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October 24th, 2014

Guest post: The future of ebooks by Michael W. Perry at

English: The second generation Amazon Kindle, ...

English: The second generation Amazon Kindle, showing the book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Michael’s comments are worth reading

I didn’t ask his permission this time, but this is an excellent comment by Michael in reply to my posting about the probable need to go back to using Amazon’s Kindle Export plug-in in InDesign CS6. Michael’s comments are again right on target as far as I can tell.

My only hope is that someone at Amazon reads them.

Many thanks for such a detailed explanation. My main take-way is that Amazon is making the creation of ebooks by InDesign users far more complex and difficult than it needs to be. While that may not matter much to the lone novel writer with his aging laptop and copy of Word for Window, it does matter a lot to publishers, large and small, who do use InDesign. Why would Amazon do that? I have a theory.

But first a bit of Seattle geography. I lived there until August of last year. Amazon does some of its technical work in Silicon Valley, but it has a massive presence north of downtown Seattle in what’s called South Lake Union. If you’ve been there, it’s east of the Space Needle and runs northward. The city drove away a lot of small business, including some manufacturing, to make it high-tech, upscale and tax-rich. (Seattle’s politicians are very liberal and Democratic, hence they care nothing about all those blue-collar men put out of a job.) Along the way and probably not accidentally, it made the Microsoft billionaire, Paul Allen, still richer, since he owned much of that land. There are a some details about the area here:,_Seattle

As the name indicates, South Lake Union is at the south end of Lake Union. At the north end of the small lake, ship traffic going east and west on the Montlake Cut crosses the lake. On the Montlake Cut about a half mile west of the lake are the offices where Adobe develops InDesign.

I described that to point out just how easy it would be for Amazon to cooperate with Adobe to give InDesign a powerful export capability. Even when the traffic is bad, Amazon employees could drive to Adobe’s offices in under fifteen minutes. No long-distance cooperation is necessary.

I also happen to know:

1. That Adobe’s InDesign team is eager to give the app powerful export capabilities for every format, including Kindles.

2. That Apple, in far-distant Cupertino, cooperated with the InDesign team to give it the powerful epub export capabilities it now has.

3. That working with a not-very open, proprietary formats like Mobi and especially KF8 is very difficult for InDesign developers. They can’t do it without Amazon.

4. That Amazon has refused to cooperate with Adobe in this matter and also, as you’ve described above, has not even updated their buggy plug-in for ID CS6 for ID-CC.

My theory? It paints Amazon as ruthless, indifferent to others, and willing to do anything to stay on top. In other words, it paints Amazon as it is.

When I contacted the Kindle team about the best way to move a book in InDesign into the Kindle format, they told me to hire a third-party company. Put more bluntly, they said I should spend a large sum of money to get for a Kindle store what ID provides for the iBookstore in about two minutes. They could not have said “we don’t care” more eloquently.

In the past, what has that meant? It’s meant that the typical small publisher had to face a terrible choice. Amazon owns perhaps 70% of the ebook market, so he feels he must bring that Kindle edition out. But having done so, his budget for digital editions has been exhausted. He has nothing left to create versions of Apple or B&N. Amazon gets a Kindle-only edition without spending a penny.

Fortunately, that’s where ID-CC-2014 has shaken up publishing. Now any publisher who creates a print edition has, almost effortless, also created both reflowable and fixed-layout editions for most of the rest of the ebook market. Amazon, with its proprietary formats, is left out in the cold. And, according to you, the old workaround, sending Amazon an epub 2.0 version only works, and erratically, if it comes from a dated copy of ID-CS6.

What’s my response? First, I don’t take being mistreated lightly. All the added trouble of publishing for Kindles means that the platform moves to the back of the line. It’s the last to be published and most issues are Amazon’s problems not mine. I’ll make the effort to make sure all the images appear, but the petty issues like bullet lists and small caps will just have to remain as Amazon’s software creates them. From Day One of the digital revolution I’ve told myself I wouldn’t be editing code, so I’m not going to be tweaking code headed for Amazon. They’re going to have to find a way to work with the world, not insist that the world mold itself to them.

Personally, I’m hoping that that dramatic sea-shift in publishing will force Amazon to take those 15-minute drives to work with Adobe. And I’m hoping that, until they do, publishers both large and small adopt an Amazon last policy, going to all the added bother of creating a Kindle version only when every other version is taken care of. Amazon may not care about authors and publishers, but it certainly cares about its bottom line.

I also hope Amazon abandons their own buggy plug-in and works with Adobe, helping Adobe to create a high-quality Kindle export. That will be much better and probably cheaper, since Adobe can adapt their epub code to KF8.


October 20th, 2014

My Udemy course “Practical Font Design” huge discount!

One of my Christmas presents to you this year is my video course for Practical Font Design using FontLab 5 on Udemy. It’s normally a $99 course. But:

Until New Year’s Eve: Only $19.00 USD

It would make an excellent gift also. It includes complete ebook copy of the PFD book which sells for

Continue reading My Udemy course “Practical Font Design” huge discount!

October 8th, 2014

Kindle books still require InDesign CS6 and the Amazon plug-in

I sent my new book (see the cover to the left) to Kindle KDP. I exported it as ePUB2 with embedded fonts and so on. I converted it with Kindle Previewer.My first reader complained that all the graphics were destroyed. (A graphic 600 px wide by 35 px tall was displaying 600 px wide by

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August 19th, 2014

What desktop publishing did to graphic designers, self-publishing is doing to authors

Image courtesy of

OK! I’m a little punch-drunk

I’ve been through this before. In fact, I’ve been through it five times now. it’s been pretty much non-stop since 1991. My life and career [yours too, probably unless you're a kid born after 1980—especially after 1990] has been radically transformed on a continual basis

Continue reading What desktop publishing did to graphic designers, self-publishing is doing to authors

August 4th, 2014

Guest Post: Amazon has put itself in trouble proprietarily

This posting is a slight expansion of a comment made by Michael Perry of Inkling Books on my “Designing ePUBs With InDesign” New Release posting this morning

Michael has been a long-time friend of The Skilled Workman, and his comments have made this a much better blog. He is much closer to

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August 4th, 2014

New release: Designing ePUBs With InDesign by David Bergsland

Ebooks have been a mess until now.

Actually, they still are in many ways. However, InDesign CC 2014 has truly solved most of the problems. It always did export the best PDFs. Now it exports very good ePUB FXL (fixed layout), reflowable ePUBs, and because Kindle will upload the reflowables converting easily, the Kindle problem

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July 21st, 2014

Writing and working in InDesign makes using it easy

I was talking to a friend a couple days ago. He mentioned the primary trouble he has in using InDesign to format his books: when he gets into InDesign he can’t remember how to use it. Suddenly, it dawned on me that this is a primary reason why writing in InDesign is so effective.


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July 7th, 2014

New Release: Writing In InDesign CC 2014 Producing Books, more than an update

Writing In InDesign CC 2014 Producing Books

CC 2014 virtually redid ePUB export—adding fixed layout & radically improving reflowable ePUBs

Indesign has always been the best software for publishing: print & ebook. I have already posted quite a bit about the new software. Most of the improvements seemed to be focused on we self-publishers. But my book is also redone— in places

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June 18th, 2014

InDesign CC 2014 Reflowable ePUBs are even better

Although the large changes in ePUB export are seen in the fixed layout variety, what they now call reflowable ePUBs are also improved. They have their own dialog box and they are a separate choice when you export. You now add the metadata in the export reflowable ePUB dialog box. This saves time and hassle.

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June 18th, 2014

InDesign CC 2014 offers excellent fixed layout ePUBs

This is probably the big news for InDesign CC 2014. Although there have been many improvements to Reflowable ePUBs, they are incremental. The ePUB FXL has the possibility of being almost revolutionary.

So, how big is this change?

It is very hard to show the differences because the layouts are so different. But, let’s look

Continue reading InDesign CC 2014 offers excellent fixed layout ePUBs