In 2014, Talk Science proofread, indexed and designed the second edition of Exquisite Love: Reflections on the spiritual life based on Nārada’s Bhakti Sūtra by William K. Mahony. The Bhakti Sūtra is a set of 84 statements on the nature of divine love. It was written, in Sanskrit, sometime in the tenth or eleventh century.
In Exquisite Love, Mahony translates the Bhakti Sūtra into English and provides commentary on each of the statements. It’s a beautiful book, and we loved working on it. Now we’re thrilled to be converting it to e-book format.
Creating e-books is a challenge because the design isn’t static: readers have the power to change the formatting to suit their needs by adjusting the font size, zooming in and out, displaying the text in columns, changing the screen brightness, and choosing the background and text colours. And given the huge number of devices out there, there is no way to predict the choices readers will make.
This reader control is part of what makes e-books awesome, but it also makes preparing and proofreading an e-book extra interesting. With a print book, what the proofreader sees is what the reader sees. With e-books, you almost have to let go of control and accept that you won’t always know what something will look like for the reader. Your proofs are no longer reams of paper. Instead, you’re looking at the book on multiple devices and apps. Instead of measuring the margins and looking for widows and orphans, you’re changing the text size to see how the font shows up at different sizes. You’re zooming in and out to see whether images re-size proportionally or get cut off. You’re keeping your eye out for cross-references and changing them to links so that a reader doesn’t suddenly come to “see page 47” when page numbers don’t exist anymore. You’ll require the same skills that proofreaders have always needed, but you’ll be challenged to apply them in different ways.
There’s something really special about converting a centuries-old Sanskrit text into an e-book. We might not be able to control exactly how the book looks to a reader, but we know that whether someone is reading it on their tablet on the way to work, or on their phone at the beach, or on a laptop on their couch, we’ve made sure that the Sanskrit script is intact, just as it has been for hundreds of years. And that’s pretty exquisite.