My usual process for creating books has changed a bit. It used to be I could create pretty much anything in ePub and then run it through the Calibre conversion to mobi, and then upload ready to go, with a nice clean TOC. With Kindle Fire, Calibre is not yet ready to do the conversion to mobi – even though the new Kindle Fire format (KF8) is pretty darn close to ePub already. So close that I wonder why Amazon STILL isn’t supporting straight ePub. But I digress…

Until all Kindles are fully KF8 compatible, I am doing a work-around. I do an ePub file in Sigil, with all the bells and whistles – floated pictures, right and left margins, simple tables, etc. In order to make this KF8 compatible, I have to create a TOC page, all linked up to each chapter. Then, I tell Sigil which page the TOC is in the content.opf file in the guide section, like so:

<reference href="Text/Section0006.xhtml" title="Table of Contents" type="toc" />

I like to think of this TOC page as an extra pair of underwear, worn on the outside. : ) I already have a TOC built, after all. This one is extra. However, this is the one that Kindle Previewer can see when it builds the mobi. Hit the “Table of contents” button, and this is the page it finds.

Second hack: It’s possible to force the Kindle to start in a specific place (haven’t yet tried this to make Kindle start on a cover). It goes in the same area as the TOC page, in the content.opf file, in the guide section:

<reference href="Text/Section0047.xhtml" title="First" type="other.ms-firstpage" />

As an extra double-check, I used <div id="start"></div>, where I wanted the book to start, but that didn’t do anything.

My second step in the Kindle process is to create a stripped-down ePub file (removing all bells & whistles) and then converting it to mobi in Calibre. This preserves the document-level TOC. These files are good for every Kindle device…and I recommend using this method for mobi file delivery until KF8 is supported on most/all devices.

7 thoughts on “Kindle Fire Developer Hacks

  • February 9, 2012 at 12:12 am
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    wow, I have always done these steps…

  • February 9, 2012 at 4:21 am
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    Hi, Dan – thanks for your comment. To be clear, I’ve always used a document-level TOC and used Calibre to convert from ePub to mobi, in order for it to find the document-level TOC. A TOC is essential to a good ebook. However, until Kindle Fire came out, I didn’t need to use Kindle Previewer to convert the file – Calibre did the job better. Now that I have to use Kindle Previewer, at least until Calibre can convert to Fire, I HAVE to put the linked TOC page in there (the extra pair of underwear) and tell Previewer where to find it. Just a small tweak, but essential for functionality…

  • February 26, 2012 at 2:04 pm
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    Ah… OK, thanks for the clarification. It changes daily, doesn’t it?

  • February 28, 2012 at 10:31 am
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    It sure does! Nothing quite like living on the bleeding edge of technology! : )

  • March 31, 2012 at 10:48 am
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    Well, it’s interesting to find your site. I’ve worked through some of the same issues, and come up with similar (or identical) solutions.

    I have one book that is a children’s book. It’s driving me crazy because I can’t figure out how to display the spreads properly. Do I use fixed format? Is there a way to automatically lock the orientation into landscape on non-Apple platforms? Is there a simple way to have the file read the story, using .mp3 files as the pages turn? Can this feature be toggled on/off as it can be using .dnl technology? (People don’t seem to want to download a .dnl reader.)

  • March 31, 2012 at 12:37 pm
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    You might want to check out Pigs, Gourds, and Wikis for info on how to use the “read to me” feature: http://store.kagi.com/cgi-bin/store.cgi?storeID=6FHNX_LIVE&lang=en&view=detail&productID=195585857012&output=html&page=CompleteEPUB. Have not yet been called on for this particular application. The guide is only $5 so I am sure it’s money well spent. Also, KF8 has a section on setting up a Children’s book for Kindle Fire: http://kindlegen.s3.amazonaws.com/AmazonKindlePublishingGuidelines.pdf. I have built 1 file so far with the KF8 specs, but I’m not sure yet how it looks on a device. The KF8 specs do allow for locking the page orientation, and page size. I can find no guidance from B&N on how to build a childrens’ book for them – so far what I do is create a 1-up plain epub file, jpg and text combined, in a smallish image size (520 x 660 px or less). It would be interesting to scale up the image sizes for the B&N tablets and see how they do on the older readers, though.

    Hope this helps!!

  • April 4, 2012 at 3:05 pm
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    Thanks for the great information. I’m looking into making the changes you have suggested.

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