Signposts in a Book

As I’ve blabbed about a couple of times previously, I just got some free, or Creative Commons-licensed books. Since some of them were PDFs, I had converted them into a native e-reading format (in this case .mobi) before starting to read them on my e-reader. However, I lost some key formatting in the process because the conversion is not perfect. For instance, spacing in some places were corrupted, leading to extraneous empty space between the same sentences or missing spaces between separate paragraphs. There were also no delination between chapers, missing emphasis or boldfaced section headings, and at worse, weirdly placed, difficult to access footnotes.

All these are very slight things (their slightness swamped by the sheer joy of having the books for free! free!). They make the reading experience very slenderly less easy. Mostly they make one realize all the signposts in a book that one takes for granted. New paragraphs marked by an empty line and identation signal a new thought, but not as disruptively different as a new section which, in turn, are not cause to pause for as long and expect as new an idea as a chapter, which themselves may be grouped into sections indicating further breaks and continuations. Likewise, the footnotes act as parenthetical elaborations to the normal texts, but when they’re placed out of easy access of said text, they function less well since the mind cannot see clearly the connection between the elaborated and its elaboration.

All these markers — the strictly formalistic  stylings of writing — complement their more literary cousins or techniques like foreshadowing, motifs, and cliffhangers. Unlike these techniques, they’re signs immersed in the literary landscapes, missed only when they’re swallowed up by faulty format conversions.

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