Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Amazon Kindle Publishing for Books, Technical Manuals & Blogs

This article provides insight into publishing content for Amazon's Kindle Fire, Kindle Fire HD and other Kindle versions. The first part of the article discusses the KindleGen tool used to generate a digital book or manual for Kindle. The article also talks about the files that must be created so a book or technical manual can be published for Kindle users. And it provides an overview of Kindle Previewer, which is used to view a Kindle book or manual before it is publish for distribution. Lastly, it provides insight on how to make a Kindle version of a blog available for purchase from the Amazon Kindle store.

International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF)

The IDPF is responsible for defining and managing the specifications adhered to by Kindle and other devices that provide a way for users to read electronic publications. You can learn more about IDPF by visiting http://idpf.org .

Getting Start With Kindle Publishing using KindleGen

There are a couple ways you can make your book or technical manual available for Kindle users. One way is to use KindleGen, which is a tool used to generate a file (.mobi) that Kindle can read. You can download KindleGen from the Amazon website. To begin you will need to click the "I agree to terms of use" to accept the terms of use and download KindleGen. Next you will need to click the "Download Now" button that corresponds to your computer's operating system (i.e., if you are running Windows XP, Vista or Windows 7 you would click the first Download Now button).

You will also want to download the sample files that are available (the arrow in the picture below is pointing to the link you must click to download the sample files). The sample files include useful examples that you can review to see the layout, navigation and other features of a Kindle publication.

Once you have downloaded the files you will need to unzip them to a desired location on your computer. It is useful to create a folder on your c:/ drive (if using windows) so you can easily find and access the files. If you download all of the files available, you will have a number of files to access. The following picture shows the zipped files and the folders created after I unzipped the files.


KindleGen is a command-line tool, which means you cannot access it's functionality by pointing and clicking a user interface. Instead you must type commands to access and use KindleGen. To use KindleGen, after I unzipped the files, I created a folder called KindleGen on my c:\ drive, as shown below. I then copied the kindlegen.exe file into this folder so I could access it more easily.

Since kindlegen.exe is a command-line tool you must use a Command window (if you are using a Windows operating system); or, the Terminal window (if you are using a Mac) to execute commands. When you are ready to compile your book or manual you will type:  kindlegen.exe press the Space key on the keyboard and then type the name of your .osf file (described below) and press the Enter key. This will execute the command to compile your book or manual.

The Files That Make Up Your Kindle Book or Manual

When you use kindlegen.exe to create a digital copy of your book; KindleGen will create a .mobi file. However, there are several files you will need to create to ensure you have a complete publication. If the publication will be sold on Amazon some of these files, discussed below, are required. (Amazon published a manual that outlines its publishing criteria for Kindle. Following is the link to the publication:  http://kindlegen.s3.amazonaws.com/AmazonKindlePublishingGuidelines.pdf )

You don't need a special tool to create the book you want to make available to Kindle users. Microsoft Word can be used not only to create your book; but also to create the front cover and back cover. When you save your document(s) using Word you can select web page filtered (as shown below). This option ensures your file only contains standard HTML elements.

Your book chapters can be created as either separate HTML files (a file for each chapter); or, a single file (all chapters in one file). If you create a single file you will need to add anchors (see HTML Hyperlinks for more information) to your document so your table of contents listings can link to the anchors.

The following list briefly discusses some of the files that will make up the digital version of your book or technical manual:

1. Cover - This is the page users see when they first access your product using Kindle Fire.

2. Book or Manual File(s) - This is your book or manual (excluding the front/back cover and the table of contents).

3. Navigation Document - The Navigation document (NCX file) is a logical table of contents. The NCX file (i.e., toc.ncx) is built using Extensible Markup Language (XML) standard concepts.  The .ncx file includes elements to define the text that should display in the table of contents and the link to the text.  Following is a picture of what the table of contents looks like using the Kindle Previewer (discussed later in this article):

 Below is the code used to build the table of contents shown above.

Notice, the <navPoint> element is used to define a single table of contents entry that includes the text to display and the page the user views when the text is clicked. The <navLabel> holds the <text> element, which defines the text to display in the table of contents. (Note that when you work with elements each opening element must have a closing element. For example, <text></text>.)

You may be wondering how Kindle knows Cover and cover.html belong together? It reads the information between the <navPoint> and </navPoint> elements as belonging together. Further, it knows Cover is the text to display because it is between the "text" elements. The "text" elements must be enclosed by the <navLabel> element. This means every line that must show up in the table of contents should be preceded by <navLabel><text> and followed by </text></navLabel>. Every link associated with the table of contents text must be preceded by <content> and followed by</content> (as shown in the above picture). The src property (of the <content> element) defines what page Kindle should jump to when the text is clicked. For example, when Cover is clicked Kindle should jump to the following source (src): cover.html. Lastly, the playOrder property associated with the <navPoint> element defines the order of the table of contents items. The id property provides a way to define a unique ID for each <navPoint> element since a file will usually have multiple navPoint elements.

5. Publication Header File - The Publication Header File (.opf file) includes information about the book or publication including the author name, publisher name, book title, etc. It also lists the files that make up the entire book (located between the <manifest> </manifest> elements). Following is a picture of an .opf file displayed using an XML editor, which makes it easier to create, read and edit the file. Notice it uses elements just as the .ncx file uses elements. Therefore, you would expect each element that is opened (in the .opf file) to have a matching closing element. Notice this file also includes the Spine element (after the <manifest> element).

4. Back Cover - The contents and picture that should display as the back of the book.

6. MOBI File - KindleGen uses the .opf file to generate a book or manual that includes all of the files listed between the <manifest> elements. The result is a .mobi file. (For example, my .opf file is called "business system analysis.opf". From the Command window I typed: kindlegen.exe "business system analysis.opf" and then pressed the Enter key to execute my command. KindleGen then created the Business Systems Analysis.mobi file, which I opened using the Kindle Previewer.)

If you want to learn more about creating a Kindle book and you own a Kindle; or, you use a mobile phone and have the Kindle app installed you can order the free book titled: Building Your Book for Kindle.

The Kindle Previewer

The Kindle Previewer provides a way to look at a book or manual to see how it will look when it is opened using Kindle. Kindle Previewer includes the options that allow you to browse through the pages of your book or manual. You can view your table of contents and make sure your product is properly formatted for the various Kindle versions.

You can even check out your front and back covers. If you are interested in learning more about the Kindle Previewer you can access the Kindle Previewer user's guide at the following location: http://kindlepreviewer.s3.amazonaws.com/UserGuide.pdf. (Note that you can download and install the Kindle Previewer from the same page from which you download KindleGen: http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html?ie=UTF8&docId=1000234621)

Amazon Kindle Samples

If you downloaded the samples when you downloaded KindleGen and Kindle Previewer you have great example files. You can open each of these samples to see the associated files and file structure (i.e., the images are placed in the image folder, etc.). You can use the Kindle Previewer to open the .mobi file in each sample to see how the navigation works and to see digital book looks like. And, you can use any HTML editor to open the HTML files. You can also create a copy of the .opf and the .ncx files and open them in an XML editor to see the contents of these files as well. Sometimes looking at examples can help clarify how things work.

Kindle Direct Publishing

If you want to avoid KindleGen you can still publish your book for Kindle users to access. If you use Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) you not only provide readers an alternate way to access your book; but also you retain 70% of your royalties. And, KDP provides a way for you to view your book using an online viewer. You can use Microsoft Word to create your book; and, you can then upload it to the Kindle Direct Publishing site. If the book already exists, all you need to do is upload it. You can learn more about building your book for KDP by reading Amazon's Simplified Formatting Guide and access the Getting Started page.

Kindle Publishing for Blogs

Lastly, if you have a blog that contains useful information you can make your blog available to Kindle users who buy from the Kindle store. There are two key reasons a blogger would want to make a blog available on the Amazon Kindle store site: 1.Those who want to view blog content without an internet connection can do so; and, 2. Bloggers make money when customers download the Kindle version of the blog.

Kindle Publishing for Blogs also means customers receive the entire blog article, right to their device, as new articles are posted.

To get started you will need to create a Kindle Publishing account, if you don't already have one.  You will need to create a Masthead file, which is the image that will display as the banner when users access your blog using Kindle. You will also need a screenshot of your blog to display on your blog's Amazon page. And, you will need the RSS feeds URL for your blog. (If you use Blogger the feed URL can be accessed by going to the bottom of your blog's page and clicking: Subscribe to: Posts (Atom).)

To publish your blog for Kindle access you can visit the Kindle Publishing for Blogs site at https://kindlepublishing.amazon.com/gp/vendor/sign-in


Our society is busier than ever. And, some people want to avoid piling old books in the attic; while others want to access content sooner rather than later.  So, digital publishing may not be for everyone; but there are certainly quite a few who have found a niche in it.