Shannon Stacey

Lost in the Digital Conversion?

Yesterday I realized I didn’t have a copy of No Surrender on my iPod Touch. I like to have previous books in a series at my fingertips so I can refer back to descriptions of characters and events while writing the current book. The problem—my author copies weren’t on the Macbook.

How much do I detest having to fire up the old Toshiba laptop? I actually considered buying a Kindle copy of my own book so it would automagically appear on my iPod. Go ahead, you can say it. That’s pathetic. (Side note: my husband says I actually sneer when I have to use the PC desktop for his business now. I’m quite sure he’s exaggerating.)

Instead, I decided it was time to set up Calibre on the Mac and get that all straightened out. Then I found the zip file of digital author copies in my email archive, downloaded them, converted through Calibre and sent the book to my iPod Touch.

Where I was horrified to find all of the italics missing. So horrified, in fact, that my initial impulse was to immediately buy every device and program needed to check every format of my book. The italics are present in the PDF version, but what about the others?

Is it a side effect of running it through Calibre and onto my device? Are the countless people using Calibre to convert to ePub and sending it to their devices not seeing the italics?

Excuse the melodrama, but that overwhelms me with a need to put my head between my knees and take deep breaths so I don’t pass out.

There are so many things in the writing industry authors have no control over. But the one thing I absolutely control is my craft. I choose the words I put on the page. I choose how they’re presented. If a word or a sentence or entire passage is italicized, it’s because I chose to present those words that way. Deliberately. For a reason.

Perhaps the italics is for emphasis in dialogue. Or it signifies a text message or a note or a memory. A bit of internal dialogue to be set apart, even from a deep POV. Sometimes it’s used when the POV character’s remembering a bit from a previous conversation.

His taillights faded into the distance and she knew he wasn’t coming back. Her honesty had come too late. Why couldn’t you trust me with the truth?

His taillights faded into the distance and she knew he wasn’t coming back. Her honesty had come too late. Why couldn’t you trust me with the truth?

The reader’s going to get it. She read the previous conversation during which the words were said. But the italics are like a visual clue to the reader’s subconscious and without them, she’s going to stumble, even if it’s only for a few seconds. She’s not going to stop and reread a passage very many times before she’s annoyed with your book.

There’s always talk about digital publishing’s effects on an author’s career. I just never really considered its effect on an author’s craft. I’m dismayed to think about how many readers aren’t reading my words as I intended for them to be read.

6 comments to “Lost in the Digital Conversion?”

  1. Karen Templeton
      · February 4th, 2010 at 4:36 pm · Link

    I truly feel your pain. Because that would make me foaming-at-the-mouth crazy, too.

    Stuff like that happens in print, too: Words changed without my knowledge/permission, typos inserted where there were none before, stets to (in my mind) awkwardly reworded passages disallowed. Sigh. One reason I don’t even look at my books once they’re in print, unless I have to look up eye color or something for a subsequent book and don’t feel like trolling through the Word file.

    But I cringe. Oh, do I cringe. :cry:

  2. Annmarie
      · February 5th, 2010 at 4:31 am · Link

    I would need a bag of M&M’s STAT.

    That has to totally suck.

  3. Charlene
      · February 5th, 2010 at 2:18 pm · Link

    The list of things beyond an author’s control are long. I try not to think about them too much.

  4. Shannon
      · February 5th, 2010 at 3:30 pm · Link

    Karen, I haven’t had words changed. That would make my head explode, rather than just throb the way lost italics do!

    Annmarie, stop talking about M&Ms! I’m trying to diet. :lol:

    I know, Charli, which is why I think I cling so much to what I thought I could control—the words. But no italics? *sniffle*

    Rae, you’re buying the ePub from Harlequin, not the PDF, for the Sony, right? You still have to wash them through Adobe Digital Editions (suckage!) but they don’t have the teeny font & wonky magnification that the PDFs do.

  5. Heather Rae Scott
      · February 5th, 2010 at 3:25 pm · Link

    This is why I wish someone would come up with a universal way to do this so that the format stays as written. I think someone will eventually figure out a way–I mean look at technology. Oh and it’ll probably be a pimple-faced fourteen year old kid. ;-) It makes me sad now to realize I could be missing something as a reader, or worse that someone out there is scratching their head at something I wrote. Especially since I finally got an ereader and have already experienced the whole panic of converting only to realize I didn’t have too. But there are some books that come up on the Sony as teeny tiny print. When I up it, then it’s annoying too large and I feel like the lapse in turning the pages is even longer than what it normally is. :roll: I guess the saying is true, “Technology is great…when it’s working!”

    Karen, I’m hearing more and more of what you speak. I don’t think it’s right at all. A lot of people are also saying their voices are being over-edited. Again, not a fair thing to do to someone IMHO.

  6. Natalie J. Damschroder
      · February 9th, 2010 at 10:29 pm · Link

    The e-books I’ve read so far have inconsistent italicizing so that I can’t tell when it got lost in the passages that OBVIOUSLY were supposed to be in italics, by authors I KNOW would have done it right. :) But it hasn’t been bad enough to damage my enjoyment of the books.

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