One e-reader poetry problem is that lines that are too long for the screen wrap to the next line hard up against the left margin, and look both wrong and untidy.
In an exchange on the WOMPO listserv, Catherine Daly suggested using the hanging indent to resolve the problem, noting it “is what print publishers do with lines that are too long for a printed page.”
I tried this at Smashwords and it worked! I set my guinea-pig poetry chapbook up in Word – essentially formatting each line as a potential hanging indent paragraph – then uploaded to Smashwords, which transformed it into EPUB and MOBI formats, the two e-formats that together support most popular e-readers.
In both final e-formats, the lines in the poems wrap with a hanging indent if the font size used makes a line too big to fit on the screen, but appear whole on one line without indent if the font used is small enough. Woohoo!
Note: There was also some pro- and anti-hanging indent commentary on the list, with the anti-camp arguing that hanging indents are, in effect, line breaks and do, at the end of the day, make poetic statements not intended by the poet. I do share something of this reservation, but comfort myself as an e-publisher by recalling that ‘lines too long for the page’ are not an issue limited to e-readers – it’s something that print and web publishers have to deal with as well.