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Maps for books—electronic and print

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    Will O'Neil

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Most print books p-books) have maps that are inadequate if they have any at all. In electronic books (e-books), the situation generally is much worse. Even publishers that take some care with their maps in p-books routinely publish the e-book equivalents with terrible maps.While they may understand and know how to work with the limitations of their print media, they have not made the effort to gain similar mastery of the electronic media. 


I've heard many people say that the e-book readers are not suitable for graphic material, but that's not correct. They do have serious limitations, but nevertheless can provide adequate platforms for graphics including maps, if some care is taken.


So far as I can tell, the most common platforms for reading e-books at this time continue to be Amazon Kindle 3rd generation devices, which have reflective e-ink monochrome screens measuring 4.75" × 3.5" (121mm × 89mm), with 800 × 600 pixels. However, e-book illustrative material also has to be compatible with the larger and higher-resolution LCD color screens of tablets. Another constraint is bandwidth; at this time the Kindle system will not accept image files exceeding 127 kilobytes (JPEG or GIF). And the e-ink screen devices have quite restricted dynamic range, resulting in noticeable posterization of gradients.


Attached is a scan of the screen of a third-generation Kindle device which is displaying a map.I made the map to illustrate a book about the inherent problems of human planning and what might be done to better compensate for them; this shows a crucial battle early in the First World War which failed to go as planned, with major long-run consequences. (If the Germans had won this battle as decisively as planned this forum might be conducted in German rather than English.) I also attach the original file as uploaded to Amazon Kindle. The screen was scanned at more than twice its nominal pixel resolution.


This is not an especially elegant or beautiful map, I think we will all agree. However, it conveys the geography of the battle much more clearly and immediately than I could hope to by verbal description alone, and thus fills an important purpose for the book. Also, after conversion to grayscale, it is suitable for direct use in a print edition of the same book. 


Does anyone else have any experience with e-book maps? Any comments or suggestions?

Attached Thumbnails

  • Namur-Chrarleroi-Mons_scrn_img.jpg
  • Namur-Chrarleroi-Mons_orig.png

Will O'Neil
Author and amateur cartographer


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