Producing a KF8 Kindle book
Until very recently, I gave some very explicit instructions for the construction of the HTML and CSS needed to step back in time to Amazon’s MOBI format. It was extremely limited in what was allowed. Designers are rarely good coders, and writers even less so. InDesign is the best tool we have at present, but there’s still a long way to go until some of the typographic niceties we rely on in print are actually available in a Kindle book without a lot of hand-coding.
But the Export to Kindle plug-in is a large step forward
I’m using the Amazon InDesign plug-in for CS5.5 [at the time of this posting the new plug-in for CS6 has not been released]. If you do not embed fonts, you simply add your ePUB to Calibre and use it to convert your ePUB to MOBI. Google Calibre. It’s a free app (shareware, actually).
Now we can embed fonts and it’s a whole new ballgame
If you embed fonts, you cannot use Calibre to convert your ePUB. It is locked (to protect the fonts from theft) and Calibre thinks it has DRM. But Amazon’s free plug-in allows you to embed fonts and a lot more. It does need a different conversion from your ePUB conversion [as of May 2012] because neither Lulu nor PubIt will accept embedded fonts yet (even though iBooks and Nook both do at this point).
You need to start by doing all the conversions we talked about for building an ePUB—with some changes. The KF8 format is a Kindle/Amazon proprietary product, and therefore, [official statement warning] it is not Adobe’s responsibility to build around it. I certainly wish they would though.
The Kindle plug-in for InDesign works well for what it does, but it is only useful if you are using ID to build a document with the single purpose of exporting that file to MOBI for use on the Kindle Fire. Supposedly all the Kindle apps: Mac, PC, iPad, and Droid will be updated soon to support KF8.
- The plugin recognizes most of the basic text formatting: (but we’ve already covered that with ePUB design in Writing In InDesign Second Edition).
- It converts all paragraph styles and embeds the fonts used
- It converts all the character styles and embeds the fonts used
- It does a good job of creating working hyperlinks: based on properly built cross-refs, hyperlinks, ID-generated TOC, and footnotes.
- It does do a good job of embedding fonts: Of course, this assumes that you have fonts with a license which allows you to embed them in an ebook. As a font designer,this is great for me. If you want my fonts with a license to use them in Kindle, email me and we’ll come up with a good price. If I get enough response, I’ll set up a special page on the foundry site for Kindle and ePUB fonts you can use.
- It makes good tables: It embeds the fonts, colors the borders and background (but no gradients), shows placed graphics into a cell, and cells with graphics and type.
- It does good drop caps
- It does reasonable bulleted lists: custom bullets are dropped and the indents are messed up a little—but bulleted lists there and quite readable.
Things which cannot be done yet
- Floating anchored graphics with rounded corners and drop shadows: but this can be done in CS6, so there is hope that the new plug-in will do it also.
- Nested styles: I miss this a lot. I have to eliminate all my nested styles and apply the character styles by hand. But that works—it’s just very tedious.
- The plug-in will add eBook section breaks based on separate InDesign files only: It does not recognize InDesign’s ability to add breaks via Paragraph style. This is a big problem for those of us doing larger graphically intensive books. We’ll need to break our ePUB file in pieces and use the Book panel again.
- OpenType features are dropped: So true small caps, oldstyle and small cap figures disappear, ligatures are dropped,and so on.
- The plug-in will also only recognize content order based on the old-school way of ordering: single text thread with inline images. It does not recognize the use of the Articles Panel.
Bottom line for kindle plug-in use:
The Kindle plug-in for InDesign is ONLY useful if your document/project is intended for Kindle only: For that purpose, it works well. You do need to do a custom conversion at this point.
I still recommend Calibre conversions unless you are embedding fonts
If I come up with a new procedure, I will post it here. Plus, I will keep you up-to-date on the state of Amazon’s free plug-in.
- If you care about your readers, write in InDesign! (hackberry-fonts.com)