Your Ebook Design Philosophy, feat. angry rant

Indeed, my life has led me to a place where I have been forced to consider the mundanity that is ebook design, so please, let me spare your ego and precious time by providing you with my thoughtful opinions, for life is terribly short.

First, the angry rant:

Not only is the cake a lie, but the juice, too. And many, many other things. That bald guy from  The Matrix  was right: ignorance  is  bliss.

Not only is the cake a lie, but the juice, too. And many, many other things. That bald guy from The Matrix was right: ignorance is bliss.

Despite HubSpot's respected position in the content marketing industry, I have discovered that a large percentage of their content not only lacks integrity but comes packaged in such poor design that it makes me blush in embarrassment on their behalf. If content is so damn important to them, then why are their resources even more diluted than blended juice drinks? You don't need to spend 600 words on a 180-word takeaway (30% juice = 70% water). I resent them for the time I've wasted trying to educate myself about inbound marketing. More disappointing than that: they're promoting outdated design theory to people who are paying good money to learn how to win the hearts of customers who depend on the cutting edge to get ahead.

For instance, who the hell thinks it's a good idea to host ebook content on powerpoint slides? Fine, I'll be generous and indulge their potential reasons:

  1. slides are bite-size, i.e. not intimidating for people who don't like reading, 
  2. it's easier to organize the order of information since you can drag and drop slides rather than cut and paste text within custom-designed page layouts
  3. old-schoolers seem to find powerpoints comfortable because the graphic tech is familiar to them (i.e. templates, clip art, and other shortcuts)

My take on ebook design:

Why you should avoid slide-formatted downloadables:

  1. Slides were designed to be used by speakers for presentations; they aren't designed to have words on them, period. If you're speaking to an audience and using slides that display more than one or two words, your audience will be reading your slides instead of listening to you.
  2. Most slide templates look utterly antediluvian. Unless you're always investing in hi-res images or gorgeous, minimalist backgrounds, then you're dating your brand. It's difficult to find such assets for 20+ slides of information. Ebooks that are shaped like real books, on the other hand, allow you to showcase only your best. Plus, there are ways to format text to avoid burdening the reader. Let's not assume people's brains have become so liquidated by the internet that they're unable to handle anything more than headlined text.
  3. Sure, it can be more time-intensive to format content into custom-designed pages, but it's actually pretty easy if you use the right tools, like Sketch or Adobe. Meanwhile, it's difficult to collaborate on slide-formatted documents because you are forced to circulate strictly PDF drafts (unless you're comfortable with your computer translating different file extensions).  

Why you should use book (or magazine) formatted ebooks:

The Book of Kells reminds us of our multi-millennia love affair with book-shaped books.

The Book of Kells reminds us of our multi-millennia love affair with book-shaped books.

  1. Using programs like Adobe or Sketch results in a truly custom-branded aesthetic. You're not going to look like every other agency that depend on templates or slides. Customization is quality, and you don't want to come off looking old-school when the realm of inbound marketing is new-school. Plus, magazines and books look beautiful/sexy/professional looking (which is why people still buy them) and imply that you're paying attention to modern design trends.
  2. They are more easily viewable on mobile devices. Have you ever read a slide-formatted document on your phone or e-reader? It ain't fun.
  3. They are more flexible. Want to include an infographic in your ebook? Take a look at Wired magazine--it's filled with infographics, a genre of content that doesn't tend to fit on a slide but attracts >40% of humans who prefer to learn visually.
  4. Speaking of Wired, they have great page layouts, unlike slides, which are restrictive and get warped depending on the device you're using (slides have multiple standards: 9x16? 3x4? other?).
  5. It's more book-y, and it would make sense for ebooks to be book-y. Slides should remain the tool speakers use for presentations. Books have served as homes for high-quality content for thousands of years. And, if you're going to argue that not all books fit the traditional book mold, then I invite you to adopt whatever format those unique books employ and apply their format to your ebook. You'll find that their pages are pretty darn customized.

*mic drop*

Monica Guzman

I'm a freelance writer and content consultant. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2011 with a degree in creative non-fiction writing, I created The Magma Lab in order to share my skills and talents with the world. In my spare time I like to read, play board games, and take long walks.