Scott Marlowe, fantasy author

Scott Marlowe

Author of the Alchemancer and Assassin Without a Name fantasy series

eBooks, eReaders, and Maps

I recently added a map to the front matter of The Hall of the Wood because I think maps are an important part of the fantasy reading experience. One of the first questions my illustrator, Jared Blando, asked me was if I wanted black & white or color images. Because I wanted to use the map on the World of Uhl site and because lots and lots of people now have color eReading devices, of course I said color. If needed, I can easily convert the image to black & white myself.

I anticipated problems. Not with Jared or the maps themselves but with eBooks and the devices we read them on. Sure enough, after adding the map to the Kindle eBook version and viewing it on my Kindle 2, I saw right away that the map was next to useless. It’s simply impossible to read.

Here’s a couple of images which attempt to demonstrate the problem. It’s unfortunately very difficult to take a picture of a Kindle screen. (Try it if you don’t believe me. Maybe if I took in in full sunlight, but it’s too darn cold out right now.)

Anyway, check these out and believe me when I say the map is unreadable.

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However, when I brought the same eBook up on my iPad and viewed the map…

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I guess this image isn’t the best (again, taking a picture of one of these devices ain’t so easy; lots of glare, for ex.) but the map is very viewable in all its glory. One of the best things about viewing it on the iPad? Pinch and zoom. You can zoom in, pan, zoom out, and swipe away. The higher res image really shines here when you get close up.

Which is all fine and dandy if you own an iPad or similar device. But what about those who prefer traditional Kindles or other b/w eReaders?

My solution is to offer a link to the World of Uhl site where the map is viewable full-size. To that end, I put this disclaimer into the eBook:

A friendly note from the author about maps: Maps, eBooks, and eReaders do not always mix well. If you have difficulty viewing this one or simply wish to see a larger version, I encourage you to open your favorite browser and visit the World of Uhl map section (www.worldofuhl.com/maps.html).

In the eBook, it looks something like this:

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While my primary motivation for including this extra option is to make things easier on my readers, I’m also trying to preemptively avoid any 1 or 2 star reviews because someone couldn’t read the map on their Kindle or nook. If you think that someone won’t do that, I have some primo beach front property to sell you here in Dallas.

I think this is an adequate concession and hopefully accommodates everyone.



Comments (2) -

  • Daniel R. Marvello

    1/17/2013 9:41:33 AM | Reply

    If you are handy with Photoshop at all, you might be able to improve the readability of the B&W maps. I've done this trick myself with color hiking maps that I've scanned and needed to print on a B&W printer.

    The problem you have is that the original image does not have enough contrast to translate well into B&W at a small size. (Cover designers often fail to accommodate for this too.) What I have done is convert the image to B&W and then play with the "level" adjustments or the Brightness/Contrast adjustments. Unfortunately, you will lose some detail, but you might be able to make the image more readable.

    It would probably be even better if you could tweak the color information to increase contrast before converting to B&W. I'm not good enough with PS to do that though, and I'm sure that task would be best accomplished with the original Photoshop file rather than a jpeg.

    For what it's worth, I do like your new maps. I'd have been disappointed that they didn't render well on my Kindle too.

  • scottmarlowe

    1/17/2013 2:54:30 PM | Reply

    Hey Daniel,

    I use Paint.NET mostly, but I can definitely try playing around with contrast, levels, etc.

    One of the problems is with a relatively small screen and no zoom it gets hard to see the smaller type. You almost need a map just for b/w mini-tablets.

    I know GRRM's eBooks have a link to the map on the web. Hopefully that placates readers.

    Thanks for the suggestion!

    Scott

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