You Say Documents, I Say Source Files

A manuscript formatted for print, complete with header.

I’ve been creating manuscripts for well over twenty years. I can rattle off the formatting in my sleep. Double-spaced, one inch margins, header with page number top left corner, drop to middle of page to start a new chapter, blah blah blah. It’s a manuscript. A document to be printed and stacked and tucked in a box or an envelope and put in the mail. Who does that anymore? Oh sure, some agents and editors still insist on hard copies, but they’re in the minority and growing rarer by the day. Even though most agencies and publishers have gone digital, even though more and more writers are finding markets online and many are self-publishing either ebooks or POD, old habits die hard. Writers are still producing documents when they should be producing source files.

Whatever do you mean, Jaye?

Many writers, especially those who’ve been around a while, treat word processors like typewriters. We want to see on the screen what we want to appear on paper. Word processors are very accommodating that way. Most aren’t WYSIWIG, but pretty close. If we center text on the screen, it centers in the printout. If there are 24 lines on the screen, 24 lines print on the page. The printer doesn’t care if we indent lines with tabs, first line hanging or hit the space bar five or six times. It prints as an indent. If all you ever intend to do is create printed documents, then you can quit reading now. If you intend to submit electronically or create an ebook or a POD book or make pdf files, then listen up. It is time to break the document/manuscript habit.

You see, a clean source file can be copied indefinitely and used to create printed manuscripts, digital files for electronic submissions, ebooks, pdfs and POD books. With a clean source file an agent or editor can read your submission on a computer, smart phone, iPhone, iPad, Kindle, Nook, tablet or whatever else they might happen to have and your work will be readable. With a clean source file you can easily make a copy to create a professional looking printed document for that guy still living in 1973. And with a copy of that same file you can format an ebook that will convert cleanly for Smashwords, Amazon, Nook or whatever–or send it to a professional formatter who can turn it around in a matter of hours. Then you make another copy and format that for a slick pdf to send to reviewers. And you can snag a template off CreateSpace or Lulu and load it with your nice clean file and create a POD book. All the while that source file is sitting on your computer, nice and clean, and ready to be turned into whatever you happen to need next.

A Clean, Plain Jane, No Frills Source File, Created in MS Word

There is nothing difficult about creating source files. They are straight text files, nothing more. The difficult part is getting out of the mindset of seeing it as a printed document living on your screen. I know, I know, old habits die hard and writers, especially fiction writers, get a bit freaked out by the lack of page numbers, headers, page breaks and centered chapter heads. Trust me, get into the new habit of creating source files and it could save you from rejections (I wonder how many agents and editors have rejected submissions out of hand just because they couldn’t read the text on their iPhone or it turned into gobbledegook on their computer screen and rather than walk the writer through how to set up a file, they just said to hell with it); it can save you from the frustration of having Amazon or Smashwords reject your ebook (you followed their instructions!) or worse, getting it through the conversion process only to discover your ebook is live, but horribly corrupted; and it can save you money if you hire someone to format your ebooks or your POD book and they have don’t have to charge extra to clean the junk out of your file.

To create a clean source file:

  • Turn off all Auto-Correct/Auto-format functions in your word processor (especially if you use MS Word). Turn off widow and orphan control.
  • Set up a simple style sheet to take care of the font, line-spacing, and indents. Apply it to every source file before you begin a new project and use it religiously.
  • No extra spaces between sentences or at the ends of paragraphs.
  • No extra paragraph returns (if you have a scene break, indicate it with the pound sign or three asterisks). Do not use paragraph returns to drop your chapter heads to the middle of the page or to create a page break.
  • No page breaks–of any kind.
  • No centering text–not chapter heads, titles, poetry, nothing (easy way to track chapter breaks, use all caps CHAPTER ONE or bolding)
  • No special characters. Use “typewriter” characters such as two dashes to indicate an em dash and a slash mark for fractions. Avoid super- and subscript characters. If your text contains foreign characters, Anglicize the spelling and track the usages so the special characters can be inserted when the file is formatted for whatever purpose.
  • Even in Word, italics, bolding and underlining don’t seem to screw up a source file. Those are safe.

I’ve had people tell me, “But I need page breaks or nobody will know how many pages there are!” Nobody will be able to tell anyway unless you intend to print out the file on 8.5 x 11 20# bond. And then I’ve been told the writer knows how they want the document to look, so it’s okay. Trouble is, they know how it looks on their screen and how it looks coming out of their printer. They do not know how it looks on an iPad or iPhone or Android or Nook or Kindle or an agent’s Mac (you use a PC) or vice versa. Trouble is, every bit of formatting they do adds code to their file and that code can be misinterpreted or corrupted by another device. If you hire someone to create an ebook, they will look at your wonderful page arrangements, and tack on extra charges to the estimate because the first thing they have to do is get rid of everything you’ve done.

It takes some conscious thought to break old manuscript habits. You can get used to it. Just keep repeating: Source File, Source File, Source File…


50 thoughts on “You Say Documents, I Say Source Files

  1. Source file, source file, source file…Longstanding habits are hard to break, but the new world of writing and publishing (and, come to think of it, just about everything else, too) has adaptability as its chief requirement. Close to sixty years ago, I learned that a period should be followed by two spaces. That became so automatic that it’s taken work to unlearn it. More recently, I discovered how to make an em dash with option-shift-hyphen; now you’ve told me to forget it and use two hyphens instead. So many things to learn, and I’ve got to cram them all in before my aging mind craters altogether…

  2. I know what you mean, Larry. I think back when my publisher started asking for files on disk. I was so proud of my beautifully formatted manuscript files. Cleaning up all those files submitted from who knows what kind of system or program must have driven more than one assistant editor to drink. It is no surprise that it took publishers so long to go digital.

    • Referring to Larry’s comment, if I use two hyphens to make an m-dash in Word, then Word turns the hyphens into an m-dash. Is this okay, or should I turn that auto-feature off? (Actually, Scrivener seems to do the same thing.)

      • In Word, turn off auto-correct and auto-format for the source file. Then use Find and Replace when you need to format a copy of the source file for a specific purpose. Scrivener will automatically change it for you, but for some reason they don’t corrupt the file whereas Word sometimes will. I do not know why that is, but I have learned to be wary of all special characters in Word. I have found something Scrivener despises–en dashes. Don’t know why, but it does. When I’m cleaning up a file to import into Scrivener for an ebook, I make sure there are no en dashes anywhere.

  3. Why no centering text? If it’s done using a style (Centered), it seems to translate okay to PDF, Kindle and ePub — does it cause problems elsewhere?

    Also, do you have any idea how to properly do an ellipsis? I fought Word’s auto-ellipsis all the way and wound up using space-period-space-period-space-period-space, only to realize that those weren’t non-breaking spaces. But by that time I was fed up and decided I could live with the occasional bad break. Still, I’d like to find out how to do it right for the next time around.

    • Hi, Sarah. I’m talking source file only. You make that stripped to the bones bare and then use copies of it to format for other uses, other media. For instance, you send me a source file for a story and want a Word file for uploading to Smashwords. It takes me minutes to center what needs to be centered, insert scene breaks or page breaks, and otherwise make it look nice. Meanwhile, your source file remains clean and minimally coded, so when you decide you want a mobi file for Amazon, you just make a new copy and format it specifically for Amazon. Or if you need a pdf file for reviewers or whatever, you can do that, too. If an agent or editor wants to see your story, you attach a copy of the source file and they’ll be able to read it on almost any device.

      As for ellipses, turn off auto-format and auto-correct, then just use three periods. When you need to format it for a specific purpose, it can be easily done. When I format for an ebook, I do a search and replace to change the three periods into a proper ellipses and never use “period space period space period” because without the ability to control justification or kerning in an ebook, you could end up with big spaces between the periods in the middle of a line or orphaned periods floating by their lonesome. That can also be a problem if using other punctuation at the end of ellipses, but that can be solved with a no-break joiner. If you’re creating a print book, you or your designer can make that decision as to whether to use open or closed ellipses depending on how you want the book to look on the page.

  4. I agree with LB – it was standard to leave two spaces after a period. Took me the longest time to stop doing that.
    And by the way, thank you for the cheat sheet I keep at the ready – the J.W. Manus Source File Cheat Sheet!

    • Hi, Julia. Glad it helped. I’m still trying to put together an ebook with formatting tips for fiction writers. The more I learn about this stuff, the longer it gets. Insert *eyeroll* here.

      I have discovered something very interesting and it’s saving me money, too. With a clean source file I can convert it into a mobi file, (no need for any special formatting) load it on my Kindle and proofread as easily and efficiently as I do on paper. Actually, it’s easier on my eyes than paper is and I save on paper and ink costs. I feel like a kid with a new toy.

      • Hey, Jaye…publish a beginners book and then publish an advanced user book. That way you can get a book out there quicker for those who need it NOW.

        Just a thought.

  5. What\’s your advice for a manuscript already done in Word? I\’d prefer not to re-type the whole 93,000 words. What\’s the best way to approach unbreaking all the tabs, auto-correct nonsense, and em-dashes? Find & replace? Save as .txt then apply a style sheet? Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi, er, Jaye…you’re my only hope.

  6. Hi, Char. The best thing you can do for your manuscript is give it a power-wash. Before you start, make Word friendly by turning off auto-correct, auto-format. Then make a simple style sheet, call it Source File. (how-to here ) Now go to your story. Do a Save As, so the original is in reserve (just in case).

    Step One: tag your special formatting (italics, bolding, underlining). You can use FIND to find all the usages. Use unique letters combos, such as “ii” for italics–it doesn’t matter as long as it is easy to search for and doesn’t normally show up in your writing and you won’t mess things up when you eventually delete them all en masse.
    Step Two: Get rid of any page breaks and extra paragraph returns. Turn on the Show/Hide function (on the menu bar it looks like the paragraph symbol). You can search for extra paragraph returns by typing ^p^p in the FIND box. Get rid of tabs by putting ^t in the FIND box and leaving the REPLACE box empty. Hit Replace All and the tabs will disappear. Get rid of extra spaces, too, while you’re at it.
    Step Three: Deal with special characters. I don’t know what you intend to do with this particular manuscript, but if you mean to make electronic submissions or ebooks with it, you are better off getting rid of the special characters. Make a list of the kind of style you’d like to see in an ebook or whatever, then use FIND/REPLACE to change the special characters back to regular typewriter characters. This might seem needlessly nitpicky, but if you’ve ever received an email full of weird characters or opened a file in one program created in another program and it’s full of strange symbols and such, or seen out-of-place questions marks or font size changes in ebooks, the culprit was probably special characters. Special characters belong in destination files, not source files.
    Step Four: Select All and Copy the text. Open a text editor such as Notepad and Paste in your text. This will give you a straight text file with no special formatting. Do not create a .txt file by saving it. You don’t need a .txt file. Back in Word, open a new document and apply your Source File style sheet. Then Select All and Copy the text in the Notepad and Paste back into Word. You now have a file with the majority of corrupting influences removed.
    Step Five: Use Find to locate your special formatting tags and redo your italics, bolding and underlining. Remove the tags (use Find/Replace ALL to delete them)

    Now you have a clean source file (as clean as Word gets anyway). If you need a printed copy, do a Save As and then format it for a printed document with headers and dropped chapter heads and special characters. If you are making electronic submissions, use the source file. It will be readable wherever it ends up. If you hire a formatter for an ebook, provide the source file along with your list of special character requirements. The formatter will insert them. If you make your own ebooks in Word, create style sheets for ebooks, then do a Copy/Paste into a new document with an applied Body Text style sheet. You can use FIND/REPLACE to insert special characters. Then use style sheets for headers and title pages and such. And you’ll always have a nice clean source file ready to use when you need it.

    • Ugh – MS Office 10 has changed how to set & work with Styles so the fabulous instructions you created on the post you reference don’t quite work. I’ve done a lot of the nuking and am looking through the options to set the .3 indent to begin a new paragraph. Hm…

      • And that is why I went back to Word 2000, Char. The later, more “helpful” versions of Word and MS Office drove me nuts. Look for any command that says “first line hanging” which is actually paragraph indent (why can’t they say so?) and then you’ll have an option to set the size of the indent.

      • All right, got it! There is no ‘tools’ menu. The Styles menu appears as part of the ribbon were the majority of formatting (bold, italic, fonts, etc.,) live. I don’t see a way to create a new style, so I modified one and called it Source File. There is a ‘format’ drop down in the box to set the paragraphs & it does look very much like the graphics you showed.

        Getting there … slowly.

  7. You just seem so damned clever, and I have never been any good at learning new languages, can I just do what we Brits do best AND SHOUT LOUDER knowing that YOU WILL UNDERSTAND and I can continue along my road ignoramus…

  8. Thanks for yanking me directly and cleanly into the electronic age.
    I WILL follow instructions: the source files from now on will be clean from birth.
    I went out and bought Scrivener – and have gone through a book on it (offered at their website) (Take charge of Scrivener), and the whole tutorial available in Scrivener under the Help menu.
    Got it (not in one, but soon enough). Then my head hurt and I slept three days.
    I think I can now produce my own .mobi files directly! I am giddy with virtual champagne! And ready to digitize everything from the beginning.
    I wonder how hard it would be to take the works-in-progress – and their thousands of pages of research – into full Scrivener mode. Or whether it is just better to finish from what I have – and start the next project cleanly.
    To answer my own question, I’ll try something shorter and see how that goes. Something that is close to done (a published story from an anthology to which I own the rights, and for which I have the .doc file from the publisher).
    Hoping this method is easier on me than following the steps in Guido Henkle’s post (ie, learning HTML) to get the the file which Scrivener can Compile into a .mobi – I had been dreading that particular learning curve).
    I printed out your words – thanks for the guide.

    • Hi, ABE. That’s what I did when I got Scrivener, did some small projects and worked my way through different methods until I found what worked for me (I’m a mud-pie kind of person, have to squish and squirm and try everything out in order to learn it). I, too, tried my hand at HTML. It just doesn’t fit well in my brain. It’s not difficult and I can see where it’s useful, but… I have found the best results overall with anything is to make sure that source file is as clean as I can make it. Everything else is gravy.

  9. Can I ask a personal question? Are…the writers you see doing this stuff older than, say, 40? (I’m 30 if that matters for anecdotal statistics). I’m just wondering if this is a generational thing. I know how to use a typwriter (sort of), but I have been typing on computers since I was…6? 7? Very early. I grew up with word processing in a digital context and have always considered the text flowable and resizable and known how to format the margins and automatic indentions etc., etc. So to me the idea of how my Word doc will function on an ereader (resize and reshape to the screen at hand) is intuitive. I am guilty of the subtler errors, such as allowing em-dashes and ellipses to auto-correct, though. 🙂

    • It is partly a generational thing, Lilly. I tell my kids about some nifty thing I’ve figured out and they look at me as if I just announced I invented the wheel. They “think” digitally, while my mind, and the minds of many others, are hard-wired to paper. it’s funny when you think about it, but not so funny when everyone is running around, tripping over everybody’s feet. I just spent the last hour researching “electronic submissions” and nobody appears to be on the same page (See? “Page.”). There is no standard format. I see people asking for .doc files, .rtf files, .pdf files and .txt files. Some magazines have set up “submission forms.” That doesn’t even take into account the various devices upon which those files will be read. If you google “manuscript formatting” you will find tons of information about how to prepare a paper submission, and a bunch of flailing around when it comes to electronic submissions. Just this week I was talking to a person about query letters. Agents ask for five pages in the body of the email. There are no “pages” in an email. It’s a disconnect between what used to be and what is now. I have yet to find submission guidelines that ask for what it is they really want–about 1250 words of text. Nor do the agents and publishers seem to realize how much work they are making for themselves by insisting writers stay in manuscript mode.

    • Another example of disconnect and how overly-complicated this has gotten. I found an interesting blog with a quick guide to manuscript formatting that includes how to make an electronic submission. I thought okay, sound principles, good advice, and then…

      “Use a readable e-mail font. I am always amazed to receive e-mail messages in microprint. Mishawaka is a good e-mail font; be sure to select “normal size”. When in doubt, send yourself an e-mail; if the font looks tiny, increase the size or change fonts.”

      I looked in MS Word, no Mishawaka font to be found. Looked in both my email programs, no Mishawaka font to be found. Now I know how writers freak out when it comes to queries. I wonder how many read that, tried to follow the advice to the absolute letter and then had a total meltdown because they couldn’t find Mishawaka font? So I did a Google search and figured out Mishawaka is a Mac font. Okay then. My PC using gmail gives me a choice of 7 fonts (with some additional variations) and I have absolutely no idea which one will look comparable to Micsawaka or which one will look good when sent to a Mac.

      So the person who wrote the blog gave perfectly reasonable advice, but because we haven’t standardized the language or decided on formatting, it will freak a lot of writers out.

      • Wow. Interesting points about electronic submissions…I think I sort of assumed they wanted the first 5 pages as laid out in MS style but since I haven’t bothered submitting anything I never tested the theory. Actually, it’s kind of hilarious to me that in an industry built on writing so many professionals (or, you know, “professionals”) can be so unclear. Obviously no one ever taught them to “read the directions as if you were from Mars.”

        The place I most often see a difference between age groups with thinking digitally or not is at my day job. I have 50-something co-workers who simply don’t get the logic of our main program…they memorize tasks but cannot find anything outside of those tasks for themselves. It had never occurred to me that there might be writers out there using word processing programs like typewriters. Mind…boggled. Hopefully all of them find this post!!!

      • It’s not necessarily an age gap, but a “think outside the box” gap. I’m 55, started programming computers when I was 26, and don’t think of them as typewriters at all. Some people are just generally more exploratory than others. My 35 year old son doesn’t “get” computers at all. I, on the other hand, tend to do stuff like embeding unicodes and HTML as I type. One of the best users of Word that I know is a 92 year old man in a nursing home. He LOVES the technology.

      • Hey, Kat. A lot of it could be the “paper versus digital” gap, too. Even though I started using computers in the 80s, the end product was always paper. I think in paper. Slowly, slowly my habits are changing, but when I look at a computer screen, my eyes still automatically imagine how it will appear in print. In contrast, none of my children even own a printer. They don’t need printers. On the rare occasions when they do need something printed, they come over to my house and use my printer. Not long ago Son looked at the mess I call a desk and asked why I needed to print out copies of my work in progress. I really had no good answer for him. It did get me to experimenting for ways to do what I need to do without paper.

        Just for grins, I googled “business letter formats” and got 31,200,000 results. I am curious, how many people are still sending business letters via snail mail versus emails?

      • Re: “paper versus digital” gap. Oh yes, I get that. It’s just that I’ve “lived” on screen for so long, I rarely think of paper. On the day job, of course, back in the old days before there was a lot of real time activity on the computers (yes, I AM that old) the only way to get the data out was to print it on paper. But as computers became more real time, I moved totally away from that. We have a printer, but about the only time I use it is to print a recipe, because I don’t trust my laptop in the kitchen while I’m cooking. I’ve spent so many years on computers that I “think” with a keyboard. An editor friend, however, still insists on hardcopy. She says she can’t “see” the errors on screen the way she does on paper, and she still marks everything up with an old-fashioned pencil. And then FAXES them to me! LOL! When was the last time you faxed anything??

      • Ha! My fax machine is in a closet. I don’t even have a landline anymore!

        But, I discovered something cool. I load recipes onto my Kindle, and increase the size of the font. Easy to organize–granted I don’t use many since I’m not much of a cook. I can prop it against the wall and don’t worry about splatters since the Kindle wipes right up. While stuff is simmering or baking or boiling, I read a story. No more greasy cookbooks with the pages stuck together (I am a rather messy cook, I fear).

  10. I create em-dashes by keying Alt 0151 (hold down the Alt key while typing 0151). I think that’s some sort of unicode embed. I’m assuming that’s a no no as well?

    • I don’t have any problems with unicodes when I’m formatting ebooks, Kat. (except for the invisible ones–have to find a way to track those) In a source file, though, the fewer codes and formatting that some other program could misinterpret, the better. It’s my recommendation to create the original source file with no special characters or formatting at all, then when you need a specific file (print, email, ebook) make a copy of the source file and do all the special formatting on the copy. It doesn’t take much time and greatly reduces the chances of file corruption.

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  12. Not an age issue; HTML looks an awful lot like the text formatter I used to write documentation manuals for the programs I ported from BASIC for the Commodore PET to FORTRAN-77 for the PDP-11.

    In a year I won’t reveal, because it will make me feel old.

    Word, on the other hand, is somebody’s grandfather’s Victorian attic, complete with mummified ancestors and mutant spiders that pop out of corners at unexpected moments.

    Oh yes, and Scrivener is beautiful. It’s written to “think like a novelist.”

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  14. I set up a stylesheet as you suggest in LibreOffice, then save as HTML. All the formatting you suggest for italics, bold etc., is handled in a manner already standard. Many tools exist that view and even edit the HTML file. The file allows for “upper-ASCII” characters but also specifies what encoding to use (UTF-8 for me).

    The book title is H1, part titles are H2, chapter titles are H3. First paragraphs are not indented, others are. Centering is allowed. Each type of paragraph has its own class (“first” “body” “centered” “quotes” “poetry” and so on) and its styling is specified in the CSS at the head. A simple stylesheet good for plain novels and nonfiction is easily read. Bonus: illustrations and tables.

    OpenOffice/LibreOffice produces fairly clean HTML though I do have to clean it up a little. These programs import Word1997/2000 very well, so any Word files can be output, run through LibreOffice, using the simple style sheet, then archived in the HTML.

    No need to reinvent the wheel. Use the tools that are already out there.

    • Thanks, asotir. All the reasons I’ve gone over to Scrivener, which is a file generator as opposed to a document generator. I’m on a mission to spread the word about Word as NOT being the best program for generating files. Print files, yes, e-files, no.

      In the meantime, a lot of people use Word and either don’t have the money, the time or the inclination to switch over to another program. A lot of writers aren’t even AWARE of the problems word processors (not just Word) cause in electronic files and ebook conversion programs. PLUS we have Mark Coker still telling people Smashwords files need to be formatted in Word. We have to go with the flow until everybody is on the boat.

      • I love Scrivener, too, but I don’t use it for final edits. I have been writing long enough (yes, Scrivener is a fine program, but it prefers its own proprietary format for source files. I started writing before word processors and computers hit the real world, long enough ago to know that no matter how solid a proprietary format may seem today, it will be outmoded tomorrow. I have stories I wrote in early Word, WordStar and Appleworks formats which I cannot now open. So nowadays, my final version of a story/novel is always an open source document (.odt) file, whether I use Writer’s Cafe, OpenOffice, or LibreOffice to produce it. (BTW, if anyone is tired of Word, please note that those last two programs are FREE clones of MS Word.) I usually keep an RTF version and a PDF, just in case, but those are proprietary formats so I only use them as backup. In my day job, I’m a professional technical writer/editor, and haven’t used Word in years. Again, avoiding being locked into proprietary formats.

        When it comes to formatting, you’re absolutely right about the use of stylesheets, but keep in mind that not everyone is submitting to electronic formats. The standard, .epub, is still very shaky, and doesn’t support everything it should. It is evolving, and future versions will be friendlier to things like em-dashes and special characters. In the meanwhile, I find that using two different style sheets, one for epub and one for POD, has a couple of drawbacks. For one thing, there’s the matter of “smart quotes”. Nothing looks more amateurish than straight quotes in fiction, whether electronic or POD. But getting epub generators (especially Smashwords’ “meatgrinder”) to digest smart quotes can be a royal pain. That’s not the writer’s fault, it’s a flaw in the process I hope Mark Coker has worked out soon. Another issue is chapter breaks. Epub generators like Calibre can usually figure out a chapter break if you use the H1 heading style for it, but sometimes not. The great thing about Calibre is that you can check the output of your electronic version before you upload a file to Smashwords or Kindle; at least you can discover where the problems are before the meatgrinder or Kindle discovers it. POD is a lot more demanding, but there’s so much more control over your output that it’s really a matter of apples and oranges. To make it all work, I usually have to keep two separate versions of a work — the electronic “source file” and the completely differently formatted POD file.

  15. Hi, Sarah, yes, yes and yes again to everything you said. My thing with the source files is this: essentially turn Word (or whatever word processor you use) into a text editor to create a file with minimal formatting and proprietary code. Then the writer can do a copy/paste into another program or a new document in the word processor and format it for a specific purpose. The source file remains clean and ready for another use–even to make a print document.

  16. Proofreading “on a Kindle”? I would LOVE to be able to correct typos in ebooks! I assume you are looking at the Kindle, seeing mistakes, and then correcting them in the source, not actually correcting them *on* the Kindle. If the latter, I want that model. In an ebook, I cannot correct mistakes as I can in a printed book (with an erasable pencil, of course): they remain there forever, annoying me each and every time I read it.

    • I swear, Chris, every time somebody gives us an upside, the lords of darkness come in with two downsides. Yes, I can proofread on my Kindle, no I can’t make changes on my Kindle. (probably a good thing, since when my inner-editor is triggered, there’s no stopping it)

      I find with many tech types, end users–as in customers–are the last thing on their minds when they’re fiddling around. Their goal isn’t to make things easier, friendlier and more compatible. It’s doing for the sake of doing. I call it the “Facebook Effect.” Hey, everything is running smoothly and people love this, but you know, if we did this and tried that… I am growing increasingly resentful because it’s getting more difficult to produce an ebook, instead of easier. I solve one problem and go on to the next, and behind me the old problem is squeeging back together like the Terminator, bigger and badder than before. Every time a new tablet or reader or version of something shows up, I have an anxiety attack because I know there is not much communication between the developers, the programmers and the customers. For me, stuff that worked yesterday might not work today–or work in the same way.

      All I want to do is write, design and produce beautiful ebooks. I don’t want to have to get a master’s degree in computer programming to do it. All I need are tools that work reliably. Is that too much to ask?

      • Exactly my problem with the constant “need” to upgrade. I get the sense that it’s more to enhance the Corporate Bottom Line and increase Shareholder Value than actual product improvement, although having a computer with hard drive capacity around 500GB-2TB is clearly far more useful than the 10MB drive my first IBM PC contained. On the other hand, that PC(XT) still works and allows one to create some pretty impressive spreadsheets and basic text documents. The 1200 baud modem’s a bit slow, though…

      • Okay, it’s not just computer people. My old coffee maker gave up the ghost. I don’t know if it’s me, or if they are all pieces of crap, but I usually need a new one ever two or three years. Needless to say, I have a bunch of carafes around the house. When the current piece of crap quit working, I happened to have another, but its carafe was broken. One would think something as elemental as a carafe would be interchangeable? Nope. They are not. The burners aren’t even the same size.

        Computer screw ups are a frustration. Getting between me and my coffee is dangerous. People could die. Seriously.

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  18. Pingback: Source Files Update | The Passive Voice

  19. Jaye, they used to have these things called percolators. Mine is probably from the 1940s, and it doesn’t have its own heat source. But you just fill it with water, ladle a few spoonfuls of coffee into the aluminum basket, and set it to boil on the stove. When the boiling water in the little glass bubble starts to “perc”, you turn the heat down. A minute or two later, you have coffee.

    Makes a pretty good brew, and it has outlasted several modern “coffeemakers” too…


    • I was just thinking about percolators the other day, Michael. I had one a zillion years ago. I cannot remember the brand–it was white with blue flowers on it. Corning? It was electric and it made great coffee and sending it to Goodwill so I could get me one of them new-fangled Mr. Coffees is something I regret to this day. But you know what, I bet I can find a stovetop percolator at the camping store.

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