Friday, October 29, 2010

How is an eBook like Pizza Hut pizza?
(and what happened to Dan Poynter?)

Maybe an eBook is to a pBook as Pizza Hut is to pizza

I live and work in Milford, Connecticut. Milford is in New Haven County, an area known for and proud of excellent Neapolitan pizza. (Many of our traditional pizzerias spell pizza as "apizza" and pronounce it "ah-beetz.")

Some of our local pizzerias have been owned by the same families for two or three generations, and new ones seem to open every few weeks. Because of the loyalty to the locals, it has been hard for the national chains, which have been so successful elsewhere, to build business here.

Everyone in this part of Connecticut has one or two favorite pizzerias. We are experts, fans, afficionados and snobs. People here are less likely to switch pizza sources than to switch cola or jeans brands.

By Mafia decree (or maybe simple collusion) local pizzerias are closed on Monday, so the pizza makers can spend time with their families.

Apparently Pizza Hut and Domino's have dispensations from the Pope or from the Capo di Tutti Capi ("boss of all bosses" in the Mafia), and are open seven days a week. This means that locals who must have something pizza-like on the first workday of the week, will go to the Hut or Dom's on that day -- but probably not on other days. On all days, the pizza chains serve customers who have recently moved from places like Kentucky or Utah and don't know what real pizza is supposed to look and taste like.

(above) Vaguely round, sloppy and delicious traditional New Haven "ah-beetz" from Frank Pepe, and perfectly round and bland pizza from a national chain's factory

The growing acceptance of the typographical limitations of eBooks has led to an increasing dumbing-down of pBooks — particularly, the lack of hyphenation. eBooks have made ugly books normal, and apparently acceptable to many

On Wednesday, I completed the approximately 50th read-through of a 318-page book I'm publishing. I carefully examined each line and each paragraph, made decisions about word spacing and hyphenation, and substituted words, to make each page look as good as possible.

On Tuesday, I received a copy of 5.0, co-authored by Dan Poynter and Danny O. Snow.

Danny O. wants us to know that he graduated from Harvard and is on the board of directors of the Independent Book Publishers Association. Dan P. is generally recognized as an authority on self-publishing.

The printing in their book is just plain ugh-lee. Unlike Dan P's classic Self-Publishing Manual, (first published in 1979) the new 2010 book has oversized indents, no hyphens, and the text type is condensed sans serif. Word spacing is atrocious, every page has rivers, and there are orphans which could have been easily eliminated.

Dan Poynter boasts that he is "the father of self-publishing," "the leading authority on how to write, publish and promote books," and is "on the leading edge of book publishing." If Dan thinks crappy typography as shown above is acceptable, he's fallen off the edge.

I don’t claim to be the leading authority on anything. I'm just an amateur publisher and page formatter, but I could have made the paragraph much nicer:

This book sadly follows the same "design" scheme as Dan's quick-n-dirty Self-Publishing Manual, Vol 2 from 2009. The new book is a little less ugly, but neither book is as "professional" as Dan's 1979 book. This is not progress.
  • I can't help wondering if Dan decided that since eBook typography (I hate using those words together) is acceptable, an ugly and sloppy pBook is also acceptable.
  • I can't help fearing that newbies who regard Dan as a guru will follow his example and produce even uglier books.
I'm facing a personal dilemma with eBooks right now. I have published a few as PDFs which maintain the page formatting of my pBooks, but I am reluctant to release the books in the more popular — and uglier — eBook formats. Because of this, I may be missing readers and income — but I just don't like ugly books.

I suppose at some point I will stop comparing eBooks to pBooks and will come to accept a Kindle page as normal, but part of a parallel universe of publishing.

My cousin Dave is a pizza maven with very high standards -- but he will sometimes tolerate chain pizza. Rather than dismiss Pizza Hut's mass-produced products as substandard pizza, Dave says, "It's not pizza. It's pizza HUT."

Maybe I should be able to say, "It's not a book. It's an EBOOK."

(photos from and Domino's)


  1. I'm noticing widows (lines with just one word on them) all over the place, even on books from Oxford University Press.

  2. It looks like Dan has lost it, and maybe Danny never got it.

    If these guys are the publishing gurus that we mere mortals are supposed to emulate, the world is in deep shit.

  3. Orphans ... I meant orphans, not widows.

  4. I'm in North Haven, and salivating over your picture of the Pepe's pizza. Unfortunatley, today is Monday, so I'll get Chinese food instead.