Monday, 2 June 2008

Advice on pdf photobooks for the web

Viewpoint, Kristiansund, April 2008
Another that didn't fit in the book

Now that SoFoBoMo is over and I've rad all the books and then some, I thought I'd offer up some commentary on the technical aspects of putting together a pdf book for the web. Having done it myself, this is advice coming from both the production and consumption ends of this.

I noticed that a lot of the books posted were huge (30MB and up) and quite a lot were difficult to read and view due to the layout, hence this post. I'm not a professional designer and don't know swathes about book design but these are some simple things that I think would improve the look of the books.

My thoughts:

1. Put cover pages on the book. It looks more professional if there is even a simple pair of covers. Makes it look like a finished product. There were a few on getting to the end I wondered where the rest was.
2. While we're on covers, put your name on it. As an author, stand up and be recognised. There were a couple with no credit on them at all. Use your real name.
3. Image size matters. Unless you are using full-bleed images (right to the edge) please put more border around images. If pictures goes too close to the edge they feel cramped. Same with text & captions. Quite a few would be losing their images in trim if actually printed. As a minimum I reckon 10% of the page width as a border each side.
4. Just because it is aimed for on-screen show, put it together like a print book. The ones that look like they are printed actually read better on-screen. This means things like larger inside margins, no spreading images across the fold, proper leader pages etc.
5. Pick fonts I can read. There are a few where the typography really gets in the way of readability. Think about size, letter spacing etc. Try a few options and run up a trial page of text.
6. Please, not slideshows nor fade effects. This works for a series of images only but we are talking about a book here. Again, it's better if the on-screen book feels like a real print book.
7. Smaller, please, please, please. The key to file size for on-screen display is less resolution, not greater compression. jpeg 25% compression gets you nothing compared to 100dpi output. If you are printing, then create a second version for the web. Output images at 90-100dpi, medium compression. For a SoFoBoMo size book (35-50 images) this should get you down around 5-6MB. Most layout software will allow you to output at different resolutions, use the options.
8. Embed the fonts and colour profile (sRGB for on screen). Ensures it looks nice and as you intended. pdf readers take care of the rest.


  1. Martin,

    Good job. Good info.

    If you have time and inclination, I would love a personal critique of my own efforts.

    I know of at least one error common to all three of my books, I couldn't figure out how to make a rear cover.

    The first book I ran out of time on the one month limit and my grammar sucked.

    The other books my solution was to not write much.

    I was using Scribus, too much to learn in the time frame.

  2. Bob, the key to covers and the like in Scribus is in the Master Pages (Edit-Master Pages...) and Sections (Files-Document Properties). A back cover would just be a cover master added as a left page at the end. Sections control numbering and the like. Something I omitted from "A place to call Home".

    I learnt so much Scribus doing this, I could write a book on it.

    I'll send the critique separately tomorrow, it's a bit late (midnight) right now.

  3. I have 2 photo books of my family and I customized and got booth of that photo books from Clark Color at very genuine price.


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