You should trust what you see on the actual device only. The Nook for PC does not give a true, albeit's fairly accurate, indication of the layout for your formatting. If you have the ability to see your book on an actual Nook, then always use that as your measuring stick.
Hope this helps
Thank you. I have another question now that I know which source to trust. Why would there be large gaps in between each paragraph? I'm using Microsoft Word 2002 and as far as I can tell, nothing looks off in the file itself.
Which previewer to trust?
I recommend an Android Nook previewer. The Nook is, itself, a custom Android device. When you read a book on a Nook, you are reading it in an Android Nook app.
You can get an Android Nook app for other third-party Android devices like tablets and smartphones. I'm not sure if it is identical to the Android Nook app that comes preinstalled on a B&N Nook reader, but I think it is safe to assume that, if it isn't, it probably still uses the same interpreter inside. This would make the Android Nook app the closest thing to using an actual Nook as you can get. It may be virtually the same with the exception of screen size and resolution.
In order to view your work in the Android Nook app, you need to use its built-in "Sideload" feature. Here is an overview of the steps:
1 - Copy your book's epub file from your computer to the "Nook / MyDocuments" folder on the SD memory card of your Android device.
2 - Launch the Android Nook app and select the "My Files" filter in the Library.
3 - Tap the sync button and the Android Nook app will search the "Nook / MyDocuments" folder and all books with epub files located there should appear.
Even though an Android Nook app (either in an actual Nook reader or in a third-party Android device) will probably be the best way to preview and test your work before it is published for sale, I also recommend testing it with as many additional versions of the Nook software as possible. This includes the Windows Nook PC software.
Why? Because many Nook customers only use the Windows Nook PC software. Some only use the Nook Mac software. While these software versions of the Nook may have their peculiarities, you should still want your work to look good on them since this will be the only way some of your customers will be able to read your work.
So preview and test your work as many places you can but make sure that either an official Nook reader or an Android device with the Android Nook app is the centerpiece.
Gaps between paragraphs
Having unexpected and inconsistent spaces between paragraphs indicates a problem with the html and/or css code of your book. You can follow the guidelines provided by B&N and others for creating your ebook from Microsoft Word, but when you run into trouble, there is seldom a way to fix it unless you can edit the html code of the pages, the css code of the styles and/or the xml code of the opf and ncx files. This probably sounds like "Greek" to most self-publishers and I'm sorry about that. But the sad truth is that creating an ebook is not as easy yet as it should be and the converters that most distributors use (like B&N and Amazon) to convert Word documents (whether .doc or .htm) into ebooks are imperfect.
An ebook for a Nook is an ePub file. The ePub format is an open-source format that is based primarily on the same standards used to create web pages for the internet. The text formatting of ePub uses html and css syntax and files. The instructions that tell the Nook reader how to use the html and css files is in an xml format and is contained in an opf and ncx file.
All of these files are collected together, organized into specific folders and compressed using an old and trustworthy zip format. Then the resulting zipped file is renamed with the .epub file name extension.
All you have to do to extract, view and edit the separate files that comprise your ebook is to rename the ePub file name exension back to ".zip".
Sadly, even small errors in these files can have sweeping and large effects. For example the omission of one semicolon ( ; ) from the end of an attribute setting in the styles.css file can cause the entire file to be unusable. When this happens, none of the style settings for your paragraphs will be available to your ebook and the Nook reader/software will use its default paragraph attributes. Unfortunately, the Nook defaults to formatting paragraphs like you see them on a webpage with blank space between them. An error like this could easily have caused the problem you've observed.
Another likely cause is Microsoft Word, itself. It has a very poor reputation (that is well earned) for outputing bad html. And its native .doc format is filled with a convoluted mess of formatting codes. These codes (both .doc and html) are hidden from your view so you have no easy way to fix them. When they are messed up, your ebook may look different on different versions of the Nook and Nook software, depending on how each deals with errors and messy html code.
One trick that I have used to fix text encoding is to pass the text through a third-party text editor and strip ALL formatting codes from the text. Then pass the "clean" text back into Word and start over by formatting it fresh. This means that you'll loose all character settings (like font name, font size, bold and italic) and you'll loose all paragraph settings (like space before or after the paragraph).
An easy way to "clean' your text is to copy it from Word (Ctrl+C) and paste it (Ctrl+V) into the Microsoft Notepad program that comes free with Windows. Pasting the text into Notepad will automatically remove all formatting. Then copy and paste the text from Notepad back into a new Word document and reformat it.
If these steps are too technical, then you may need to employ the services of one of the people that offer ebook conversion.
Kind regards, David (for Pat)