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Do different file types of ebooks have different formatting parameters? It looks like many of my ebooks layout came from the Soviet Union or from a typewriter that has no options. It would be really nice to have a more aesthetic look.

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Different authors spend different amount of time getting the formatting right. Also, support for various formatting changes over time. I formatted some things in 2011 which were the best available technology at the time, but wouldn't look good on today's kindles. (I'm redoing one such book at the moment).

One of the problems is that ebook conversions are usually seen as afterthoughts after the print version comes out.

My rules of thumb:

  1. PDFs to anything generally sucks
  2. EPUB to Kindle does not suck anymore (via Kindle Previewer (kindlegen)) -- especially if the CSS were done right.
  3. MS Word to epub (via Calibre) does not suck as long as headers are consistently styled and you are not using a lot of invisible formatting (i.e., hard carriage returns, manual centering etc).
  4. Ebooks with images are hard to convert well.
  5. MS Word to PDF generally does not suck (unless you think of PDF as inherently a sucky/inflexible format).
  6. Encoding errors are a frequent problem when converting from one format to another. They are also easy to miss during proofing.

One other thought. Some lesser known reading systems don't support much publisher formatting but impose their own default css on the ebook -- and give users the option to override publisher settings. You need to make sure you're viewing it in ibooks or google play books, adobe Digital Editions or possibly kindle app.

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Yes, they do. And in addition to that there is no single set of formatting parameters within one type of of ebook. You can buy ePub based books that have margins set, so your full display is unused, that have paragraphs with indented first line, or with extra space etc. If books have been scanned the formatting might even be more diverse.

If the formatting is done properly, via style sheets, you might be able to "show" them on your device to your liking and for sure should be able to convert them. If the formatting was done "hard", using spaces and/or inline styling, that is much more difficult.

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