I’ve been fighting the stupid Kindle argument more and more lately. Kindle remains stupid, as far as formatting is concerned. Kindle’s immense list of things which cannot be done remains. Worse yet, they continue to strip out a lot of stuff.
I’ve come to do a Kindle version with:
- HTML lists: InDesign does an excellent job of typesetting lists with custom indents and special bullets. They work fine in ePUBs with embedded fonts, but Kindle ruins them.
- No tables: again InDesign does them fairly well—though they have a long way to go. Kindle’s tables are horrendous.
- No fonts [setting everything in Bookerly]: In the name of “enhanced typography” the fonts are commonly stripped after uploading without my knowledge.
- The sans heads & serif copy distinction is handled very poorly and often stripped entirely.
- Drop caps: These are supposedly supported, but they are so poorly done that they really can’t be used. A drop cap should be in a different font and carefully spaced. This cannot be done in Kindle.
- Formatting guide: I’ve learned to not make waves there, but the guide is a horror show—especially for graphics. They want 300 dpi graphics for their Fire readers, which bulks file size immensely with no real benefit in any of the Kindle apps on other machines.
- and the list goes on.
The result is I upload a Kindle version which is nearly as bad as the recommended Smashwords formatting. I suspect this doesn’t matter for fiction with few or no graphics. But it greatly harms readability of complex non-fiction books—especially if they are highly illustrated.
But it’s all so unnecessary
HTML can easily handle everything I’ve mentioned. My ePUB2s with embedded fonts do it well. InDesign exports typographically sound ePUBs—even with all the HTML limits.
There is no reason I can see why Kindle can’t put out a “Kindle Non-fiction Creator” like their textbook creator app. It would accept well-formatted, reflowable ePUBs with embedded fonts and not mess with them. That would be a starting solution. There would need to be some vetting or warnings, like: “Hey, stupid, this thing is almost unreadable.” But they should have that now for many of the current enhanced typography Kindle books they are currently carrying.
I continue to read non-fiction books with multiple line breaks in the middle of paragraphs, homonyms, numbers for chapters [who ever thought that one up? I mean why bother?], no subheads, and on & on. Even with the horrible lists, no tables, horrendous drop caps, and all the rest accepted as OK, the books are flat ugly and hard to read.
The stupid Kindle argument means textbooks are often required
You know, the ones which say print replica in the title. It’s a solution, but not a very good one. They require a large Retina or better tablet to be readable.
So, we really need a solution. Bug them, please!