Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Publishing a Kindle Book

I just published my brother's book of poems - Metre Readings - on Amazon. It's very interesting to do and I thought I'd add my own experience to the many posts and forums on the subject.

At the end is a brief summary of useful information for someone thinking of buying a Kindle.

I prepared the original document for the book in Word which doesn't have to be a very recent copy as the document should be saved as .doc, not .docx which is the latest Word format. I used Arial throughout as the Kindle only uses one typeface and I placed the various illustrations (in JPG format). The document was then saved as "web page filtered". This creates an HTML document.

This can then be edited if necessary. I discovered that Amazon automatically indents the first line of all paragraphs and this is inconvenient for poetry which depends very much on retaining its original format, unlike simple blocks of text. I opened my document in Wordpad and found the CSS tag which applied to the body of the text and added "text-indent:0;" (not forgetting the semi-colon!).

I have Sarah Dawson in the UK (Poetry after Ink) to thank for pointing out text-indent:0.

It looked like this:
 /* Style Definitions */
 p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal

In other words, if you're not familiar with CSS, this says that:

"every time there is a <p> tag, a  <li> tag or a <div> tag called MsoNormal, apply the following (8) settings".

This is a typical line of text in the body of the document:
<p class=MsoNormal align=center style='margin-bottom:0cm;margin-bottom:.0001pt;
text-align:center;line-height:normal;text-autospace:none'><span lang=EN-US

Verbose, isn't it?

Having tweaked the HTML file, I then opened it in Mobipocket Creator which I downloaded from This converts the HTML into a .PRC file in two stages which is one of the formats that Amazon accepts. I could then copy it directly to the Kindle in order to test it.

Also Amazon provides a Kindle preview application but, for some reason, it didn't work on my Windows XP computer (it just shut down when I loaded a book) but it was ok in my Windows 7 netbook. To download the Kindle previewer go to this link.

When first I published the book, I uploaded my HTML file to Amazon but, 24 hours later, when the book appeared for sale, the illustrations were missing. My first guess was that they were too large but the Kindle screen resolution is 600x800 pixels and most of my JPG images were in that region and I had carefully kept the image file sizes below the 127k limit which Amazon specifies. Most were around 80KB. But one was still in RGB mode and was too big, so I changed it to Grey Scale. I've re-submitted the book and I now have to wait 12 hours to see if it is ok this time. The book is already up for sale but anyone buying it will get rather a raw deal, no illustrations and no quick link to the Table of Contents!
So, another important point is not only to have a Table of Contents but also to tell the computer at Amazon that it exists. It's no good just having a list of items with hyperlinks to each chapter, the Kindle will recognise the hyperlinks, that's no problem, but the "Go To" menu in the Kindle won't recognise the TOC and the selector will be "greyed out". I tried to create a TOC in Word and became very frustrated and gave up! I looked again at "Convenience Features" at Amazon and the solution is simple. One places a Bookmark in Word at the Table of Contents calling it "TOC" and the Kindle will recognise it. Google calls this feature "Guide Items".

I just checked the book for sale but it still doesn't have its images. When you think about it, there's no point in sending just an HTML file because, of course, it doesn't contain images. So now I've zipped my HTML file together with the folder containing the images that Word saved and I've sent that. 

Now on Saturday 24th March, the book is published... with illustrations! I think many people have similar problems. It's important that, when zipping the HTML file and its illustrations, that the illustrations are in the same sub-directory that Word used to store them when saving the book as "Web page filtered". It's all too easy simply to zip all the files together in one chunk losing the sub-directory relationship but this won't work. This is the main reason for using PkZip, it's not the compression that's so important, it's the relationship between directories.

The book is called "Metre Readings" and it's at or depending on where you live.
Are you thinking of buying a Kindle?

I have the earlier keyboard model so I have no experience of the new cheaper (sorry, more economical) version with touch-screen. I don't use the keyboard very much but it's handy for doing a word search inside the book.

All Kindles have the facility to alter the text size so, if your eyesight isn't very good then this will solve the problem. You can also choose between viewing the book in portrait or landscape mode. When I was preparing my brother's Kindle book, I soon realised that page numbers were meaningless (in fact they don't exist). This is due to the fact that because the user can select a text size the total number of pages will change. So the Table of Contents is vital and it should have hyperlinks to each of the chapters (or poems in the case of my book). I.e., click on the item in the Contents and it will take you directly to the poem or chapter.

Where to buy your books. You don't have to buy all your books from Amazon but those that you do are "locked in" to your Amazon account and can't be copied to friends. On the other hand, there are many sites in the internet that sell books in formats that the Kindle can read. Sometimes "Kindle Format" is specified but .mobi and .prc files providing they are not copy-protected can also be read by the Kindle. Simply download the file into your PC and copy to the Documents folder in your Kindle. There are so many sites that it's impossible to list them here, just do a search for Kindle format books (or free Kindle books). There is one site worth mentioning and that is Project Gutenberg: (Gutenberg was the inventor of the printing press). At this site you will find many free books for your Kindle.

One disadvantage of living in Spain is that one can't buy Kindle books from (unless one has one of those crafty service providers that makes it appear that you are in the UK!) You are stuck with buying from in the USA or This point is often raised in forums.

One other subject which is frequently raised is why Kindle books are sometimes more expensive than their printed counterparts. The reason given is that the cost of printing is not very great and, as with the limitation as to where one can buy the books, the reason is all tied up with copyright and royalties. But I don't pretend to understand it!

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