The Problem With Fixed Format

Monday, November 26, 2012

If you want to publish to multiple electronic devices, the ePub format is the most trouble-free way to go. After all, if the book validates, it can be viewed "everywhere." The problem is, ePub is a dynamic format, and does not do well for design-specific books. If you want to create a book that displays the way you designed it, possibly with full spread graphics and maybe some interactivity, you need to use a fixed format.

Publishing to Fixed Format

Kindle KF8 has such a fixed layout format, referred to as the children's book format. A book using this format is fairly easy to create using Amazon's Kindle Previewer application. The Previewer application also allows you to inspect the book, including the Region Magnification (popup) feature. The problem is that you don't really know how the book will function until you actually get it on the device. For this you need the Kindle Fire.

The advantage of using the Kindle fixed format is that there is an Amazon.app available for just about every other device "out there." (Type in Amazon Reader in your favorite web browser's search field to see the list of readers available.) What the Reader app supports on a particular device may be another thing. It might be safe to assume that the behavior of your book when viewed in the Amazon.app on your computer may be what your reader will get on his or her device. That is anyone's guess.

To preview your book on a device running the Amazon.app, you can email your .mobi file to the device using your Send-to-Kindle Email Address (consult your device's preference settings). This works great for ePub. But fixed format books are another subject. Try sending an unpublished fixed format .mobi file to your iPad and you will be disappointed. Once the book has been published, however, it should appear In the iPad's Kindle app with all of your other Kindle books and display as anticipated.

Send to Kindle App

Amazon now has another application you can download to your computer for sending your documents to your Kindle (or other device with Kindle Reader): "Send to Kindle." You can find out more about this application at www.amazon.com/sendtokindle. It's pretty cool if all you want to do is push a text, PDF, or ePub document to your device. It does not do so well when it comes to a fixed format .mobi file especially if the target device is an iPad.

I wrote to Amazon about the issue of not being able to preview what a fixed format book will look like on iPad and received the following:

  • Currently there is no support for viewing KF8 content for iPad in previewer.
  • Please note that when a mobi file is sent using 'Send to Kindle', it sends the mobi7 version to the device. Mobi7 does not support many of the styles and features available in KF8.

On My List for Santa

My wish list for Santa this year is to be able to start in one application, design some pages, and be able to use the pages on every device that has a screen size similar to the Kindle. Moreover, I want to be able to distribute my creation to everyone in my address list, free, without having to go through a publication service. Think of the possibilities this would have for education! Teachers could add their assignments to a cool little book (or app) and have it emailed (automatically) to their students.

Apple has the idea with their iTunes U app. The problem: it is just for iPad and Mac. What about the rest of the devices? Just for reading books, viewing videos, or playing games? I hope not. Are you listening, Santa?

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