Monthly Archives: October 2012

Kindle Fire HD and e-production

The main reason I bought the Kindle Fire HD is so that I can test files for my conversion clients.

In a recent post I talked about the issues the new Kindle iPad app brought up for my conversion workflow (mobi7). InDesign will create css with pure black coding if you use the registration swatch rather than the black one (which is totally counterintuitive if you are used to print, but there you go). But I’ve found that the iPad and now the Fire’s night theme doesn’t work if you use that either. I’ve changed the color value to ‘inherit’ and that seems to work. I need to experiment more with using a master css file.

I’ve also found that it’s best to strip out any references to fonts if you want to use the font selection the KF gives you. It doesn’t seem happy with embedded fonts anyway – it just uses one of its fonts – usually the most ugly one! I’m possibly doing something wrong, but this has been my experience using the inDesign to ePub to Kindlegen/Previwer method.

I’ve tried the Kindle conversion plugin for inDesign and that’s been a dead loss for me. It won’t generate a toc and the change font size feature wouldn’t work. A definite no no for the Kindle user experience!


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Experiments with Kindle Fire HD

On Friday my Kindle Fire HD was unceremoniously shoved through my letter box.

The box

Its attractive packaging and seemed to cushion the device’s fall onto the tiled floor in my porch.

You open the box by pulling the perforated cardboard tab.

Kindle Fire HD packaging open

The Kindle Fire HD comes with an USB cord and an instruction leaflet. It switches on on the short side. The button is recessed and not easy to see, so you won’t keep turning it on by mistake.

It’s already pre-registered to your Amazon account.

Kindle Fire HD home screen

Notice it says Jill’s 2nd Kindle at the top of the screen. Items you’ve looked at appear in the carousel. I gather this is a modified Android OS – it’s certainly similar to my Sony S tablet. There’s a free app of the day at the moment. Jamie Oliver today.

Very gratifyingly, the Adobe DPS folio I experimented with in the summer loaded on to this straight away once I loaded the Adobe content viewer app.

Adobe DPS folio

The screen is lovely. These photos don’t do it justice at all. New users get, I think, 5 gig of cloud storage (and a months free Amazon Prime, incidently). This is the gallery screen for the cloud storage. You can download to the device to view offline or you can sideload photos from your desktop.

Kindle Fire HD Photos screen

Books look good. There is now a night and sepia theme (like iBooks) and a text-to-speech facility. It’s a female, American voice, though, and I haven’t found a way to change it.

Kindle Fire HD text to speech facility


Just need to get it a cover now, so I can chuck it in my bag of gadgets.


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When is black not black? Kindle for iPad app

I recently upgraded to IOS 6 on my iPad and was able to download the latest version of the Kindle app. Having a muck about on it as you do, I noticed that you can now reverse out the text (night theme) like you’ve been able to do on iBooks for a while. So I pressed the ‘black’ button and the background went black and my text went … er … slightly less black. So I fiddled with it some more, I changed fonts and font sizes. I switched it on and off again. Then I opened to a self-published book I’d recently downloaded – and black with white text. Hmm. Checked a few more downloads. Black with white text. Back to another in the series I’m converting at the moment – black with slightly less black. Hmm. A test book I made a couple of months back – black with white text.

OK … check the css files. Ah! The test book css shows the text’s hex number is #000000, but the files I’m currently working on have hex #1a1818. This is the colour that InDesign CS6 generated from the ‘text black’ swatch (RGB 26,24,24) during ePub export. So once the css was changed to #000000 the file displayed properly.  It seems that the black theme setting on the Kindle app will only reverse the text out to white if it is pure black.

I don’t remember changing the css on my test file, but I could have. If I didn’t though, it seems that InDesign used to convert to #000000 in CS5.5. Incidentally night theme works just fine in iBooks3 without changing the css.

Oh it’s fun this conversion lark, isn’t it.


To continue this: I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s best to not specify text colour at all. I got a Kindle Fire this morning and the ‘night’ theme plays up even with the text set as #000000. It also plays up with embedded fonts, but that’s another story…

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Things I have learned about OCR scanning

What’s OCR scanning? It’s a method of getting printed text into digital form. This can be useful for authors who are thinking of self-publishing rights-reverted texts. If the rights have reverted it’s likely to have been published pre-digital publishing. In which case the easiest way to digitise your text is to OCR scan it.

You’ll need a scanner and OCR software. I use ABBYY FineReader Express. You scan the pages to PDF first, then run the PDF through the OCR software and text is converted to rich-text format .RTF.

The accuracy is very good in general, but the software is only software, and it sometimes gets confused.

Display font recognition is pretty poor – so this isn’t a method to use if your entire book is set like this…

This came out as CUfUiOi+e

But if you use a font like this I’m using here it comes out just fine with a few points to note:

  • I’s often become 1’s or J’s or even T’s – this is particularly likely in speech like this: ‘I becomes 1 or J or T. I think this is because the software merges the speech mark and the letter together.
  • Foreign accents are generally ignored. (They might work in different languages – I haven’t tested yet.)
  • Random full stops creep in sometimes. This might be because of particularly large or blobby serifs in a serif font or because of a printing error or mark.
  • Italic! can be translated to /.
  • ? can be translated to /.
  • If text is tracked wide the software will add multiple spaces between words.
  • If text is tracked tight the software might close up spaces.
  • Occasionally software will introduce rogue paragraph endings.
  • Ellipses can come out as dot dot dot or dot space dot space dot depending on the original setting. I always change all versions to … (alt and ; on a Mac). This is important for e-books because if you leave as dots and spaces, you can get odd breaks such as two dots on one line and one on the next. And that looks really unprofessional. For the same reason I suggest that where ellipses come at the end of a sentence you close up space before.
  • And remember, it’s only software – if there was a typo in the book, there will be a typo in the resulting text!

This means you will have to run through a load of search and replace queries and a spell check, so more on that another time.

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So what’s an e-book file then?

So what’s an e-book file then? What program do I open it in? Why can’t I edit it? What’s the difference between an e-book and a kindle and an ePub? 

An e-book is just an electronic book – any ‘book’ that you can read on your computer or an e-reader is an e-book.

An ePub is a type of e-book. They can be read on computers using programmes such as Adobe Digital Editions, Kobo desktop, Calibre etc. You can also read them on iBooks on the iPad, Kobo app or readers, Nook (in the US) etc.

Kindle is the Amazon reader. The e-books you can read on them often get called kindle books, but the file format is really what used to be known as mobi. You can read them on any Kindle app, or a Kindle reader or in a program like Calibre, which is also a conversion program (but that’s another story).

The reason you can’t open an ePub or Kindle/mobi file on your desktop and edit it like a Word file is that they aren’t really files at all. They are a zipped-up collection of files, similar to a website. In the case of ePub files, if you change the extension to .zip (PCs only) apparently it will miraculously unzip to show you this collection of files. I don’t know if this works because I don’t own a PC, and I would suggest if you try it you do it with a copy, because you might not be able to zip it up again. But I have a script on my Mac called EPUB zip that does the same thing. If I drop an ePub file on to it this is what I end up with:

Epub unzipped folder

Just a quick run through of these files: The files at the bottom with .xhtml endings contain the text of your book – one file per chapter (if you have set the files up that way) – you can edit these files using a text-editing program. I use a fantastic and free program called Textwrangler and sometimes Dreamweaver. The doc.ncx file is where the clickable table of contents is. Images go in the image folder including the cover image. Fonts go in the fonts folder (er – obviously). The css folder contains the css files (cascading style sheets) that style the text (bold, italics, that sort of thing). The OEBPS folder contains the content.opf file. This file is a packing list – all the files that make up your ePub must be listed in this document, along with essential metadata and the instructions the e-book reading software needs to display the book properly. The META-INF files contain a load of required gubbins, but generally you shouldn’t have to open them at all.

When I’m creating ePub files I do all my formatting in Indesign, then export to ePub and unzip, edit and zip them back up again. Then it’s crucial to check the files on as many apps and e-book readers as possible. Check that the table of contents works, check at different text sizes, different fonts (if available). Check that your formatting hasn’t been lost. Phew – loads to do…

And with that, off to cook dinner.

To be continued…

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