Friday, 6 July 2012

How to format your project KF8 proof. What is it and why do you need to?

This first blog post in the series will be about why you need to change tactics slightly from before to make sure your Kindle books are formatted right. This answers questions about the why and how.
I will make two guides on how to make your manuscripts KF8 (kindle format 8) proof, one for how to get the formatting right BEFORE you upload to KDP(which can be found here) and one that shows how to do this with the file Amazon has on the server(I won't be doing this one any more, Step 8 in the above guide covers all you need to clean an existing html file). This will only cover the basics: a few formatting options, how to create a TOC and other things. If you want tables and pictures this is not the right guide for you (unless of course you understand how to do this in HTML). I'm mostly focusing on the large part of the Kindle books which are simply novels and stories.

This guide also applies to the kindle with the 3.4 update. They have added KF8 support and this same problem now shows up. Everywhere I mention Kindle Touch (KT) you can also read K3 (Kindle Keyboard) with 3.4 update. Here is the official link to this update:

Why might you need to make changes to your manuscript? Well, ever since KF8 went into place a couple of months ago quite a few people have complained about formatting problems on their Kindle Touch (and sometimes the small Kindle too). The main problem seems to be that fonts (text) are displayed waaaaay too small.
Here is an example of Wool which has/had the formatting error (these pictures are made by David Edwards who I thank a lot for it since I totally forgot to take a screenshot of my own book when it had the error still):
Kindle font size 2, but the book shows a lot smaller size.
Which shows a kindle size 6, which in this book shows only as a size 1.

How does this problem happen? In the last week I've bought 6 books, 4 of these had the problem, all released since Amazon put KF8 in place. Yes, it does happen that often with new releases.
For readers this is really really annoying as the size of the font is usually about 4 or so sizes smaller than it should be, which means to have a reading size of 4 you need to have your kindle at the largest font size possible. When you (like me) often switch between new and old books this is really annoying and more than once I've put a book down because of it.

What seems to be the problem, ebook wise? The problem seems to be that KF8 no longer allows any coded changes to the font, like font-type, font-size and things like that. In the past this was no problem apparently, but it is now. Since it does show up normally on the software Amazon gives you to check your formatting, and apparently all the other software like the Kindle for PC and the Kindle for different tablets, people don't realise that the problem might exist in their books.
I have checked Amazon and they do talk about this. But honestly, how many people check the Amazon guidelines and how many people check guides that are easier to understand?
Yeah, you guessed right, almost all people, and since it shows up normally in the checking software Amazon offers no-one sees it until they load it onto a Kindle Touch. And even I checked the Amazon guidelines, I used their conversion software and everything, and even I got the problem. But since I knew I checked on my Kindle Touch too.

Why am I making this guide? The reason is not fully altruistic ;) I like my books formatted well and I want other people to be able to read my books without having this problem. If by offering this guide I can help 1% of the books that have the formatting issue right now and 1% of them in the future I will be a happier person (and probably a lot of people with me).

How to check if your book is still right? If your book is published or updated since April 2012 I would advise you to either check it for yourself on a Kindle Touch (just downloading a sample will suffice) or ask someone else to check it for you.
If you got out okay, just remember the new guidelines next book. If the formatting is in trouble stay put, I will update the guides soon, expect them in a few days.
You can now also check with a Kindle keyboard as long as it has the 3.4 update.

Write on!


Guide to use before publishing (and also after, just follow step 8)

Isn't there another solution? There apparently is, but that involves turning your book into an epub and messing around with the formatting part of that. I find this to be a lot more confusing and I've never made epub before. If done right this guide shouldn't take too long and you can check your formatting on the go.

For those who understand some HTML coding, this is a very quick guide I wrote to explain what I did. I will rewrite it for the guide so also non-techy people should be able to understand it.
Post on Kindleboard with a quick solution