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From Print to Ebook

A challenge arises when you want to present in an ebook what in print is a moderately wide table of data.

During production of Cold Heart: Yamabuki vs. the Shinobi Priest, author Katherine M. Lawrence and I decided to add some additional back matter about the world of 12th-century Heian Japan.

Cold Heart by Katherine M Lawrence, back matter in print and kindle
The print layout and the default ebook layout are designed to be essentially the same in appearance.

What to do when the content is just too wide to be viewed properly on smaller screens? How do we present this info without sacrificing accessibility?

Rendered display of Cold Heart table data formatted for current ebook ereaders and devices
Tabular presentation of the content in higher-resolution Kindles and other ebook apps and devices.

My approach is to adapt the semantic structure of the HTML content from table display to an alternate display — for example, a nested ordered list — while retaining the intended meaning in the content itself. The work is done with some HTML and CSS coding.

The preferred display is very similar to the print layout of the content. The table data is presented in an HTML table and styled with CSS accordingly. Most devices will display the table this way, much as it appears in the book’s print edition.


Ebook HTML code for display of Cold Heart table data formatted for current ebook ereaders and devices
The HTML coding for the page with the table’s content marked up in table format.

For older devices with narrower lower-resolution screens, where a tabular display will not fit, the content is coded as a nested list.


Rendered fallback display of Cold Heart table data formatted for older ebook ereaders and devices
Fallback display of the table content. No information is lost, not even for screen readers.

The nested list structure displays the data in a more stacked mode. Despite its different appearance, the content is coded to retain the same semantic meaning. The content is still understandable to readers — including screen reading devices.


Ebook HTML coding for fallback display of Cold Heart table data formatted for older ebook ereaders and devices
The fallback HTML coding for list display on smaller and older screens.

The result is a pleasant, seamless reading experience whatever device the reader is using.


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