Thursday, 3 September 2015

The Creating An E-Book Experience

Strange as it seems there doesn't seem to be a very straightforward way of converting your novel into an e-book for Amazon. When I first tried it out way back in 2012 with 'Threshold Shift' I believed it was just a case of doing the word doc, putting in some chapter links and then submitting it to the Amazon Kindle website referred to as KDP. The resulting Kindle mobi file was readable, but for some reason you had to use enlarge the text as by default it was very very small with no apparent option to change it and there was no proper alignment or chapter breaks to make for easy navigation.

This lead too much head scratching at the time. You'd think there would be a simple way of converting the word doc to kindle using some sort of step by step program with lots of 'next' buttons. But for some reason there wasn't and after a few weeks of on off trawling of the internet, I found out that the KDP site doesn't actually like word docs, instead it wants you to use HTML, and apparently word docs don't convert into HTML very well even if you attempt to save them as HTML files. The result was the same, readable text but too small and not aligned correctly. Hardly a great experience for someone reading the book.

Then someone at my writing group told me about a program called calibre, a free piece of downloadable software that could do the conversions for you and make them look professional. Unfortunately, Calibre like KDP did not accept word docs either, you still had to save the document as HTML and that was still problematic. Enter more free software, OpenOffice. I found that if I opened my word doc in OpenOffice and saved it as an HTML file, that file was good and ready for conversion. Onto Calibre, convert to mobi file, use the option to create a Table Of Contents, and Voila, the resultant preview on my Kindle was amazing. I then jumped back onto the KDP site and tried to download my new good looking and working mobi file. KDP wouldn't accept it. Something in the file, while compatible with my Kindle, was not compatible with KDP. More frustration and a deep questioning of why Amazon didn't make this experience easier and a better understanding on why professional formatters charged money to convert your word document into a mobi file.

The solution at last presented itself on a discussion page. Don't create a mobi file using calibre, create an epub file instead. Then use the kindle previewer to open the epub file and it automatically converts into a mobi file. This is a mobi file that is compatible with KDP, does look good, is the a good size, is aligned correctly and if you have created a Table Of Contents it puts in Chapter breaks which you can use the arrow keys on your Kindle to navigate. So, got there in the end, but well aware that I may need a different solution in the future. All things being equal KDP may change in time.

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