
Notice the subtle aspects that makes reading one a more pleasant experience than the others and use those features in your own manuscript. The best teacher is firsthand experience.
The great thing about getting your eBooks ready for smartphone use is the number of apps available that make it very easy for your readers to access and enjoy your work, even if they do not have a dedicated e-reader device.
Here are just a few of them:
- Kobo Books
- Google Play Books
- Cool Reader
- Moon + Reader
- Aldiko Book Reader
- Bookari eBook Reader
- Universal Book Reader
If you want to make sure that your published works get the most exposure possible, format your eBooks so that they look amazing across all e-reader platforms and apps. The secret is to make the entire experience as easy and pleasurable as possible for your readers.
It encourages them to read your eBooks on their smartphones and has the potential to increase your book sales in the process.
Utilize these simple tips while you format your next eBook and it will be optimized and perfectly readable on any kind of device, from personal computer to smartphone.