Sunday, April 25, 2010

Smashwords Ebooks Support Live ToCs

Smashwords authors can now add enhanced navigation to their ebooks with linked, clickable ToCs.

This is good news for our 4,992 authors (we should reach 5,000+ by tonight or tomorrow!) and their 10,943 books.

The lack of live ToC support has been one of the biggest, most glaring holes at Smashwords ever since we launched two years ago.

For fiction, it was a tolerable omission for most readers because people read fiction serially, from word one forward. For our non-fiction authors, it was more problematic because readers interact differently with non-fiction. For some non fiction, navigation is essential to the reading experience.

The newly updated Smashwords Style Guide, which now sports a sporty ToC of its own, went live this afternoon with step by step instructions.

Special thanks to Smashwords author Cheryl Anne Gardner for volunteering the fancy finger work to test different approaches for creating ToCs. Cheryl Anne sent me some some great step-by-step notes which I incorporated directly into the Style Guide along with some additional tips from own my testing.

Turns out our Meatgrinder has supported ToCs for at least a couple months. We didn't make any deliberate changes to Meatgrinder to support this. It's possible the support arrived serendipitously in the last few months when we started doing a series of Meatgrinder conversion blade upgrades.

The secret to good intra-ebook hyperlinking with Smashwords lies in using Word's bookmark feature. As Captain Kirk might say, we're boldly taking Microsoft Word where it has never gone before.

I tested the new Style Guide with Stanza on my iPhone (screen shot at left) and the ToC works well. You just tap your finger down for about a second until the link turns yellow, then you lift your finger and it jumps to your page.

I also see we're supporting forced page breaks in front of Headers. This is another feature I didn't know we supported until a Smashwords author blogged about it or told me about it, I forget which. I'm always learning from you guys.

Although I haven't tested this yet, the bookmarks can also be used to create fully linkable footnotes, endnotes and indexes.

The links appear to work well in our EPUB, MOBI, PDF and RTF formats, though they don't work for our two online-readable formats - our HTML Reader and Javascript Reader. We're not going to worry about that for now.

The addition of navigation gets us one step closer to completing our integration with Amazon so Smashwords books can be distributed directly into the Kindle store. We've incorporated other recent changes too, such as new guidance in the Style Guide to help authors do better first line paragraph indents and construct better block paragraphs. These changes not only accommodate Amazon but will also improve the overall formatting quality of our books.


DesGreene said...

Great stuff - keep up the good work.

Best Regards,


Cheryl Anne Gardner said...

You are so welcome, Mark. After so many years, Microsoft Word and I have come to an understanding, specifically when it comes to formatting books.

Glad I could be of help.

Unknown said...

Outstanding! I am in the process of converting my book and the TOC was a huge loss for me. So I am very excited to see that I can now integrate it. Thanks a lot smashwords and Cheryl. Hope to be among your authors soon.

Mark Carter, OCT said...

A tip regarding this that I discovered yesterday while publishing my first Smashwords ebook... when I submitted a .docx file, my linked table of contents didn't work, but if I just saved the file as a .doc file and submitted it, it worked great.

Shayne Parkinson said...

Good news! Thanks, Mark and Cheryl.

Sara E. Mayhew said...

I'm trying to format a manga graphic novel, which is comprised of 32 images. Each image doesn't display as one page. There isn't anything in the support style guide about formatting comic books, though Smashwords has a comic/manga section :(

Anonymous said...

Fantastic, Mark. Just what I've been waiting for!

Un Opinador said...

Hi Mark,
Can you tell us more details about forced page breaks in front of headers? It would be nice in poetry to begin each poem in a new page. Thanks and bye.

Un Opinador said...

About Forced Page breaks: I tried the following tip, and it was ok with AutoVetter, in PDF, and with Stanza on the iPhone:

With Word 2007: (assuming you want each Header in a new page)Header-->Modify-->Format-->Paragraph-->Lines and page breaks-->check "previous jump page" and voila!! all headers begin in a new page. Sorry for my english (second language)and my Word 2007 is a spanish version.

I hope this can be usefull to someone.

Best regards,


randomgaab said...

When I go onto the Smashwords Styleguide - in html online - and try to click on the anchors (or whatever they are) in the table of contents, they don't go anywhere. I load the link into a new tab manually and it takes me to the table of contents page I copied it from, not to that section of the text that I would expect it to go to.

Am I doing something wrong?

Dovetail Public Relations said...

Gaabi, the support for linked ToC's is limited to .epub, .mobi and PDF. The Style Guide mentions (somehwhere in there) that intra-book links aren't supported for our browser-based readers.