Wednesday 14 July 2010

Why e-books suck for poetry

The first time I saw my own work in e-book format I was thoroughly unimpressed. Disappointed, even. The formal integrity of the work -- line breaks, line lengths, stanza shapes, indentations, etc. -- was completely altered, bulldozed into gormless simplicity to better suit the limitations of its new vessel. It's like looking at paintings on a device that changes red to green and moves thing inside the paintings to different places. Solutions to solve this problem, such as scrolling horizontally or inserting some indication to readers that the format has been altered, are also unsatisfactory.

It seems I'm not alone. Billy Collins, among others, has weighed-in on the disaster of reformatting poetry to the clumsier e-book format:

"I found that even in a very small font that if the original line is beyond a certain length, they will take the extra word and have it flush left on the screen, so that instead of a three-line stanza you actually have a four-line stanza. And that screws everything up," says Collins, a former U.S. poet laureate whose "Ballistics" came out in February.

When he adjusted the size to large print, his work was changed beyond recognition, a single line turning into three, "which is quite distressing," he adds.

Read the whole article here.

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