New Look Inside at Amazon for Fixed Format Books (Kindle Textbook Creator, Kids’ Book Creator)

101 Teen Word Scrambles: http://amzn.com/B019JLJB00

101 Teen Word Scrambles: http://amzn.com/B019JLJB00

LOOK INSIDE FOR THE KINDLE TEXTBOOK CREATOR

Yesterday, I encountered a pleasant surprise shortly after publishing my mom’s latest word scramble e-book (101 Teen Word Scrambles).

We used the Kindle Textbook Creator because:

  • The letters are scrambled across 2 or 3 lines, so it’s a bit of a geometric formation.
  • The letters should ideally display the way that images do. Letters tend to pixelate in Kindle images, except when using the Kindle Textbook Creator (as long as you just leave the text as text, and don’t turn them into images).
  • It seemed ideal to have one image puzzle per page, a large image using large letters, for easy reading on any device.
  • Images usually take up a ton of memory, but they are greatly reduced when using the Kindle Textbook Creator.
  • It automatically centers images on each page.

In the past, I’ve always been informed by KDP that e-books produced using the Kindle Textbook Creator won’t generate a Look Inside. (Though it was always possible to place a request so that the print Look Inside would show in its place.)

However, the e-book I published yesterday generated its own Kindle Look Inside automatically. (This book doesn’t have a print edition, nor does it have an ISBN—it just has the free ASIN assigned by Amazon.)

Most of my older e-books published using the Kindle Textbook Creator still don’t show a Look Inside for the Kindle edition, but I expect this feature to roll out over the course of the coming weeks.

THANK YOU, AMAZON!

I’ve heard reports from authors who use the Kindle Kids’ Book Creator that a Look Inside can now generate for those, too.

Let me emphasize the word “can,” and this word may also apply for the Kindle Textbook Creator. Just because it can be done and it has be done, doesn’t mean it automatically will be done. First of all, there can be delays of weeks in generating a Look Inside regardless of how you publish; there is some luck involved in the timing. Secondly, if it doesn’t generate in a couple of weeks, you can place a request through support. It might help to provide the ASIN of an e-book showing an example where there is clearly a Look Inside of the Kindle edition of an e-book that was definitely published using the same tool as you used, either the Kindle Textbook Creator or the Kindle Kids’ Book Creator.

The Kindle Textbook Creator isn’t ideal for “all” types of e-books. You can find a discussion of the pros and cons of using this tool, and tutorials for how to use the Kindle Textbook Creator and the Kindle Kids’ Book Creator (both are free tools available straight from Amazon) at the following links (to my detailed free “how to” articles):

SAMPLE E-BOOKS

Here are a few sample e-books illustrating the Kindle Textbook Creator. (All of the following e-books are available with Kindle Unlimited, Amazon Prime, and of course good old-fashioned sales. However, I included the examples in case you’re curious about the Look Inside or how these tools work, not because I thought you might be shopping for e-books at the moment.)

The following e-book (which is presently 99 cents) illustrates that a Look Inside can automatically generate for e-books published using the Kindle Textbook Creator. It’s a simple design. (Carolyn Kivett also has a teen word scramble book in print, with many more puzzles, which can be found here; and she has also published several other word scramble books, both in print and for Kindle.)

101 Teen Word Scrambles by Carolyn Kivett

Below is an example that looks more like a textbook. The Look Inside is still showing for the print edition (though that may change in the near future, so by the time that you read this, it could be displaying for the Kindle edition).

The last example is fully illustrated. (My other astronomy e-book, which can be found here, is reflowable and offers both greater range and depth.)

KINDLE KIDS’ BOOK CREATOR vs. KINDLE TEXTBOOK CREATOR

Here is the basic difference between these two free Amazon tools:

  • The Kindle Kids’ Book Creator allows for pop-up text, which is nice for most illustrated children’s books. It also allows for two-page spreads. It is possible to edit the HTML, if you know what you’re doing, e.g. to add links.
  • The Kindle Textbook Creator is designed for pinch-and-zoom. It doesn’t allow for pop-up text (nor for two-page spreads). You can’t edit the HTML or add links at all. Update: The latest version of the Kindle Textbook Creator now supports hyperlinks (provided that you upload a PDF with fully functional hyperlinks).
  • The Kindle Textbook Creator generally produces much smaller files, saving you on the delivery fee.
  • Both are convenient because you can upload a PDF. The PDF generally converts very well. The text usually comes out crisp with the Kindle Textbook Creator. (PDF ordinarily doesn’t convert well to Kindle, but these two tools are an exception to the rule.)
  • Neither is suitable for a book like a novel, that mostly consists of text.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2015

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

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Optimizing Amazon’s Free Kindle Textbook Creator Publishing Tool

KTC Trig

KINDLE TEXTBOOK CREATOR

Amazon’s new free tool, the Kindle Textbook Creator, is very convenient for e-textbooks and other e-books with rich formatting and complex layouts.

(Illustrated children’s e-books work better with another free tool, the Kindle Kids’ Book Creator, and comic books work best with the free Kindle Comic Creator. However, books that primarily consist of paragraphs of text, such as novels, function best as a simple conversion following Amazon’s free guide, Building Your Book for Kindle.)

I recently published my trigonometry book, Learn or Review Trigonometry: Essential Skills, using the Kindle Textbook Creator.

I did more than simply upload my print PDF to the Kindle Textbook Creator. I spent a little time modifying my file in order to optimize it for the Kindle Textbook Creator. Later in this article, I will show you exactly how I did this.

If you would like to see an example of an e-textbook created using the Kindle Textbook Creator, feel free to check out my trigonometry e-book and see how it looks: https://amzn.com/B0106X7NL4. Note that the Look Inside shows the paperback edition. (Update: That may change soon, as KTC published books are beginning to generate automatic Look Insides.) If you want to explore the Kindle e-textbook, download the free sample to a device, or download the free sample with one of the Kindle apps (like Kindle for PC); you’ll get the best experience with a Kindle Fire HD.

But remember, your book won’t look quite the same unless you take similar steps to optimize your file before publishing.

PROS AND CONS

Here are the benefits of using the Kindle Textbook Creator to format an e-textbook:

  • The strongest benefit is convenience. You put a PDF in and very quickly get a Kindle-friendly e-book out. (Unlike conventional Kindle e-books, PDF actually converts very well in this context.) The alternative, converting a complex layout with rich formatting into a reflowable e-book, is very tedious and time-consuming. Many e-textbooks don’t sell frequently enough to warrant weeks of work on the e-book conversion (or paying a hefty fee to have the conversion done for you).
  • The output is amazingly good for starting from a PDF file (usually, PDF is the worst file to begin with to create an e-book, but this is an exception). The structure of each page is preserved, which preserves the complex design and layout of most textbooks, yet it’s much better than just converting every page to a picture. The device will recognize the text on each page, which would never happen in an image. In my experience, images can come out nice and sharp, much better than converting each page to an image (but you need good quality to begin with).
  • Students can highlight text, make notes, and use similar features that are very handy with e-textbooks. For example, if you highlight a word on the screen, the device will pull up windows for a dictionary, Wikipedia, and even translation. There is even the potential for flashcards.
  • The e-book will support pinch-and-zoom. This is a necessity when text or images wouldn’t be readable on the screen, which is possible, since the screen size may be much smaller than the page size of the printed textbook. Pinch-and-zoom is what makes the Kindle Textbook Creator viable.
  • You can add navigation to your PDF file so that Kindle devices will have a working table of contents on the device (but not a clickable table of contents in the e-textbook).
  • Audio and video clips can be added into the e-textbook using the Kindle Textbook Creator. That’s pretty cool.
  • A new feature recently added is an image pop-up. Most of your images you probably want to show on the page rather than to pop-up, but if for some reason you want to insert an image file and have the image pop-up, that is possible now.

Not everything is ideal, of course:

  • E-textbooks created using the Kindle Textbook Creator are only supported on limited devices:
    • Kindle Fire HD 8.9″
    • Kindle Fire HD
    • iPad
    • Android Tablet
    • PC/laptop using Kindle for PC
    • Mac using Kindle for Mac
    • Smartphones: maybe (Kindle for iPhone and Kindle for Android Phone are listed on my product page, but these options were removed from the Kindle Textbook Creator’s preview, so they may not be available for all e-textbooks made this way)
    • First and second generation Kindle Fire: maybe (these formats are listed on my product page, but again, they don’t show up in the preview)
    • The Kindle Textbook Creator does not support e-Ink devices, such as Kindle DX and Paperwhite
  • Audio and video features are not yet fully supported. Presently, they are only supported on third-generation Kindle Fire tablets.
  • No Look Inside is available for e-textbooks created using the Kindle Textbook Creator. Update: As of December, 2015, KTC published books are beginning to generate automatic Look Insides. I published a KTC book on December 18, and on December 19 it had its own Look Inside on Amazon’s website (FYI: there is no print edition, and it has no ISBN). The Look Inside is an important selling feature. Customers can download a free sample to supported devices, though it’s not nearly as convenient as a Look Inside. The remainder of this paragraph may now be irrelevant. [However, if you have a print edition of your textbook (you can make one using CreateSpace), you can get the print and Kindle editions linked, in which case customers will see the Look Inside of the print edition. (This may not be automatic. You might have to place a request through the Contact Us feature of KDP. It can also take weeks for this to be activated. Be very clear in your request. If they think you’re asking for a Look Inside, they will tell you that e-books made with the Kindle Textbook Creator don’t get a Look Inside. What you want is instead for the Look Inside of a linked print edition to show for your Kindle e-textbook on Amazon.)]
  • If the text is so small that customers must pinch-and-zoom to read, this can become quite tedious if customers must pinch-and-zoom to read every page of the e-textbook. Some textbooks are very expensive in print, so substantial savings with an e-textbook may help to offset possible inconvenience. However, if the text is somewhat small, it’s not too hard to enlarge the text. I’ve done this and will show you how later in this article.
  • Kindle’s page numbering may differ from your page numbering, so if your pages have numbers or if you include a table of contents with page numbers, this can be confusing. However, it’s not too hard to either remove your page numbers all together (as you don’t really need them in an e-book) or at least change your page numbering to match Kindle’s page number assignment in the navigation. I go into further detail later in this article.
  • File size is a possible issue, but it depends. I just published a 127-page trig e-textbook with about 60 images, and file size wasn’t an issue for me. My PDF file was 3 MB, the Kindle Textbook Creator made a 6 MB file, but all that really matters is that the final converted .mobi file size was back down to 3 MB. (It’s common for the final .mobi file size that you find on page 2 of the publishing process at KDP to be significantly smaller than the .kpf file that you upload to KDP. When you see the .kpf file size, don’t worry about it: Wait until you reach the pricing info page to find out what the file size really is.) If you have a very large .mobi file size, the file size will cut into your delivery cost if you choose a 70% royalty (for an extremely large file size, you might see if the 35% royalty is actually better since that involves no delivery fee); the delivery cost is 15 cents per MB (subtracted from your 70% royalty; the customer doesn’t pay a delivery fee) in the US. You can upload a file as large as 650 MB. I’ve never had a file larger than 50 MB; I suppose if you add a bunch of video clips that generous limit will come into play (and that would be a hefty delivery fee, definitely needing the 35% royalty option). It’s not just the delivery fee that matters. At some point, it takes significantly longer for customers to download and takes up more room on the customer’s device. A few MB aren’t a problem. 50 MB is rather significant. Somewhere in between, maybe around 20 MB, is where you might start to have concerns, but if your book provides good features, like awesome images or video clips, the content may make it worthwhile.

OPTIMIZING TEXT FOR THE KINDLE TEXTBOOK CREATOR

With regard to text, I changed a few things (see the list at the end of this section for more details):

  • larger font size for easier reading without having to pinch-and-zoom to read
  • removing the gutter (i.e. it looks funny to have a larger inside margin in the e-book)
  • narrower margins to maximize the use of the space on a limited screen size
  • narrower page size to more closely match the target e-reader device
  • use of color to help key terms stand out better

Many textbooks have 8.5″ x 11″ pages with a size 12 font. That’s great for the printed page, but just imagine if that page gets compressed onto a smaller screen. In that case, the text would be unreadable on many devices except when the customer uses pinch-and-zoom. If the customer must pinch-and-zoom (and then scroll around to read left to right, top to bottom) to read every page in a long e-textbook, that will quickly become tedious.

For many textbooks, it wouldn’t be too much work to reformat the file with a larger font. It depends in part on the complexity of the design and in part on how much attention you like to put into typographic features like widow and orphan control. (A nice thing about using the Kindle Textbook Creator is that you can use the same font from your print book—though you should check on the font licensing, which may be more strict for an e-book than it is for print books—and you can preserve typographic features like kerning and hyphenation. However, it wouldn’t be suitable for a book that mostly consists of text, like a novel.)

I originally published two print editions. One of the print editions has large print. The cool thing about increasing the font size and making a second version of your print file is that you can use it (A) for a large print paperback edition and (B) optimizing the text for the Kindle Textbook Creator.

However, I still made some changes to the file from my large print paperback edition to my Kindle Textbook Creator edition. I’ll get to that shortly.

My original file was a Word document (.docx). I first formatted this for a 6″ x 9″ paperback, and converted this to PDF.

Next, I saved my Word file with a new filename, increased the font size for the large print edition, went page by page through the file to improve the formatting (since the layout changed significantly after increasing the font size—I also made the large print edition 8.5″ x 11″, which is very transparency and document camera friendly on top of having larger print), and converted this to PDF for the large print paperback.

Finally, I saved my Word file with a third filename, and reformatted this for the Kindle Textbook Creator edition. Here is what I did to optimize the text:

  • I made the font size very large. I used a font size of 24-pt for the body text. This may have been overkill: Size 16 or 18 pt may work well enough, depending on the font style. Try out a test page, convert the test page to PDF, upload that to the Kindle Textbook Creator, and preview how it looks on different screens; and repeat as needed until you’re satisfied with how the size looks. If the font size is readable across most devices, customers won’t have to pinch-and-zoom on every page just to read your e-book.
  • If you used Word’s built-in styles (in 2007 and up for Windows, you find these on the top right half of the Home ribbon), changing font size is very simple. I simply changed the body text styles to 24 pt and those sections updated automatically, then I changed headings to size 36 pt, and so on. Presto, Change-o!
  • I also changed the page size from 8.5″ x 11″ to 7″ x 11. Most print textbooks are 8.5″ x 11″, but that’s much squarer than most e-readers. The result will be large gaps at the top and bottom of the screen on a Kindle device. 7″ x 11″ is close to the aspect ratio of the Kindle Fire, but may be a little too narrow: It leaves small gaps at the right and left sides on an iPad. Obviously, you can’t get the aspect ratio to match every device, since e-readers have a variety of aspect ratios. 6″ x 9″ is common among trade paperbacks and probably comes out right without any adjustment. What’s your target device? You could either make the page size match your target aspect ratio, or you can compromise and use an aspect ratio that’s somewhere in the middle of what e-readers have to offer.
    • Kindle Fire HD’s have an aspect ratio of 5:8. Starting with an 8.5″ x 11″ book, if you change your page size to 6.875″ x 11″, it will match the Kindle Fire HD.
    • iPads have an aspect ratio of 3:4. Starting with an 8.5″ x 11″ book, a page size of 8.25″ x 11″ matches the iPad. It’s probably not worth the hassle if your main target is iPad, but 8.5″ x 11″ will look very square on the skinny Kindle Fire.
    • Somewhere in between, like 7.5″ x 11″ may offer a good compromise.
    • Another option is to find a Mac, format a separate file for iBooks designed around the iPad, and publish a Kindle edition designed for the Kindle Fire HD. (Note that iPad users do buy Kindle e-books and use the Kindle for iPad app, though if you use a Mac to format an iBook, this gives you some nice formatting options for iBooks.)
  • I made the margins narrower for the e-textbook than I did for the print editions. Wider margins come in handy for making notes in a print book; that margin is pretty useless in an e-book (where you can add notes without having to use the margins). I left a small margin for aesthetic reasons.
  • Most print books have a larger inside margin than outside margin, sometimes referred to as a gutter (though Word lets you make a wider inside margin, add a gutter, or both). This looks funny in an e-book. If your print book is like this, you can adjust your inside margin to match the outside margin (with the gutter field in Word set to zero).
  • In the print edition, I used boldface to help key terms stand out. In the Kindle edition, I used color text to make them stand out even more.
  • I removed the page headers from the Kindle edition. I could have kept them: Sometimes it’s nice to look at the top of the page to see what chapter you’re reading. But it would be silly to have the name of the book on odd-numbered pages and the chapter title on even-numbered pages in the e-book. If I had opted to keep the page headers, I would have made every page header show the chapter name (which really isn’t hard to change).
  • I plan to add video clips for a separate interactive edition at some point. Presently, it looks like video is only compatible with third-generation Kindle Fire devices, so I’ve saved my interactive edition for last since that narrows the audience significantly. On the other hand, there aren’t many e-books with video, which could help yours stand out. (You might want to add clear notes in the description and near the first video clip so that customers on other devices aren’t surprised to learn about features not working for them.)
  • I also made changes for images and for navigation, as I describe in the following sections.

If you have a very complex layout, or if you are meticulous with the subtleties of typography, changing font size, page size, or margins can become very tedious. But for many books, it’s not too much work to make a better reading experience.

Toward the end of this article, you can find some images that illustrate the changes that I made to my file for the e-textbook version. And, of course, you can check out my Kindle e-book (find the link in the first section—see above, and also read the note near the link regarding the Look Inside and sample).

OPTIMIZING IMAGES FOR THE KINDLE TEXTBOOK CREATOR

Amazingly, KDP’s FAQ’s for the Kindle Textbook Creator don’t specify a recommended image size.

I’ve spoken with the Kindle Educational Team, and with a few other authors who have asked Amazon, and those recommendations were insane, like 4000 pixels, which is overkill. I suspect those recommendations are made with future-proofing in mind. Even in the reasonable future, 2000 pixels should be ample resolution, maybe even that’s too much. Many images 1000 pixels across forced to display full-screen appear fine on a screen 2000 pixels across, and right now it’s hard to find a screen measuring more than 2000 pixels across.

Most authors using the Kindle Textbook Creator already have a PDF file for their print book, and almost all print books require or recommend 300 DPI. If your image is 300 DPI, even a small book size like 5″ x 8″ will be 2400 pixels along the longest dimension if the image is full-page. You don’t really need 300 DPI.

But let me back up. Forget DPI for a moment.

Here’s what I do: I take my print-ready PDF, upload it to the Kindle Textbook Creator, save it as a .kcb file (you don’t have a choice), don’t change the file at all, check how the images look in the preview, package the book for publishing (this creates a .kpf file; you don’t have a choice), login to KDP, upload the .kpf file, preview the images there also, complete the minimum info so that I can move onto page 2 of the publishing process, and look underneath the pricing table to find the converted .mobi file size. (Don’t waste time doing anything to your file or filling out the fields carefully. All this work is just to see what the file size is, to help you determine whether or not it’s even worth fussing with the images. We’ll go back to square one and do everything right later.)

If your print PDF was 300 DPI and your converted .mobi file size that you see on page 2 of the publishing process is reasonable, leave well enough alone. 300 DPI on paperback sized pages should have ample resolution for your e-book, and if the file size is reasonable, it’s probably not worth a lot of effort redoing images to try to trim the file size. (But if you noticed problems with how your images appeared in your preview, that might be worth addressing. It could be because the device you’re viewing the preview on has limited resolution, though most monitors should measure enough pixels across for that not to be an issue, so chances are that if your images look blurry, it’s worth looking into the cause. Do they look sharp in print?)

In most cases, your print-ready PDF’s images will be fine for your e-textbook, and you won’t need to resize them.

Of course, what really matters for an e-book is the number of pixels. DPI is irrelevant for e-books. But what I’m saying is that if you already have 300 DPI images suitable for a print book, that’s probably plenty of pixels for the e-book.

Now forget the file that you just made. Go back to your source file, save it with a new filename for your e-book version, and touch it up for the e-book. At the end of the previous section, I listed a variety of features that you might change for the Kindle edition. If you also want to adjust any images, make these changes when you change the page size, margins, font size, or anything else that you elect to change.

If you want full-screen images for the e-book, first you have to realize that it’s inherently impossible for them to fill the screen on every device because different devices have different aspect ratios. The best you can do is choose on device to target, like the Kindle Fire HD 8.9″, which is 1200 x 1920. But that will look narrow on an iPad, which is 1536 x 2048. But the iPad size will look short and wide on the Fire.

For the image to be full-width or full-height on a device, it must be full-page in your PDF file, i.e. there should be no margins around it. Unlike a print book, you can actually have pages of different size. So you could take your .jpeg image file and convert it to PDF, then insert that PDF image into your .kcb file with the Kindle Textbook Creator, and that image size can be, say, 6.875″ x 11″ (with the Kindle Fire HD aspect ratio), while your other pages are 8.5″ x 11″. (It might look a little funny to suddenly see a different size page though. That’s something you can test out and get feedback on. I’m not saying you should do this; just that you can.)

In most cases, what images are good enough for print are more than good enough for e-books, so you probably don’t have much work to do with your images. Unless… unless you have a lot of square images, like for an 8″ x 8″ book, and you want to redesign them to be tall and narrow like the Kindle Fire. Square images don’t make effective use of the narrow Kindle Fire screen, so this could be worthwhile. But then you have a lot of work to do. It might not be worth all that work if you have many images. (Don’t just change the aspect ratio as that will distort your pictures: You need a redesign, or just accept the square images and leave it at that.)

Design Tip: Browse for print replica e-textbooks on Amazon and check them out. You can see the different possibilities. You’ll probably see some samples (remember, any Look Inside may be showing the print edition; if so, you need to download the sample to check the formatting out). Traditional publishers don’t use the Kindle Textbook Creator, so you may find some print replica files that were made another way, but you’ll be able to find design ideas. And you’ll probably encounter some design problems, too. Sometimes it’s good to experience those as a customer before designing your own e-book.

The absolute best measure of how your images look comes from actually seeing your e-textbook on a device. The preview helps, but nothing is better than the real thing. Once you publish your e-book, the best thing is to be your own first customer and see exactly how it looks. (In the worst-case scenario, you can quickly unpublish until you can resolve the issue.) Of course, there are many different devices, but something is better than nothing. If you don’t have a Kindle or iPad, maybe you can find a family member, friend, or even a coworker who does.

OPTIMIZING NAVIGATION FOR THE KINDLE TEXTBOOK CREATOR

Note that there is a distinction between a table of contents and navigation.

  • A table of contents is an actual page in your book. In many e-books, the table of contents has clickable hyperlinks (but not when you use the Kindle Textbook Creator).
  • Navigation refers to a different sort of table of contents. Not one appearing as a page in your book, but one that shows up on the device itself when the customer accesses the navigation feature. Customers can click on the navigation links to jump to any chapter of the book.

Note that Amazon refers to Table of Contents in the Kindle Textbook Creator when it’s really talking about device navigation.

This causes some confusion. You can’t make a clickable table of contents with the Kindle Textbook Creator. Update: The latest version of the Kindle Textbook Creator now supports hyperlinks (provided that you upload a PDF with fully functional hyperlinks), though this is still different from device navigation.

What you can do is build in navigation for the device. This is what Amazon is referring to when they mention Table of Contents in the Kindle Textbook Creator.

Adding device navigation is easy. Don’t bother trying to do this in your PDF; most likely that won’t translate to the Kindle Textbook Creator anyway.

When your PDF is ready for Kindle publishing, open it up in the Kindle Textbook Creator.

Go to the pages you’d like to bookmark for navigation, such as pages with chapter headers (like Chapter 5), and important front or back matter sections, like the Introduction. On that page, you’ll find a checkbox on the right side of the Kindle Textbook Creator, which says, “Include page in Table of Contents.” Check that box on any page you’d like to work in device navigation. In the space below the box, type the name of the chapter or section (like Chapter 4 or Introduction). Check your spelling carefully; you’d hate to have a typo in the navigation menu.

Remember, this won’t give you a physical table of contents as a page in your book, and this won’t give you a clickable table of contents. (You can still have a physical table of contents page in your e-textbook; that’s up to you. If you want one, you should put it there before you make your PDF. For the e-book, it’s not as helpful as a print book, since there is device navigation. But you can’t make the table of contents page clickable.)

Now there is a peculiarity in the way that the Kindle Textbook Creator numbers pages for the device navigation: The Kindle Textbook Creator numbers every page in order starting with 1. But many print textbooks number the front matter with Roman numerals (while some pages typically aren’t numbered at all), and then call page 1 the first page of Chapter 1. If your print book follows that convention, the page numbers shown on the pages won’t match the page numbers shown in the navigation menu.

You may not like Kindle’s page numbering, but you can’t change that (well, you can send in a suggestion to KDP). You can, however, change your book.

Here are your options:

  • Eliminate the page numbers from your file before uploading your PDF. E-books don’t really need page numbers. Unless your textbook frequently says things like, “See page 42.” Then you either need page numbers, or you need to change it to say something like, “See Chapter 2,” or, “See Sec. 4.2.1.”
  • Renumber your pages to match what the Kindle Textbook Creator does. (You don’t have to number every page. If there is a page number, change the numbering.)
  • Leave it the way it is. Many customers probably won’t even realize that there is a difference. I wouldn’t pick this option unless changing the page numbers would be a major hassle. If you have many instances of page references like, “See page 101,” it could turn into a major hassle. (I now have the habit of writing textbooks where I’m very reluctant to refer to pages by number. I generally prefer to write things like, “as shown in Chapter 8,” as it’s more Kindle-friendly.)

Here is one more thing to consider: Did you insert any pages into, or remove any pages from, your file for the Kindle edition? If so, that will add to the challenge of making actual page numbers match up with the navigation page numbers.

Personally, I prefer to use Roman numerals for front matter, but then call Chapter 1’s first page whatever that number happens to be. For example, if I have 8 pages of front matter, they would be pages i thru viii, and the first page of Chapter 1 would be page 9 (but I don’t put actual numbers on all of those pages; check some traditionally published books to see what some of the common conventions are). Then this matches up with the Kindle Textbook Creator. Many textbooks begin Chapter 1 with page 1, however, and then it’s an issue.

You can check the navigation functionality in the Kindle Textbook Creator’s built-in preview function (but don’t expect to find it in KDP’s preview after you upload your .kpf file).

ADDING SPECIAL NOTES TO CUSTOMERS

You don’t have to, but you can add a note to customers, either in the description, a page in your e-book, or both.

Not all customers know how to use their devices. Not all customers are familiar with print replica format (that’s what the resulting e-textbook created from the Kindle Textbook Creator is called).

I would avoid including a note about the format or features unless there is a specific issue in your e-book that makes this worthwhile.

Let’s say that you have images that look great when the e-textbook is held in landscape mode, but on most devices are hard to make out in portrait mode. Some customers are in the habit of holding the device only one way, and it just doesn’t occur to them to try it a different way. On the page after your first picture where this is significant, you could insert a new page with note suggesting that a better reading experience will result from holding the device in landscape. (For most books, that won’t be the case; this is just an example.) You could even add a picture showing the device held both ways as a visual illustration of this.

Or maybe you’re using the new audio or video features that are only available on limited devices. You might want to clarify both in the description and in the e-book where the first audio or video clip is reminding customers that these features only work on certain devices (to try to prevent frustration).

EXAMPLE ILLUSTRATIONS

Here are some illustrations of how I modified my print file to create a different PDF to use with the Kindle Textbook Creator.

KTC Trig Q4

The image above shows a few differences:

  • I used grayscale for the paperback, but color for the Kindle edition.
  • The page numbering is different with my Kindle version redesign.
  • I removed the page header for the Kindle edition.
  • The image appears slightly larger on the Kindle screen.
  • (Although the text appears slightly larger in the Kindle edition, it’s actually more than it seems in this side-by-side picture.)

KTC Trig m

In the above image, you can see that the Kindle edition has narrower margins than the paperback. That’s not automatic. I specifically changed my file to have narrower margins on the Kindle edition, where those margins are less relevant, but which waste valuable space.

KTC Trig p

The print edition includes practice exercises at the end of the chapter. You can write in the paperback, so customers may want space here for their solutions. However, you can’t write solutions in an e-book, so I removed this extra space from the Kindle edition, as shown above.

Also, the answer key for the paperback is at the end of the book, which is inconvenient for the Kindle edition, so I put the answers on the page after the problems for the Kindle version. Customers just have to turn the page to find the answers in the e-book. It’s easy to bookmark the answer key for the paperback though, so I tabulated the answers in their own section for the paperback.

KTC Trig F

You can see what I mean about navigation built into the device in the above illustration. I took this picture with my iPhone’s camera; it shows my Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ with the navigation window open. On the bottom left, you can see the Introduction followed by the chapter names, with corresponding page numbers to the right. Note that these page numbers are automatic, and only match the actual numbers shown on your pages if you go to the trouble to make them match.

Inside Outside Margins

The above picture isn’t a Kindle Textbook Creator e-book. It’s a paperback book showing that some print books have a wider inside margin than outside margin. That might look funny if not changed for the Kindle edition of an e-textbook made using the Kindle Textbook Creator.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2015

Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (now available)

How to Use Amazon’s New KINDLE TEXTBOOK CREATOR (Tutorial)

KTC

KINDLE TEXTBOOK CREATOR

Amazon just released a new FREE self-publishing tool for Kindle, called the Kindle Textbook Creator (KTC).

  • E-textbooks can help with highlighting, notes, flashcards, dictionary look-up, and portability of the book. These are features that students may appreciate (and so being aware of them may help you sell your book).
  • Kindle Textbook Creator homepage: This is where you can download the free tool and learn about system requirements. You can find FAQ at the bottom, too.
  • KDP EDU: This is a new site that KDP launched specifically for educators. It’s a lead-in to the Kindle Textbook Creator.

The new Kindle Textbook Creator creates a print replica file. Print replica is a basic fixed format designed to preserve the layout of a print book with a rich format.

Print replica is becoming increasingly popular among e-textbooks because it is a convenient way to reformat a richly formatted textbook for Kindle.

Textbooks often have numerous equations, diagrams, multiple columns, footnotes, and many other rich formatting features.

While reflowable Kindle e-books are better, in general, it can be a very tedious—or costly, if you hire a professional conversion service—for a richly formatted textbook.

The Kindle Textbook Creator makes it quick, convenient, and easy to convert a textbook to Kindle format. Regarding the conversion process itself, this tool is like waving a magic wand. There is virtually nothing to do. (But my free tutorial, in this article, will show you exactly what to do.)

I had the opportunity to beta-test this tool before it was released. I’ve also already published two books with this tool and have more in the works.

Want to jump straight to the tutorial? Scroll down and you’ll find it. It should be pretty easy to find if you scroll far enough. Look for the heading, Kindle Textbook Creator Tutorial.

WHAT DOES THE KINDLE TEXTBOOK CREATOR DO?

It creates a fixed format book, called print replica, for select Kindle devices.

The Kindle Textbook Creator also makes it super easy to convert textbooks to Kindle format. It really doesn’t get any easier than this. I’ve used many different tools and converted by hand, but I’ve never seen anything so simple when it comes to Kindle conversions.

What’s more amazing is that it’s designed to convert PDF files to Kindle format. PDF files are infamous for difficult conversion to reflowable format, but convert very well and easily to print replica format with the Kindle Textbook Creator. This is perfect for richly formatted print books. Just open the PDF file in the Kindle Textbook Creator and be amazed at how easily it converts to print replica format.

It only works on devices that support pinch-and-zoom (which I believe all happen to be color): Kindle Fire, Kindle Fire HDX, iPad, Android tablets, and smart phones. It will also work on PC’s and Macs.

The pinch-and-zoom feature is the key: If you simply turned each page of a print book into a picture and uploaded those images, the Kindle e-book would be very difficult to read on most devices. Pinch-and-zoom allows the user to zoom in up to 400%, and then use a finger to scroll around on the page. This way, the Kindle e-book functions sort of like reading the printed version of the book.

Since e-books created with the Kindle Textbook Creator will only work on devices that support pinch-and-zoom, by using this tool you can prevent customers from buying your richly formatted e-book from devices where the reading experience would be most challenging.

BENEFITS OF THE KINDLE TEXTBOOK CREATOR

  • Convenience. Convert your richly formatted book to print replica format for Kindle very quickly and very easily. It easily gets five stars for convenience.
  • Easy preview. This tool has a built-in preview. You don’t even have to upload your book to KDP to preview it on each device. That’s awesome!
  • PDF friendly. That’s right. Kindle usually isn’t PDF friendly, but the Kindle Textbook Creator is effective and efficient at creating a print replica format from a PDF file.
  • No HTML needed. Ordinarily, you would need to know HTML and CSS to create a fixed format book. This tool allows anyone to create a Kindle book from a PDF file without any HTML knowledge.
  • Layout control. If you have a richly formatted print layout that you’d like to preserve with the Kindle edition, this tool will preserve that layout for you.
  • Rich formatting. If you have rich formatting that you don’t want to lose in the conversion to Kindle, this tool will keep that for you, too.
  • Vertical centering. It vertically centers each page on the Kindle device automatically. (You can’t do this by uploading a Word document to KDP. You would have to work with HTML, and separate that into HTML pages, or convert to epub which does the same.)
  • Targeted devices. Books converted with the Kindle Textbook Creator only work on devices that have pinch-and-zoom and support color, so if you have a book that you don’t want to be read on black-and-white devices or which don’t support pinch-and-zoom, this is one way to target just devices with pinch-and-zoom.
  • Navigation. This tool supports navigation from the Kindle menu. In Word, for example, you can use bookmarks (Insert > Bookmark) to add navigation; be sure that this functionality is maintained in the conversion to PDF. Note: Bookmarks and hyperlinks won’t be clickable in a book made with the Kindle Textbook Creator. Rather, the bookmarks from your PDF will translate into chapters in the Kindle menu, i.e. inserting those bookmarks adds navigation from the Kindle menu. Update: The latest version of the Kindle Textbook Creator now supports hyperlinks (provided that you upload a PDF with fully functional hyperlinks).
  • PowerPoints & more. PowerPoints (popular with educators, for example) can now conveniently be converted to Kindle format. Just save as PDF first (you can even Insert > Bookmark to add navigation for the NCX). Formats that didn’t convert easily or well to Kindle format in the past can now be converted with ease.
  • Amazon now lets you insert audio and video with the Kindle Textbook Creator.

DRAWBACKS OF THE KINDLE TEXTBOOK CREATOR

  • Digital features. You can’t add pop-up text or hyperlinks. If you want clickable links, you must use a reflowable format (or use HTML and CSS to create a fixed format book, which is a lot more work). Update: The latest version of the Kindle Textbook Creator now supports hyperlinks (provided that you upload a PDF with fully functional hyperlinks). If you want pop-up text, an alternative is Amazon’s free Kindle Kids’ Book Creator tool. (However, the full launch will include additional features, such as audio and video. See the FAQ on the KTC homepage for more info. But interactivity doesn’t appear to be on the near horizon.) The Kindle Kids’ Book Creator also has an HTML view mode, which allows you to edit the HTML. The Kindle Textbook Creator doesn’t presently allow you to use HTML (its goal is to provide a convenient solution for those who wish to avoid learning HTML). Amazon now lets you insert audio and video with the Kindle Textbook Creator.
  • Fixed font size. Unlike reflowable e-books, the user won’t be able to adjust the font size. Most print books’ pages would have unreadable text if viewed with a Kindle device or tablet or cell phone. This will force the customer to pinch-and-zoom, then scroll around, to read the text. It’s not the ideal reading experience, especially if there are numerous pages of text that will likely be read while zoomed in and scrolling. You have to weigh the pros with the cons. (Or you could make a very large version of your print edition and simply convert that instead.)
  • No Look Inside. Yet. It may be coming soon. Presently, books created with the Kindle Textbook Creator don’t show a Look Inside. However, I’ve been told that this feature is coming. In the meantime, customers can still try a free sample from Kindle Fire devices. And if you have a print edition, once the Kindle and print product pages link together (this is automatic if the title, subtitle, and author names match exactly in spelling and punctuation; but if they don’t link, visit Kindle Direct Publishing and use the Contact Us option), customers can simply visit the print edition’s product page to see inside. Update: As of December, 2015, KTC published books are beginning to generate an automatic Look Inside for the Kindle edition.
  • Limited devices. Your e-book won’t work on devices that don’t support pinch-and-zoom. It won’t work on Kindle e-Ink devices. If you go to the trouble to convert your book to reflowable format, it will be available on more devices, which widens your market.
  • Text-based. If your book is primarily text-based, like a novel, the Kindle Textbook Creator is not for you. Create a simple reflowable format instead. If you have equations, charts, graphs, or other features that make the formatting more complex and you’d like a simple, efficient solution to preserving those features, then the Kindle Textbook Creator is for you.

KINDLE PACKAGE FORMAT

The Kindle Textbook Creator doesn’t export a .mobi format. It exports .kpf format, short for Kindle Package Format.

You can only upload .kpf files directly to Kindle Direct Publishing. You can’t publish them elsewhere (not even at Amazon Vendor Central).

Kindle Direct Publishing will accept your .kpf file when you upload it. It won’t let you export this as HTML or download it as a .mobi file after conversion. (So if you were hoping to get the result as a .mobi file and then look at the .mobi file with Calibre, for example, well, it won’t be so simple. All you get is .kpf. Also, the terms and conditions prohibit you from publishing KTC-created e-book with another platform besides Kindle.)

Note that the only input format accepted is PDF. Most print books require PDF format, so for most authors who have already published a print book, this shouldn’t be a problem. However, it’s very easy to convert Word or other formats to PDF. For example, Word 2007 and up have built-in Save As PDF features, and there are many free PDF converters available on the web (but have a good anti-virus program and find software from trusted sources and get it straight from the source).

SHOULD YOU USE THE KINDLE TEXTBOOK CREATOR?

That depends on the nature of your book and what your needs are.

Consider these questions to aid your decision:

  • Do you have a textbook, supplemental educational materials, a PowerPoint, or other book with a richly formatted layout?
  • Do you want a very quick and easy (and FREE) way to convert to Kindle?
  • Do you mind if the book will only be available on devices that support pinch-and-zoom?
  • Do you mind not having pop-up text?
  • Does your book have features like equations, charts, graphs, or rich formatting features, or does it consist mostly of text?
  • Do you want the option to insert audio or video?

It suits these kinds of books well:

  • Textbooks. Especially complex ones with many diagrams, equations, and rich layout or formatting.
  • PowerPoints. This is great for educators who wish to convert their PowerPoint lectures to digital books. (You may first want to change the aspect ratio. Not necessarily, but worth considering. A 3:4 aspect ratio is probably close enough.)
  • Supplemental educational materials that wouldn’t format well as (or easily be converted to) reflowable Kindle e-books, such as course notes or study guides.
  • Amazon now lets you insert audio and video with the Kindle Textbook Creator.
  • Other print books with a rich layout or formatting, except as noted below.

It doesn’t suit these types of books:

  • A novel. You should definitely make a reflowable book instead. That’s pretty simple for a basic novel. I have a detailed FREE tutorial on how to do that here.
  • An illustrated children’s book. Consider the free Kindle Kids’ Book Creator tool.
  • A comic book. Consider the free Kindle Comic Creator.
  • Mostly text. If your book mostly consist of text, make a reflowable book instead. That’s pretty easy for a book that mostly consists of text.

WHAT’S THE BEST WAY TO FORMAT YOUR KINDLE E-BOOK?

The optimal way to format a Kindle e-book involves using HTML and CSS in either a reflowable format or a fixed format. Reflowable is generally best, except for books that really require a fixed layout.

But just using HTML and CSS doesn’t guarantee that a Kindle e-book will be formatted well. There is a formatting art to sizing images best and for designing a good layout for a Kindle e-book. And if you really want the book to look optimal on all devices, you can use media queries. It can get complex, and it’s not easy to pull off.

It’s like printed books. Typographers know about kerning, widows, orphans, tracking, scaling, and a host of tricks for optimal formatting. The art of typography, whether printed or digital, can get highly complex, and very tedious to implement if you go all-out.

If you just stick with the basics, formatting can be much simpler and the results can still be pretty good. If you try to implement the advanced techniques without really mastering the art, it’s also possible to do more harm than good.

Print or digital, you can get pretty good results yourself, without too much effort, by learning and applying basic principles. This saves time, effort, learning, and expense (as professional conversions can be pricey).

What the Kindle Textbook Creator does is provide a FREE, convenient, and quick way to convert a PDF into a Kindle e-book. It’s not designed to be the Cadillac of book formatting. But it’s such a simple tool to use, it would only take a few minutes to find out if it suits your needs.

If you have a simple book like a novel, you should take a few minutes to learn how to format that as a reflowable format in order to provide a much better reading experience for novels. If you have a textbook or richly formatted book, the Kindle Textbook Creator is a simple solution for PDF to Kindle conversions (whereas other methods of converting PDF to Kindle, such as a direct upload to KDP, often don’t translate well to Kindle).

Do you have compelling reason to expect numerous sales? If so, investing time or money to create a professional reflowable design may pay dividends down the road. For books where sales may be scarce, or where you don’t know what to expect, it might not be worth the risk. You’d hate to pour weeks into formatting or hundreds of dollars into professional conversion only to see dismal sales. Using a free tool reduces this risk.

Here is another way to look at it: The Kindle Textbook Creator lets you quickly and easily produce a digital version of an educational text, so that you can spend more time writing and less time formatting.

Also, see my tips toward the end of this article for improved formatting and marketing with books created by the Kindle Textbook Creator. (But if you’re interested in reflowable layout, check out my free tutorial. If you want to use advanced HTML and CSS features, you’ll need to supplement that with an HTML tutorial from Google.)

KINDLE TEXTBOOK CREATOR TUTORIAL

Download the Kindle Textbook Creator tool (it’s FREE) from Kindle Direct Publishing:

https://www.amazon.com/ktc

PDF FILE

First, you need to convert your book to PDF. If you don’t already have a PDF file for your book, you’ll need to convert it first. Many programs, like Word (2007 and up), PowerPoint, PhotoShop, etc. offer a Save As PDF (or Export As PDF) option. There are also many free PDF converters online (make sure your anti-virus software is up-to-date, find a trusted source, and download directly from the source—of course, anything you download from the internet is at your own risk).

You can (and should) include an active table of contents. In Word or PowerPoint, for example, use Insert > Bookmark to add hyperlinks (choose Place in the Document) and link them to your table of contents entries. Ensure that these bookmarks are preserved when you Save As PDF. (That’s the case with the built-in option in Word, but with other converters, you must check the settings.)

Note that the links won’t be clickable. The point of adding the bookmarks to the PDF is to help the Kindle device create navigation. Customers will be able to navigate through the book using the Kindle menu if you bookmark the table of contents. Update: The latest version of the Kindle Textbook Creator now supports hyperlinks (provided that you upload a PDF with fully functional hyperlinks).

Get your PDF exactly the way you want it. You won’t be able to reformat your file with the Kindle Textbook Creator (except for adding pages, changing page order, or deleting pages), so if there is anything you want to change in your PDF, do it now.

NEW BOOK VS. OPEN BOOK

Open the Kindle Textbook Creator. (When I installed it, an icon appeared on my desktop and it also showed up on the Start menu.)

Go to File > New Book. Find the PDF file of your book on your computer.

Note that New Book is for opening a PDF, whereas Open Book is to open a .kcb file. (When you save a file with the Kindle Textbook Creator, it creates a new folder with a .kcb file.)

SAVING PROGRESS

Use File > Save Book to save your progress. This creates a folder with the .kcb file in it (along with a resources folder).

PAGES PANEL & DOCUMENT WINDOW

When you open a file (or when you use New Book to open your PDF), you’ll see thumbnails of all your pages on the left (the Pages Panel), and you should see the current page in the main workspace (the Document Window).

Note: Occasionally, the current page doesn’t show in the Document Window. When that happens, try highlighting a different page in the Pages Panel, then going back to that page (by again selecting the page from the Pages Panel).

VIEW/ZOOM

Go to View to adjust the view in the Document Window. I normally use the Fit to Window option, but you may want to zoom in more for a close-up once in a while.

ADD, REMOVE, OR REORDER PAGES

Really, there is only one thing you can do with the Kindle Textbook Creator in the way of formatting: Add pages, remove pages, and reorder pages.

But that’s okay. If you want to reformat your book, the logical thing to do is make another PDF. For example, just go back to your source file (e.g. Word or PowerPoint), reformat your file, and make a new PDF.

The Kindle Textbook Creator is designed for easy conversion from PDF to Kindle print replica format. It isn’t designed for reformatting the PDF.

Go to Edit to insert pages, remove pages, or change the order of pages. Just grab a thumbnail (on the left) and drag it to reposition it. You can highlight several pages and drag a group of pages instead of moving them one at a time. Click thumbnails on the Pages Panel while holding down the Ctrl button on your keyboard to select multiple pages; then you can drag them.

If you want to add a page, you first need to make that page into PDF, then you can insert it. You can’t insert jpegs, for example. But you can convert the jpeg to PDF and then insert it.

Note: Sometimes the arrow keys on the keyboard work for navigation, but not always. If the keyboard arrow keys don’t seem to be working, just click on what you want with the mouse.

If you want to drag one or more pages far, you must drag your cursor to the top or bottom of your view of the Pages Panel and position it carefully at the top or bottom. Until you get your cursor in the right position, it won’t seem like anything is happening. Once you hit the sweet spot, it will zoom along. Short drags are more obvious (so in the worst case, you can just drag it a few pages, then drag it a few more pages, etc. and you’ll eventually get there).

Remember, you can delete or insert pages. This is helpful, for example, if you’d like to create a new page for your book explaining that your book works with pinch-and-zoom. You just have to create the PDF for that page first (which is easy to do, for example, from Word).

LANDSCAPE IMAGES?

Watch out for any pages that need to be rotated into landscape view (see the tips section later in this article).

PREVIEW

When you’re happy with the page order, click on the Preview button. You can find the Preview button way over to the right side of the screen, near the top right corner.

This opens two new windows:

  • a smaller inspector window to switch devices, control navigation, or zoom.
  • a preview window that simulates the actual device.

With the inspector, you can select the following devices:

  • Kindle Fire HDX
  • Kindle Fire HDX 8.9″
  • iPad
  • Android tablet

The other devices are grayed out. Books created with the Kindle Textbook do not work on the grayed out devices. Exception: It will work on smart phones, PC’s, and Macs.

Note: The online previewer at KDP is different. The online previewer includes devices where the book won’t actually be available. The previewer that is built into the Kindle Textbook Creator, on the other hand, grays out devices that won’t support the e-textbook (except for smart phones, PC’s, and Macs—it will work on those). It won’t work on Kindle e-Ink devices.

You can zoom in up to 400% using the inspector window.

While you are zoomed in, place your cursor within the preview window, grab part of the screen, and drag the mouse to scroll around on the screen.

Actual customers will achieve the zoom and scroll effects using the pinch-and-zoom feature of the device. The preview lets you simulate this effect with the zoom setting and grab-and-drag with your mouse.

The inspector window also lets you advance from one page to another, or type in a number (and press Enter) to jump to a specific page. (The percentage may help authors who enroll in KDP Select predict where that critical 10% mark is for Kindle Unlimited, though it’s possible that the actual 10% mark in the end product won’t correspond exactly.)

Note: Sometimes the arrow keys on the keyboard work for navigation, but not always. If the keyboard arrow keys don’t seem to be working, just click on the arrows on the inspector window with your mouse.

Simply click on the X at the top right of the preview window to close the preview.

PACKAGE

When your file is ready to publish, first you need to package it for publishing.

If you haven’t already done so, click Save. This creates a folder with the .kcb file in it (along with a resources folder).

Click the Package button at the far right of the screen, or use File > Package for Publishing.

This converts your .kcb file to a .kpf file (Kindle package format).

You upload the .kpf file to Kindle Direct Publishing.

KEEPING TRACK OF THE KINDLE FILE TYPES

You begin with a PDF file. You uploaded that with File > New Book.

When you save a book with the Kindle Textbook Creator, using File > Save, this creates a folder. Inside that folder, you find a .kcb file and a resources folder.

When your .kcb file is ready to publish, you click the Package button at the far right (or File > Package for Publishing). This creates a .kpf file (Kindle Package Format).

The .kpf file is what you want to upload to Kindle Direct Publishing.

(You don’t get a .mobi file when you use the Kindle Textbook Creator. Use the .kpf file instead.)

PUBLISHING YOUR KINDLE E-TEXTBOOK

Visit Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP):

https://kdp.amazon.com

Login to KDP. If you already have an Amazon account, you can just use that.

Visit your Bookshelf.

Click the Add New Title button on the left.

Complete all of the fields.

Step 6 at the bottom is where you upload the .kpf file that the Kindle Textbook Creator made. (Don’t upload the .kcb file. You want .kpf.)

It may take a while, depending on your computer and browser (and internet traffic at the time). If you have functionality issues, try switching browsers (e.g. from Explorer to FireFox or Chrome); make sure that your browser is up-to-date.

If you receive an error message, try again. (I received error messages a few times while I was beta testing. That might be cleared up by now. I was able to resolve the issue simply by trying again.)

PROBLEMS

If you encounter problems, visit the KTC homepage and scroll to the bottom of the FAQ. There is currently a link to provide feedback.

If you have an issue with uploading the .kpf file to KDP, sometimes just trying again resolves the issue. Otherwise, try switching browsers (e.g. Explorer to FireFox or Chrome) and make sure that your browser is up-to-date.

UPDATE

Amazon now lets you insert audio and video with the Kindle Textbook Creator.

KTC SHORTCUTS

The Kindle Textbook Creator supports keyboard shortcuts.

WINDOWS

Ctrl + N to begin a new book with an existing PDF.

Ctrl + O to open an existing project (a .kcb file).

Ctrl + W to close the book.

Ctrl + S to save the book (.kcb format).

Ctrl + Shift + S to save as a new filename (.kcb format).

Ctrl + Shift + P to package the book for publishing (.kpf format).

Ctrl + Z to undo the last change.

Ctrl + Shift + Z to redo the change.

Delete to delete the current page from the Pages Panel.

Ctrl + = to zoom in.

Ctrl + – to zoom out.

Ctrl + 0 (zero) to fit to window (zoom).

Ctrl + 2 to fit to the page width (zoom).

MAC

The keyboard shortcuts are the same as for Windows, but use CMD instead of Ctrl.

KINDLE TEXTBOOK CREATOR FORMATTING AND MARKETING TIPS

READABILITY

If you’re a Kindle owner (or if you’re reading a Kindle e-book on an iPad or smart phone, for example), readability is important.

The longer the book and the more challenging it is to read the text, the more important readability becomes.

What kind of book do you have? Will reading one page of the PDF be difficult to do on the screen of any of the supported devices? If so, how many pages are like this?

If a customer has to read hundreds of pages, and if that customer has to pinch and zoom, and then scroll around the page to read it, that can become frustrating fast.

If it’s a shorter book, say 40 pages, reading one book that way isn’t too bad.

Or maybe most of the pages can be read well, and pinch, zoom, and scroll is only needed on selected pages. That’s much more readable.

Or maybe users will mainly need to just focus on one page at a time. Imagine students consulting the e-textbook to find homework problems on their smart phones, for example. With limited reading at one sitting, pinch, zoom, and scroll isn’t a problem.

But extended, continuous reading like that could become frustrating.

Who is your target audience? Students who already spend a great deal of time on cell phones might adapt to this reading experience better than others.

What is gained from the Kindle edition that may permit a small sacrifice in readability? Imagine an expensive print textbook that a student really needs. By making the e-textbook available, the student gains a much more affordable alternative. (The Kindle edition also makes it easy to highlight, collect notes from the textbook, study, read anywhere and on multiple devices, and look up words with a dictionary or Wikipedia. Students may not think of these things on their own, but you could use them as selling points.)

But any customer who is frustrated with the reading experience can still say so in a review.

So if there may be a convenient way of improving the reading experience, why not do it?

One way is to make the print larger, such that it can be read without zooming on all of the supported devices.

This entails creating a new PDF, and it may involve some changes to the layout. Ask yourself if you can change the font size in the source file and adjust the layout without much trouble. You don’t need to go overboard (e.g. in print, if you adjust kerning, tracking, widows, orphans, etc., this can be very time-consuming). It might not be too hard to increase the font size for body text and adjust the layout just enough so it’s reasonably presentable. You don’t want to publish a mess, of course; it needs to still look nice.

FONT SIZE

Is the font already large enough to read the converted e-book on all of the supported devices? It’s really easy to upload your current PDF. Then you can try to gauge how it looks. While the Kindle Textbook Creator has a built-in previewer, it might be worth testing it out on the same devices with KDP’s online previewer (the display size may be more realistic there). Nothing beats the actual device, of course, so after you publish, try to find out how your book looks on a variety of devices.

If you have a size 12 font in your PDF file, that may turn out to be too small to read on many devices without having to pinch-and-zoom and then scroll through every page.

The larger the font size, the more likely the book will be easier to read on more devices.

If you’re publishing PowerPoint lectures, if those lectures were displayed in a large classroom and students at the back of the class were able to read them, there is a much better chance that your font size is already large enough.

To increase the font size, go back to your source file (Word, PowerPoint, or whatever). If you use Select All, this will also impact headings and other text. (If you used Word’s built-in styles, changing the font size of each style is a piece of cake. Keep that in mind for future projects.) One way or another, you can increase the size of body text (and probably headings, too). You’ll probably have to adjust your layout somewhat to make it look more presentable (e.g. move figures around).

You don’t necessarily need to adjust the font size of all the text. It depends. If you have figures, you could leave the text as it is and customers can pinch-and-zoom for a better view. The fewer pictures you have, the less of an issue that will be (but then it’s also less work to adjust your images, since you have fewer of them).

Try to get feedback from customers you interact with, as that will help you gauge features that may or may not be worth improving. It’s best to have it perfect before you publish, but it’s always worth thinking of how it could be better.

LANDSCAPE

Every image needs to have the correct orientation in your digital book. In print, you can rotate an image 90 degrees and the customer can simply rotate the book to view it correctly, but this doesn’t work in Kindle. If you rotate a Kindle 90 degrees, the image rotates with it, so it’s either always correct or never correct (and the latter is quite frustrating to customers).

In the example below, I want Saturn to appear in landscape. In the print edition, I would do that by rotating Saturn 90 degrees. But in the Kindle edition, I had to rotate Saturn back. If you want it to have landscape orientation, it needs to look like landscape in the Pages Panel. If you’re facing your computer screen and you don’t have to twist your neck to see it right, that’s how it should look.

Test it out in the preview. The best thing is if you can try an actual Kindle device.

KTC Landscape

LOOK INSIDE

Amazon’s Look Inside feature can be a powerful selling tool. (But it can also be a sales detractor. The potential is there, however.)

Unfortunately, books created with the Kindle Textbook Creator presently do not display a Look Inside. I was informed that this may change soon.

Update: As of December, 2015, KTC published books are beginning to generate an automatic Look Inside for the Kindle edition.

Don’t count your chickens until they hatch, though.

With that in mind, don’t rely on the Look Inside to come later. What if it doesn’t? And what about now?

In the meantime, customers can download the free sample to their actual Kindle device. Many customers instead shop on Amazon and send the book to their device if they make a purchase.

Make a print edition and get it linked to the Kindle edition. That way, customers can visit the print edition’s product page to get some idea of what to expect. That’s better than nothing.

ADD INSTRUCTIONS

Not all customers understand their devices well.

Your book has pinch-and-zoom. Amazon will mention the print replica format on the product page.

Yet some customers won’t realize that they can pinch the screen to zoom in on images, or that once they do so they can then scroll around on the page.

It doesn’t hurt to help educate your customers.

What can you do? Create a page that briefly explains that this book is equipped with pinch-and-zoom. Briefly describe what this means.

Even better if you can use a picture to illustrate this. (Marketing tip: Use a picture from one of your other books and you get yourself a little exposure for another book.)

Make sure that these instructions show up past the start position. When a customer opens a new book in a Kindle device, it doesn’t start at the very beginning. Often, it jumps straight to Chapter 1. If you put this note on the page after Chapter 1’s beginning, customers are more likely to find it. (Is it worth interrupting the text? Good question. You have to decide that.)

Note that reading on smaller screens, like some smart phones, is optimized if the device is read in landscape orientation. (If this point is critical for your specific book, it might also be worth mentioning in a brief note.) Students often read with cell phones, but have the habit of holding the device in portrait orientation.

EXPLORE YOUR OPTIONS

I know, you’re eager to try this new tool out and publish your book.

But there is something so very simple that you can do to try and improve your book’s chances for success.

Browse through the educational market in the Kindle store for print replica books. Try these books out. See how they work. See what other authors and publishers have done.

When is the font size too small? Which books are more readable? Why? Look for possible features that you hadn’t thought of.

List things you like. List things you don’t like. If you were a student, what would you prefer?

After you publish, view your book on a variety of devices to find out exactly how well it came out. Get feedback from your audience.

EXAMPLE

Here are two of my shorter books (40 to 50 pages) where I converted the PDF of the print edition to Kindle using the Kindle Textbook Creator.

These are just the basic conversion (presently; I may improve them further), so you can see how this came out. Ask yourself if you might have changed the layout and design to make them more readable. The astronomy book has a larger font; the book on the fourth dimension is much smaller (though that book is largely visual, and was designed for the reader to spend time contemplating the images on each page, i.e. not to be read straight through).

You don’t actually have to buy these books to check them out. If you have a supported device (not just Kindle Fire, but also smart phone, tablet, Kindle for PC, Kindle for Mac), try downloading the free sample.

Full Color Illustrations of the Fourth Dimension: Tesseracts and Glomes

 

Basic Astronomy Concepts Everyone Should Know (With Space Photos)

For comparison, I have a more detailed astronomy book in reflowable format. Back then, I had actually uploaded a Word file (if I ever revise this book, I’ll go into the HTML and make some improvements).

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2015

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

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