A few times now, I’ve had that conversation with wary publishers: how do I make my epub (or other reflowable) ebooks look the same as my paper editions? I usually explain that, technically, you can’t and don’t want to. I’ve learned (at some cost) to make it very clear from the start that epub ebooks are not supposed to look like their paper editions. The medium (the screen) is an entirely different way of presenting and distributing content. The design must suit the new medium, not match the old one.
That’s all very well, but what I really need is a good analogy that makes it clear to non-technical people why this is the case.
This is my best attempt so far: Paper and epub is like paint and stained glass: if you wanted to do a stained-glass version of the Mona Lisa, you wouldn’t expect it to look exactly the same as the original. The stained glass allows for different tricks with light and tone, so while the finished window may look something like the original Mona Lisa, in many ways it will look very different, and beautiful in its own way — the new medium (glass, not canvas) must be treated differently to make the most of its own features.
Do you think that would help? If you have other useful analogies, let me know.