The world of ebook publishing seems to change month by month. What was all right in January becomes against the rules in February. There are all sorts of reasons for that. Readers demand some changes for ease of use. Other changes try to counter the way scammers use the system. It’s an evolving situation which authors need to stay in tune with.
One such change, in early 2021, has to do with self-help books.
Self-help books are, to over-simplify, books which try to help the reader make some sort of a change or improvement to their life. This is a fairly interactive experience. The reader isn’t just reading about a vampire and a werewolf having a fight. Instead, the reader is trying to understand some steps and then apply those steps to their own daily life. Often this process involves the reader doing reflection, planning, and evaluation.
Most self-help paperback books include an area with lines / space for the reader to write those things down. That way the reader keeps everything in one place – the author’s information and the reader’s thoughts on the process.
The problem is that ebooks don’t let you actually “write on the lines”.
In the original days of ebooks, the early adopters of ebooks understood that. Nearly all ebooks have a ‘write a note’ feature, so the readers would simply click to write a note, type in their thoughts, and it worked fine. Their note was recorded with that section of the book and could be referenced easily. Some readers preferred recording their thoughts in a separate way anyway – on their computer, in a paper journal, or so on.
The problem is that ebooks have now been adopted as useful by the masses. People are using smartphones, computers, tablets, and more to read those ebooks. And now that vast millions of people are reading ebooks, not all of them are as savvy about how they work. The reader could see lines and think they really could somehow type ON THE LINE. They could keep clicking to get to the line and think the ebook reader was broken.
Because of these reasons, some publishers are now NOT ALLOWING lines in an ebook which seem to indicate the reader should be able to write there. The book can of course still say, “Please list three ways in which you could add exercise into your morning routine.” That part is fine. But there shouldn’t be actual physical lines following that statement, leading the reader to believe that they can write those lines on a physical line in the ebook. The reader can still click to add a note there if they want. The reader can still type into their computer, or write in their journal, to record their response. They just shouldn’t be led to expect that the horizontal visual line on the ebook reader’s screen is functional.
Here is the actual response from Draft2Digital on this topic:
Amazon, Kobo, B&N, Vilvio, Tolino, and Scibd specifically has told us the following in regards to interactive e-books:
We require published books to function entirely inside the e-reader, without the use of a web browser or any manual work, like using a copy machine or a screen capture program to write, draw, or color. As a result, we won’t be accepting or selling interactive content to prevent buyer complaints.
The Kindle, Nook and Kobo have rudimentary support for annotations, however, adding notes to writing lines isn’t one of them. It’s a note in the margin of the ebook, and when writing lines are added, buyers think that they should be allowed or able to document their thoughts on those lines, but that simply doesn’t work on most e-readers and without special file formatting.
Our library services has a list of content they ask us to actively scan for and block, including erotica, objectionable content not suitable for all age groups, and interactive content which doesn’t work in e-reader format.
Simply put, we are following the current guidelines outlined by our vendors. If you would like to have your authors remove the writing lines and request re-review for submission, we’d be happy to reconsider any titles or publication. I apologize for the inconvenience.
So there are two main solutions for an author who is publishing a self-help book which currently has lines.
One, remove the lines in their base document. Don’t have lines in any versions. This is the simplest and most straightforward. I always recommend having one base document which then distributes out to all platforms and versions. This makes it far easier to make changes and updates going forward. Just leave blank space for the paperback version. Most of the people aren’t going to write in their paperback anyway – they’re going to do their note-taking in a computer program or in a journal. It gives them more space to write and is easier to deal with. So those lines weren’t helping much anyway.
Or Two, if you REALLY want those lines in the paperback version, now you have to maintain a paperback version and an ebook version. It means every time going forward that you make changes to your paperback version you’re going to have to regenerate the ebook version of it and manually strip out the lines. If you really want to go through that hassle, have at it.
Let me know if you have any questions!