Best practice tips for formatting your eBook

As an editor at, one of the things I do is to make sure that our eBooks meet certain standards. I have come across a few customer complaints and reviews that criticised the way the eBook looked in a particular format. And as we work to continually improve our services to our community, I wanted to research this thoroughly so that we can be confident that we offer the best quality to our readers as possible.

Publishing houses normally have a style guide that has explicit instructions on how to format a book for publication. One of the more popular ones is the AP Stylebook which is available online and in print. Having such a guide makes it easier to produce content that always matches a particular standard and can easily produce similar looking content without too much extra effort on formatting. We don’t have such a stylebook at because we try to accommodate your artistic flair as much as we can without compromising quality.

However, images and stylised fonts don’t always convert well for eReaders. And in fact, most eReaders only display a certain subset of fonts available for use in word processing software. The rest are rendered as images and many times, the conversion from font to image doesn’t work out too well.

In that light, I wanted to outline a few basic guidelines for formatting your eBook:

  • Try to stick to one format throughout your text. Switching fonts, paragraph styles, and other elements within your text can give an unpolished look.
  • Use fonts that are widely used on computers and eReaders everywhere. You can find a list of common fonts on the web, but here’s a standard list. Try and use a font that has both a Windows and a Mac version.
  • Always make sure you can make a distinction between on paragraph and the next but make sure to stick to one type of paragraph formatting throughout.
    • Block paragraphs are defined in your word processor by inserting padding between paragraphs.
    • Indented paragraphs start a few pixels in from the beginning of the line, but only for the first line.
    • Manual paragraphs, i.e. simply inserting a new line between paragraphs, is ok if you absolutely cannot master the other two formats.
  • Use low resolution .png or .jpg files for your images. High resolution images can inflate the total size of your eBook and that will frustrate readers when they download to their computer or eReader. (See one author’s experience with Amazon’s delivery system and a large eBook download here.)
  • Make sure your images are not floating but are anchored to the page. Floating images can displace text and end up in unpredictable locations when the manuscript is converted.
  • Background images for pages translate to individual images when converted to eReader format and can break your text up in unpredictable locations. Try to stay away from them.
  • Page numbers and headings are not fixed for eReaders If you use them, be aware that you can have page numbers and headings appearing embedded in your pages at odd and irregular places throughout the text.

There are a ton of other styling guidelines that I could insert here, but I think that is plenty for a blog post (maybe even a little too much). Maybe it’s time I looked about setting up a stylebook for – what do you say?


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