Breaking! E-books at last recognize stanzas and line breaks

By Harriet Staff

Publishers Weekly reports on an amazing new development in e-book formatting: actual line breaks and properly delineated stanzas. BookMobile has already been providing production and distribution for small and academic presses for years—the ones most likely to not only publish poetry in general, but the most challenging poetry with the most difficult layouts. So it's fitting that they would work out a way to transfer their design sensitivity and expertise to the cold, uniform, gray boxes wreaking havoc on poets' intentions line by line.

BookMobile CEO Don Leeper told PW that the company has been looking for ways in which customers who are poetry publishers can take full advantage of the e-book revolution without losing the integrity of their book design. “It’s frustrating that e-books don’t support books where the design is an integral part of the text,” Leeper said, recalling that last year, Coffee House Press wanted to produce 2010 National Book 
Award finalist Karen Tei Yamashita’s I Hotel in an e-book format. “We struggled,” Leeper explained, “It was an absurd task to make it into an e-book because of the book design.  I Hotel has poetry, notations, and there are a lot of special layouts.” In the end, Coffee House and BookMobile gave up on that project.

BookMobile's new application, Ampersand, creates PDFs from the published books themselves and will "enable e-readers and other electronic devices to display poetry without inappropriate line breaks and arbitrary indents." Now if only they could do the same thing for digital poetry as a whole, perhaps we could do away with arbitrary ads.