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Order of ebook parts

Many items (such as lists of abbreviations) are in preliminary pages only so that readers see that they’re there at all before they start reading. However, ebook reading software usually includes clickable navigation panels or contents lists that provide this signalling effect.

For that reason, your readers will appreciate ebooks that go straight from the cover image to the first page of the body of the story, interrupted only by items that are crucial to understanding the book from the start. So you can omit items like half-title pages, and move copyright notices to the end of the book.

EBW’s best-practice recommendation is as follows. Ebook items should fall in this order, with a page break before each one. Those marked with an asterisk are mandatory, all other items are optional.

  1. Marketing image (usually the front cover)*
  2. Frontispiece
  3. Title page including list of contributors (series editors, contributors, authors)
  4. Dedication or epigraph
  5. Foreword
  6. Preface
  7. Maps relevant to whole book
  8. Genealogies relevant to whole book
  9. Body of book*
  10. Lists of plates, figures, maps and tables
  11. Conversion tables
  12. Chronology
  13. List of abbreviations
  14. Notes on the text
  15. Acknowledgements
  16. About the author
  17. Other marketing content (e..g other books by the author; press/review/celebrity comments)
  18. Copyright notice (including ebook equivalent of imprint-page text)*

This means the following items common in print should be removed entirely:

  • Half-title pages
  • Contents pages (assuming a full, clickable list of sections has been included in the ebook format’s mechanism for navigation, such as Bookmarks in PDF or toc.ncx file in epub; each of the ebook items listed above should be referenced in this clickable list)

Note: This is for perfectionists. If doing things this way increases the complexity or cost of creating your ebooks en masse, simply revert to the print-edition order. In time, ereading systems will provide better and better ways for readers to jump to the start of the book easily. Already, the epub specification includes a ‘guide’ element (in the content.opf file) that encourages this, and this guide should be used to signal the key items in the reading experience, usually the cover and first body page.

4 May 2010
This information is more than two years old, and may no longer be accurate.