Nook Doesn't Play Nice With EPUB Format

Nook for PC and MacConsider this a cautionary tale for both readers and authors.

Readers, if a book doesn’t display well on your Nook, don’t automatically blame the author/publisher for being sloppy.

Authors and publishers, check your EpUB conversions on an actual Nook to be sure everything displays properly.

I discovered this issue both while doing my own conversions and in working with BB eBooks when I hired them to do conversions.

Here were the issues I discovered:

1. I had fits getting my bulleted lists from my non-fiction book to display properly. They looked fine in HTML, converted to Kindle without a hitch and looked great in Adobe Digital Editions. On the Nook, the bullets intruded on the left margin. I had to jump through lots of hoops to fix them for Nook.

2. Nooks apparently don’t display inline styling of hyperlinks. BB eBooks had to remove that style. What that means in English is that hyperlinks looked horrible (half looking like links and half underlined).

3. Something weird happened with hyphens on a title line. The hyphen was there, but the rest of the word wasn’t. Again, BB eBooks had to adjust the style sheet to make it work.

4. We had no end of trouble getting indenting and paragraph spacing to work properly. (The Nook decided both indents and extra spacing between paragraphs was a good idea. I disagreed.)

The scary part is that those were the ones we caught. I looked all the books over carefully on my Nook, but I can’t swear something else didn’t slip past us. (If anyone purchases a Nook version of one of my books and finds other issues, please let me know!)

In every scenario above, the EPUB looked perfect in Adobe Digital Editions, so it’s obvious the format wasn’t the problem. It was the Nook.

So authors and publishers, check your books on an actual Nook. If you don’t own a Nook, find a friend. And readers, if you find a Nook book with wonky formatting, let the author know. Don’t just assume he or she didn’t know how to do a proper EPUB conversion.

14 Comments on Nook Doesn't Play Nice With EPUB Format

  1. Phil Olynyk // July 17, 2013 at 7:09 pm //

    I thought that the Nook used a version of Adobe’s RMSDK, which is very similar to ADE. Did you check your ebook on a Sony or Kobo (by sideloading)? They both use the RMSDK with tweaks. And which model of Nook are you using? There are a number of real experts on epub over at the MobileRead EPUB sub-forum; it might be good to post these problems there, as I’ve never heard mention of them up to now.

  2. Juli Monroe // July 17, 2013 at 8:44 pm //

    @Phil, no I couldn’t check on a Sony or Kobo. I don’t have either of them, and since I’m not on the Sony store and have sold so few on Kobo, I’m not as worried about them.

    I’m using a Nook HD.

  3. Canadian here, so Nook is unavailable to me.

    My Sony (an old one, PRS-650, so this may no longer be accurate) has no issues with EPUBs that I’ve discovered. Granted, I have never used bulleted lists, so I couldn’t comment on that regard. It seems fairly fault tolerant, though.

    Wonderful to know I may be selling broken e-books that I can’t check, though. If only there were proper standards that were actually followed …

    Lovely.

  4. Juli, for bulleted lists, you may want to try using negative indents on paragraphs rather than ol and ul elements.

    This CSS will work okay for a bulleted list:
    p.listing
    {
    text-indent: -0.7em;
    margin: 0.2em 0 0 2.2em;
    text-align: left;
    }

    Hope that helps.

  5. Juli Monroe // July 18, 2013 at 8:26 am //

    @Paul, thanks, but I got it to work over a year ago, using your first (and now not-for-sale) book on e-book formatting. That book was a lifesaver. It took me way too many hours, but I finally got the formatting right.

  6. Juli Monroe // July 18, 2013 at 8:29 am //

    @Ryan, if you’d like, send a couple of your books to me, and I’ll check them on my Nook. My email is in the About Us section of the site.

  7. @Juli. Glad you got your book looking good. Non-fiction is always a challenge.

  8. As an author, I take a more practical approach. Amazon and the iBookstore dominate the market, so I check my ebooks carefully on them. I then usually end up ticked off with how ugly the Amazon version looks. Apple cares about appearance. As Amazon’s cluttered website demonstrates, the retail giant doesn’t. Eventually, competition and the need to distribute more complex books will force them to change.

    Nooks and Sony readers are very minor players in the ebook market. It’s simply not practical to fret over how an ebook looks with them as long as the reader is still getting the content they paid for. And that’s not getting into all the woes I’d experience if I fretted about checking my books on all the old Sony and Kindle readers.

    Also, I distribute to them via Smashwords. Having sent Smashwords a valid and verified ePub file, I regard what comes out as their problem rather than mine. Sticking to standards is even more important for the minor players.

    I consider my responsibility completed when I do what I can to tell readers the best platform for viewing my books. For Hospital Gowns and Other Embarrassments that’s an iPad followed, oddly enough, by b&W epaper Kindles. Amazon’s clumsy handling of images, reducing their size down to little more than thumbnails, makes the Kindle app reader versions look poor on my iPad and on my Mac.

    In short, the fastest way to get ebook retailers to follow the standards is to lay off all that time-consuming tweaking for each platform. Let the retailers who do poorly suffer the consequences. In the case of Nooks and Sony, that already seems to be happening.

    Keep in mind that, for my print versions (Lightning & CreateSpace), I do put a great deal of time into their appearance. But that’s because with print, what you create really is what appears on page. With digital, past a certain point all your labors will come to naught. The standards and formats just aren’t mature enough yet.

    I might add that I’ve been told that the major book retailers are following the policy I’m suggesting. Rather than spend thousands of dollars klutzing around trying to get the mobi and KF8 formats just right for Amazon’s readers, they simply send Amazon an ePub file and let it do the fretting. That’s a good way to punish Amazon for not going with standards.

  9. Thanks for the word about the Nook. I haven’t received any complaints about my books, but my sales are so few on that platform I don’t know if it’ll be worth getting a Nook.

  10. @Phil

    Same basis (RMSDK), different behaviors. It all comes down to EPUB specs and how style overrides aren’t dealt with.

    To sum things up, vendor A, B and C all have different overrides. A will ignore the styles for headings, B will ignore some of the styles for paragraphs* and C will ignore the styles for images. Those ignored styles are replaced with default styles the vendor has decided to enforce.

    Of course those overrides are not documented so you have to learn them by testing a large amount of files…

    But why do we must deal with overrides in the first place? Because a large part of the files vendors get are utter crap. Those files are outsourced to Indian Ebooks factories, which just don’t care about the quality of the code but they are just cheap. Even renown services are outsourcing to them.**

    In other words, people who are doing their job well are punished because vendors are not brave enough to tell publishers their files are crap and that they can’t accept them. So they alter files as much as possible, by ignoring problematic code to enforce their own, so that readers get something they can read…

    Thank you for your concern. I wish someone with influence will report this scandal one day.

    * Which is just plain bad as it may alter the structure and the articulation of the phrased in some languages. It should just be forbidden in the specs as it is jeopardizing entire languages.

    ** For instance, Apple is promoting one of those renown conversion houses which outsource to India and give publishers crappy files.

  11. NickBangO: It seems like the vendor could be doing a better job informing us what their readers are doing to the files and giving us best practices for working around them. Or are they doing that and I missed the memo?

  12. JonnyGreenwood // July 18, 2013 at 10:32 pm //

    That’s why in many cases I’d rather convert ePub files to PDF, then read the PDF on Nook.

    As long as the ePub book is displayed well on computer, I would convert it to PDF, I always think PDF is the most stable document format. And in addition, the Epubor’s epub to PDF program indeed save my ass, I can easily get a PDF suits my Nook’s screen size well.

  13. I totally agree that when you convert your ebook for Kindle or Nook, you need to have the device for you to see the actual design. Previewer does not look exactly the same as you have formatted. It’s not necessary to buy the device, if you can borrow to a friend then it’s good to go.

  14. Elizabeth Boepple // April 11, 2015 at 12:57 pm //

    There are MANY more problems! Nook does use ADE (whatever that is!). I thought that they used epub, but they don’t render 100% clean epub well at all; huge e.g., you need to apply Heading 1 or 2 to get it to pick up something in the Contents menu, but it WILL NOT center those headings… so your chapter titles land at the left margin and STRETCHED across the entire screen regardless of how short the title. It also will not hyphenate all caps, and will not recognize optional hyphens (the list goes on!). BTW, PDF is a HORRIBLE way to go for e-books. The font is not sizeable, and the result is a MESS!

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