Trudi Canavan

bestselling author of The Black Magician Trilogy

The Great Reread of 2011 – ebook formats

scribbled-on versions

A few days ago I finished rereading the Black Magician Trilogy and the first two books of the Traitor Spy Trilogy. For newcomers to this blog, the story so far is this: I decided to reread all of the books in the Kyralia world a) to get all the details fresh in my mind before finish writing the third book of the Traitor Spy Trilogy, b) to check for any continuity errors, and c) so I could see what the ebook versions were like.

This post covers what I learned about the ebooks and the apps I read them on. I don’t have an ebook reader because I like reading books on my iPhone. I already had the iBooks app, but I also wanted to test other ebook formats so I downloaded the Kobo and Kindle apps.

Buying the books through running the apps on the phone was very easy. All were free. However, while I can transfer the books I bought via iBooks to my desktop computer via iTunes, I haven’t worked out yet how to do that with the Kobo and Kindle ones – or if it’s possible at all. I’d like to, as a backup. Perhaps I should have bought the books using the desktop computer, then transferred them to the iPhone.

(Though it may be a moot point if this article is correct. But I also recall reading something about how Apple weren’t going to allow or approve the Kindle app, or some such thing, yet there it is. Such are the ways of the internet.)

I started with the Black Magician Trilogy in the Kobo app. Investigating the settings, I discovered I could set it to scroll rather than turn pages. I found I preferred this, not the least because the Kobo app’s page turning was really slow. It also gets around the problem of the small screen showing so little text that you’re constantly distracted by turning pages. (Though I found that the page turning quickly became automatic on the other apps so I didn’t notice myself doing it any more.) Unfortunately, the other apps didn’t have the scroll option.


All of the apps allowed me to change the text size. I found that if paragraphs were formatted to flush left with a space between (like in this blog post) I needed the text to be larger. If they were formatted with indented paragraphs (like in a novel) I could drop the text down a size and still read comfortably. I tried reading in both formats and found I preferred good old fashioned indented paragraphs. Only the Kobo app has the flush left paragraphs option.

Of the three apps, I found that changing settings and navigation was least intuitive on the Kindle, especially if you wanted to go to a different chapter. The iBooks app is the nicest looking, especially how when the settings/menu buttons come up they don’t obscure the text.


Only the Kindle had an annotation feature, but it was useless. It must be designed for use on the Kindle reader, as I found that once I’d made a note, I couldn’t select the teeny tiny little box icon that allowed you to read your note again.

The ability to annotate would have been very useful. I made notes in physical copies of the books, and in Notepad. But I imagine most fiction readers wouldn’t need the feature – or want it, as having to stop to make notes broke the flow of the story.


One annoyance while reading with the Kobo and iBook apps was that occasionally my swipe or tap of the screen would select a block of text. But I couldn’t make it happen if I wanted to, or do anything with the selection, like copy or highlight. Eventually I realised this was a bug with the phone. In the Kindle app it didn’t happen (because the same actions activated the annotation feature), for the iBooks app it was a minor annoyance, but in the Kobo app it would freeze up the screen for several seconds.

As for the ebooks themselves, the Black Magician Trilogy had the most and worst formatting errors. By far the most disruptive error was the absence of scene breaks, which made the transition from one character point of view to another confusing and disorienting. The publisher of those editions has let me know I can report errors to them. First I need to do a little investigation to see if the problem exists in other formats, too.

Otherwise, it looks as if most problems occurred where a page break or the hyphenation of a word wasn’t translated correctly during ebook conversion. It also seems as though corrections made to reprints of the print books didn’t make it into the ebooks. Fortunately there’s only a smattering of these.

So… which ebook app would I recommend? Thankfully, all of them. They are all good for the basic purpose of reading. They’re all free, too. There are little differences, but I suspect which one you chose will depend more on the range of ebooks available in your territory, and price.

Me? I think I prefer the look and feel of the iBooks app, and the ability to back up to the desktop computer, but the range of books is tiny here in Australia. Next I’d choose Kobo, as I like the scrolling option. Kindle came in last because I found the interface unintuitive and the one feature that might have had me forgive that, the annotation feature, is next to useless.

(Also, I’ve decided that I will only buy an ebook if I’m going to read it straightaway. I’m cynical about the likeliness of me ‘losing’ digital books. Also, as with all online shopping, it is much too easy to buy more than you can use. Price doesn’t bother me. I’d rather buy one $20 ebook that I will actually read than twenty $1 books I never getting around to reading.)

(Oh, and I decided to leave rereading The Magician’s Apprentice to later this year. It’s a bigger book, less likely to affect the sequel and I really need and want to get stuck into finishing writing The Traitor Queen.)

12 Responses »

  1. Hi,

    I had just come on here to see if there was any new information on The Traitor Queen, and stumbled across this post. I’ve been looking for an eReader app that had a scroll function, and no-one I asked knew about one (I found iScroll, but it can no longer provide books). So thank you for mentioning that feature of Kobo, I will have to try it!

    And because I’m too lazy to comment on different posts, I’ll just say here that a) the covers for Sonea and El Gran Lord look pretty awesome, b) I’ve just been looking at some of your sketches and am jealous of your drawing ability, and c) The robes you made in the sekrit project post look pretty cool. I tried to make a robe (different style) earlier this year, but it didn’t go too well. How are you so good at so many different arts?

    Anyway, I look forwards to the Traitor Queen :-),


  2. I noticed that you did not review the Sony ereader. I use this for all books and find very few errors, odd bit of formatting and maps sometimes a little too small. Very easy to have backup on laptop. Just now waiting to see what books will be like on the HP touchpad.

  3. I noticed that you didn’t try out the nook book format. I use the free nook app on my iPhone quite a bit, but I also really like the free nook version that you can put on your laptop. Nook has the annotation feature like Kindle, so you may like to try it. I also really like that all of my nook books are stored on my barnes and noble online account so that I feel less likely to lose it. Anyway, just thought I’d mention it since you were discussing ebook apps.

  4. Excepting the fact I can’t spell my own name :-s I have to apologise to Kobo as all TBM trilogy are on their store now! Buying The Novice and TMG now 🙂

    I should buy shares in your publisher I have far to many copies.

  5. Hi Trudi,

    I have to admit to re-reading the Kyralia books before each new release you make, just to keep things fresh, though I read them in published order not chronological.

    The annotation feature on the Kindle is fantastic, but does not translate well to the iPhone app, its good on the Android OS and wonderful on the actual device. If you ever want to read outside on a sunny say e-ink is the only way to go and the kindle is by far the quickest for changing pages.

    Personally I love the Kobo as well, having said that as I live in the UK it lives in the draw, every book I have wanted in e-format for the last 12 months has not been available for it here. 🙁


  6. Hi Trudi,

    I really like reading on my kindle. I found the e-ink display extremly pleasing. It reminds me of a real book, while backlit displays exhaust my eyes quite quickly.
    If you can get a hand on an e-ink driven reader you should take a look at it. To my mind these pearl e-ink displays are amazing.

    And one feature a real book can never give me is the ability to make dictionary lookups of unknown words on demand. That really makes reading foreign books much more fun.

  7. When I read ebooks, here are the most common things I see that are ‘wrong’.

    All of the different apps, and the kindle itself, have trouble with certain international characters. The Dervish House, for example, showed this, it really made a hash of a lot of the Turkish words. And I have an HP Lovecraft collection that ends up really munging up some of the Old Ones language.

    Hyphenation – a word that was hyphenated in the print edition, and the hyphen not removed in the electronic.

    When the first letter in a chapter is an image, the kindle puts that image on a line by itself, even though the metadata inside the file says otherwise – nook does not do this, nor do stanza or ibooks.

    It’s not uncommon for the kindle edition of a book to be missing the very first image in the book that’s not the cover – all the Robert Jordan reissues that I checked have this issue, which is notable, because it’s a map. It’s evidently a problem with the way they take an epub-format book and convert it to mobi-format, at least per the guy at Tor I talked to about it.

    Mainly the other problems I see are when the electronic edition doesn’t get typos corrected in it that got found and fixed at a later stage in the processing. Kindle magazines are really bad about this (at least I hope the number of misspelled words I see in Asimov’s/Analog on kindle aren’t present in the paper editions).

  8. Trudi, to get your Kindle purchases onto your desktop computer, just download and install Kindle onto the computer. Your Kindle purchases will automatically be there. I have a Kindle and I have it installed on my laptop, my android phone, and on my husbands iPhone. I just have to log into Kindle as me on any of those devices and I can pick up where I left off, no matter which device I was last using, thanks to the handy syncing feature.