Q. In ebook formatting, how is the table of contents in an ebook different than the table of contents in a print book?
A. Typically in print you would include a table of contents if the chapters had names that weren’t 1, 2, 3, 4. So if the chapters are named chapter one, chapter two, chapter three, chapter four, etc. you don’t need a table of contents in your print edition. This is why we give the option to let the user add or not ad a table of contents in PDF. When you’re formatting an ebook, you don’t have this option.
Q. So why can’t I remove the table of contents from my ebook?
A. In ebooks, however, certain bookstores require a table of contents. Remember that the user cares more about the experience than the formatting, and the formatting is going to change from device to device.
An ebook includes what you might call a system table of contents, so the ebook reader devices can do a drop-down table of contents. On top of this, some ebook platforms also require a page that is a clickable linkable page like any other table of contents. So at Pressbooks, we magically create this file for you. We don’t enable not having a table of contents because it’s required in some ebook platforms and we don’t want your book to be rejected.
Q. What’s the rationale of the ebook platforms in requiring a TOC?
A. The notion is that in an ebook–because you don’t have the tactile setup of pages that you would have in a physical book where you know where you are–in ebooks you want to make it easy for people to get to the parts of a book, and having a table of contents file is the easiest way to do that. So even if you’re doing just one chapter or a short story, the table of contents is best practice and more important, required in at least some ebook platforms.
Do you have questions about ebook formatting? Email firstname.lastname@example.org. We may just answer your question in a future blog post.