Saturday, November 10, 2012

Poetry E-Book Publishing: Wherefore Art Thou?

As the e-book has come barreling down the publishing highway, poets have been left mostly in the dust. Why haven't poetry e-books emerged on Kindles, Nooks, et al? Several forces are at work, the small size of poetry book publishers being one factor, but perhaps the most troublesome is being the pesky technical problem of not being able to control line breaks in e-book formats. A thought-provoking article about it appeared a year ago or so in Publishers Weekly. "Diverging Roads: Poetry and E-Books." The problem of line breaks shifting around when the reader of an e-book changes the font size has been an insuperable problem for many poetry book publishers and poets.

A few, however, have boldly gone where most poets don't want to go and allowed the e-book to change the line breaks. Diane Lockward's wonderful e-chapbook , Twelve for the Record, (Amazon-Kindle edition) is one of the poetry e-book groundbreakers.  But while the article said that Graywolf Press and Coffee House press had planned to have poetry e-books out by Fall of 2011, they have yet to produce them. Where are the poetry houses in this new e-publishing field? Way back in the stretch it seems. Time to gain some ground?


  1. What a nice surprise to check in here today and find my name mentioned. Thanks! I vowed that I would not upload that chapbook unless the line breaks were as they were supposed to be. It's a matter of correct formatting and then converting the manuscript before uploading. If people upload a Word doc, they'll have problems with the formatting.

  2. I love having your book on my iPhone! Many rereads ensue, it's so handy. I hope you do more e-Books. I hate to tell you this, but on my iPhone, I can adjust the size of the font which automatically changes line breaks. I figured out the font that I think puts the breaks where you intend them -- 12 point -- but it does change if I bump up the size. I for one would be willing to sacrifice in order to get my book into e-format, and possibly put a note to the reader informing her or him of the size that preserves the intended breaks.

  3. I figured out how to work with line breaks in creating an ebook for Kindle through a series of steps. You need the line break code at the end of every line.

    I paste my poem in Dreamweaver, in the WSYWYG area, which automatically generates the break tag at the end of each line.

    That way I can use the paragraph tag instead of the PRE tag.

    Another way is to paste the poem in Word document, place the cursor at the beginning of the first line, turn on the Macro recorder, hit end key, type the break tag, hit right arrow key, then turn off the macro. Then you can use the macro to repeat that all the way down the poem.