Friday, February 20, 2009


Just spent a good four hours formatting my old (mis)adventure in self-publishing—Virus!—for publication on the Amazon Kindle e-book reader. (It was really just an experiment in learning how to format books for the Kindle. And if I somehow sell a few, great.)

I was finally successful, and it will be available for sale--for all (or both, if even that many) of you Kindle owners out there—in 12 hours or so for the extortionate price of $8.99. I figure at that price point--which is one I actually have control over--no one is likely to question my sincerity.

Anyway, a couple of observations about the process:
  • Amazon strongly encourages that e-book titles be in HTML format, as it claims that is the only format that will convert reliably, even though it says it supports .pdf, .doc, .mobi, and a smattering of others.
  • I had produced the book in Adobe InDesign and the Kindle conversion utility doesn't handle native InDesign files (big surprise).
  • Getting decent HTML out of InDesign is not easy, especially if (like me) you had a bunch of different document threads and a few illustrations here and there. The Exoport to Dreamweaver command is pretty hit or miss. Perhaps I just need to spend some time playing with it, but I've rarely had luck with it.
  • What some of the Amazon user forums recommended was copy the text in InDesign and paste into Word, and then you can save Word files out to HTML. You can pretty much imagine how that works out.
  • I tried that approach, and required a great deal of tweaking styles to get everything looking decent, even by Word's low standards.
  • I saved the Word file out to HTML, but Amazon's conversion utility kept choking on it. I toyed around with a few things but to no avail.
  • Finally, I just uploaded the Word file itself to the conversion utility and it went through without a hitch. I was able to preview it to get an approximation of how it will look on a Kindle and it didn't look bad. One of the feratufres of the Kindle is the ability to adjust the size of the type, which means that text will inevitably reflow, which I guess is why they don't like PDFs, which are by their very nature a static page format.
  • The process is not appreciably different from way back in 2000 when I used to experiment with converting files to be read on Palm-based e-book readers.
After doing all this, I just got in the mail the latest Design Tools Monthly newsletter which mentioned some third-party applications for getting HTML out of PDF files. I shall have to experiment further. Of course, I don't actually have a Kindle, but then my birthday is only six months away....

No comments: