A Sign of Ebook Quality?

Via Nicola Griffith I found out about the QED Seal, which is designed to act as a sign of quality for ebooks. Interestingly the web page starts with a quote from my friend Pablo Defendini:

A well-crafted ebook is essential both from the reader’s perspective, as well as the publishers’—a reader will respond to a well-crafted, beautifully designed ebook. They will feel like they got their money’s worth when they interact with a professional-quality product. A quality ebook is going to be increasingly crucial as a component of a publisher’s brand going forward.

I love the sentiment, Pablo, and I very much hope that the final sentence is true.

This is something I would very much like to be able to say about the ebooks I publish, and ideally about all of the books I sell. Unfortunately, to get the seal, you have to enter your book for the Publishing Innovation Awards. That doesn’t (at a brief glance) appear to cost money, but the awards are only open to original digital content, and I’m not sure what that means. That is, is it content originally presented in digital format, or original content presented digitally?

In any case, I don’t suppose the people running the awards want people entering just to get the seal. It seems to me that there’s quite a bit of work involved in ensuring that you qualify. I’d love to know that my books did (and if not where they failed so I could fix it), but I don’t want to take advantage of someone’s contest just to get them to do a free check on my production quality.

FYI, the criteria against which ebooks will be judged are as follows:

  1. Front matter: the title does not open on a blank page.
  2. Information hierarchy: content is arranged in such a way that the relative importance of the content (heads, text, sidebars, etc) are visually presented clearly.
  3. Order of content: check of the content to be sure that none of it is missing or rearranged.
  4. Consistency of font treatment: consistent application of styles and white space.
  5. Links: hyperlinks to the web, cross references to other sections in the book, and the table of contents all work and point to the right areas. If the title has an index, it should be linked.
  6. Cover: The cover does not refer to any print edition only related content.
  7. Consumable Content: The title does not contain any fill-in content, such as workbooks and puzzle books, unless the content has been re-crafted to direct the reader on how to approach using the fill-in content.
  8. Print References: Content does not contain cross references to un-hyperlinked, static print page numbers (unless the ebook is intentionally mimicking its print counterpart for reference).
  9. Breaks: New sections break and/or start at logical places.
    10. Images: Art is appropriately sized, is in color where appropriate, loads relatively quickly, and if it contains text is legible. If images are removed for rights reasons, that portion is disclaimed or all references to that image are removed.
  10. Tables: Table text fits the screen comfortably, and if rendered as art is legible.
  11. Symbols: Text does not contain odd characters.
  12. Metadata: Basic metadata for the title (author, title, etc.) is in place and accurate.

As you can see, not all of these are things that easily lend themselves to checking via a tool like the wonderful epubcheck. Some of them could be included though, and that would help a lot. (Sorry Lisa, my Java is not up to doing it myself.) But the rest of it is time-consuming manual work along the lines of proof-reading, and that you should probably pay someone to do.

4 thoughts on “A Sign of Ebook Quality?

  1. So… interesting question: the things you list above (and i agree wholeheartedly with all of them) that might need a “proof-reader” – it strikes me of note that it’s a notably different skill set of proof-reading than the print book’s set. How does one qualify for such a job?

    1. I have no idea. I suspect that most publishers (Pyr being an honourable exception) don’t know that they need such a person. Maybe Matt below can help. DBW must need people to do it.

  2. Hi Cheryl,

    You’re right – the QED and the PIAs can’t be automated at this point. Which I think is kind of the best thing: creating print books isn’t automated, nor is proof reading and spot checking them, so we wanted to establish something similar for ebooks. “Original digital content” just means that you own the rights. If something exists in print and ebook, that’s great. We did create a new category for things that exist only in digital as well this year, but everything else is open to books that exist in multiple places. There is a fee associated with the PIAs and the QED, which helps allay the cost of having people comb through each ebook on several formats/platforms, but people who would like to can enter into just the QED if they like. Let me know if I can answer any questions!

    -Matt Mullin
    Community Relations Manager
    Digtial Book WOrld

    1. Matt:

      Thanks ever so much for dropping by and clarifying eligibility. I’ll certainly take a closer look at the entry criteria now, and if I have any questions I’ll get back to you.

      And yes, it is a good thing that we humans still have a role in book production.

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