eBook Review: Scrivener Essentials

Things started badly with Scrivener Essentials, by Karen Prince, from the very first sentence as I tried to follow the opening instruction of “Before you start go here and download the free cheat sheets . . . .” (where “here” is an external link).

First, that link took me to a webpage that malfunctions under iOS browsers.  While I may not know the exact market share of all the Kindle reader platforms, it should be obvious that Kindle on iPhone and iPad would be significant.  Yet the website to which I was directed was incompatible with the iOS Safari browser.  I downloaded and tried again with the Google Chrome browser, and it also failed.  Only when I used the desktop version of Chrome was I able to make any progress.

Second, it’s insulting to pay for a book to find out it doesn’t include all the resources.  The Kindle book didn’t even include versions of the sheets as an appendix so you could decide if the downloads were worth the effort.  This step is simply a cheap trick to force advertising on you in the hopes you’ll also buy the author’s video courses. I could stomach that, but the abuse didn’t end there.  The third disappointment was the materials were held hostage until I signed up for their promotional newsletter.

So after providing my private information, did it let me see the resources?  No, I had to wait for an email.  Were they in the email?  No, it was only a prompt to confirm my email address. Only after that final step did I receive a link to the resources.  All these obstacles and confusing elements are contrary to the Kindle book’s target audience of beginners who find technology a challenge (see below).

IMG_0172target.png

Another point of confusion is annotated screenshots, which the author had difficulty integrating into the Kindle version.  To compensate a PDF version is offered for download, which puts the instructions with the corresponding screenshot, since the Kindle version can separate them on different pages.  With a bit of effort, the author could have embedded captioning into the images to mitigate this.  For example, the judicious use of “(see figure 27)” with the image edited to include a caption of “Figure 27: How to embed reference images in eBooks.”

And speaking of annotations, the callouts use color variegation, which makes them harder to see. The blue and green callouts don't stand out on Scrivener's color scheme, and it would have been better if the author had stuck with the distinguishable and contrasting pink callouts.

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Another point of confusion was illustrations proceed rather than follow their corresponding instructions.  Although either is technically acceptable by some style guides, I was always looking for the images to be below the corresponding text and found the arrangement jarring, especially when they fall on different pages. About the time I’d adapted to the convention, inconsistent exceptions appeared toward the end of the book (see below).

Such a lack of polish (along with a smattering of grammatical errors) was disappointing.  But once you surmount these hurdles the guide accomplishes its target goal.  It is very basic in its approach and even steps you through simple actions such as downloading and installing software.  And cheat sheets given in exchange for your email do contain handy information. The book covers all the core topics and in a logical sequence.  And I appreciate that the author clearly identifies and makes prominent this is for Windows versus the Mac platform. So, despite some sloppy work and the aggressive advertising, beginners will find this book worth its price.

UPDATE: After watching my inbox for 2 months, there have been six emails (not including the first two resulting from the signup).  

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