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Old 05-10-2011, 06:11 PM   #1
Jabby
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Kindle ebooks missing table of contents

I have been under the impression that Amazon made certain requirements of ebook publishers before they were allowed to be sold in the Kindle store. One of these requirements is that the ebook have a linked table of contents. Not true!

A couple of days ago I bought two ebooks (one was free). Neither had a table of contents. I called customer service and told them this and was read a statement that said, in effect, it was up to the publishers discretion whether they included a working TOC.

Since it does take some time to build a TOC, I think we may be seeing a move to reduce the publishers cost by doing away with the TOC. Most ebook formatting is already atrocious to the point I am beginning to lose my desire to read. What we are getting is junk.

You would think that Amazon would be our ally, since we are their customer, but apparently not. I am forming an impression that Amazon managers find it easier to cozy up to the publishers since they are insulated from direct contact with their customers. (Something like the politicians cozying up to the Washington insiders at the expense of their constituents.) I wonder if Jeff Bezos is paying attention? I wonder if the authors are paying attention?

Just something to think about.

Regards - John
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Old 05-10-2011, 06:42 PM   #2
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Well, it's on the publisher to prepare the manuscript for publishing. Amazon is our friend, of course, but it's just a middleman, so it's our decision to buy books from a certain publisher or not. As I'm reading around, there is some improvement in ebooks quality, so maybe you just stumbled upon a few bad examples. A few days ago I bought a book by Zig Ziglar and it's a technical horror, if it wasn't for Zig I'd throw it in the garbage. But, that's just one example, other books are correctly made and I'm enjoying them.
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Old 05-10-2011, 06:52 PM   #3
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Some of it is not due so much to negligence as to bad e-book file prep and buggy conversion tools.

KindleGen will omit your TOC from both the "Go to" function and the flickable chapter marks if you don't specify the files exactly right in the OPF when assembling the Mobi.

But yeah, a lot of publishers seem to be pretty lazy and cut corners when it comes to producing e-book editions, for which they then charge nearly as much as for the paper version.
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Old 05-10-2011, 06:57 PM   #4
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I find nearly all self published ebooks I have bought on Amazon have no TOC.
I figured it must be due to the publishing software Amazon uses.
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Old 05-10-2011, 07:03 PM   #5
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Even when the book does have a table of contents, I find that when I click on a newly bought book it usually opens at the beginning of chapter one. You usually need to go to location 1 to get to the real beginning and see, for example, the copyright announcement.
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Old 05-10-2011, 07:12 PM   #6
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There are little hard rules on what should be contained in the book and how book should be published. ToC is definitely not one of the requirements.

I do know however that Amazon is very sensitive to customer feeback and at the very least pass it to publisher.
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Old 05-10-2011, 07:21 PM   #7
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I've found that sometimes it depends on the price of the ebook as well. I found one book for exampl titled "The Bible Book by Book. A Manual for the Outline Study of the Bible" and there were two versions. The free version had no working TOC but the .99 version has a working TOC so basically the .99 version differs from the one that costs 0.00 only in that there is a working TOC. The free one was put together by volunteers while the .99 version was published by MobileReference though so presumably the one is done by an amateur and the other by a professional business that wanted to make a good impression on customers. They might have used different software, but that's something I don't know for sure. I have noticed that some books (by volunteers) look quite a bit like the raw PG books just with a different look to regular mobipocket. Like they downloaded a bunch of books from PG and just ran them through their meat grinder to repackage them a bit. That's mostly with the PD books though. They seem to do better with newer titles, or at least I seem to have been lucky so far for the most part. There was a Kindle version of O. Henry's short stories I bought at Amazon that had some glitches in the TOC (I didn't realize MR had a copy of the same book at the time) but generally aside from the old PD books I haven't noticed too many problems.
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Old 05-10-2011, 07:48 PM   #8
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I don't like that at all. I believe that one should do the job to the best of his abilities no matter what's the final price. Although we can't talk much about free books, because we should be happy that some stuff is free, still some standards should be followed. Crich you said that's mainly PD books problem, but I believe that in that case thy should have TOC too. At the end of the day that's the picture of the person who made the book and if there's no TOC, well, my trust is shaken a little bit.
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Old 05-10-2011, 07:52 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Histerius View Post
Well, it's on the publisher to prepare the manuscript for publishing. Amazon is our friend, of course, but it's just a middleman, so it's our decision to buy books from a certain publisher or not.
When I go to the grocery store I expect the store owner to determine what goes on the shelves. If the product is of poor quality I think it should be missing from the shelves.

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Originally Posted by ATDrake View Post
Some of it is not due so much to negligence as to bad e-book file prep and buggy conversion tools.
This is what I believe is happening. The person that does the type setting then runs the output through a converter, uses the equivalent of a spell checker and ships it off to the retailer. This doesn't work to well for the same reason PDF documents don't convert well to EPUB. Of course, one of the big problems is MS Word that so many authors use. In this case it's "garbage out to garbage in to more garbage out".

Quote:
Originally Posted by Blossom View Post
I find nearly all self published ebooks I have bought on Amazon have no TOC.
I figured it must be due to the publishing software Amazon uses.
I recently bought a couple of non-DRMs epubs from Fictionwise (self published) that did not have a TOC. It took me no more than twenty minutes to reformat, build a TOC and use Calibre to convert to Mobi (for the wife's Kindle) so I take a dim view of poor formatting.

Regards to all- John
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Old 05-10-2011, 08:01 PM   #10
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Old 05-10-2011, 08:35 PM   #11
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I just published a book on Amazon and I can tell you from experience what the problem is: It's in the formatting done by the author or publisher. Amazon's Mobi format is proprietary and it's a challenge to get your book to produce what is called an inline TOC and get it to work in mobi. It's a breeze in an epub wich is the common format for most other ebooks.

It's also my belief that formatting software for mobi books will evolve in the next few months where the TOC challenge is a thing of the past. Calibre will make the TOC but Amazon doesn't accept a Calibre formatted book if it is going to add DRM (or at least that's what I understand).

One could argue that it's Amazon's job to police the uploaded books. I'm quite sure the number of books uploaded on a daily basis would prohibit that effort.

L

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Last edited by dreams; 05-11-2011 at 12:39 AM.
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Old 05-10-2011, 08:39 PM   #12
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I'm not arguing with you about the fact they should have a TOC, just stating that that seems to be something common in volunteer conversions of books, many (if not all of which are PD books). A lot of them still seem to have the extra added text that PG adds to its files as well which as I said leads me to think some of them are just files that were downloaded from PG and run through a program to make them kindle files rather than just mobipocket files.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Histerius View Post
I don't like that at all. I believe that one should do the job to the best of his abilities no matter what's the final price. Although we can't talk much about free books, because we should be happy that some stuff is free, still some standards should be followed. Crich you said that's mainly PD books problem, but I believe that in that case thy should have TOC too. At the end of the day that's the picture of the person who made the book and if there's no TOC, well, my trust is shaken a little bit.
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Old 05-10-2011, 08:46 PM   #13
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Quote:
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Amazon's Mobi format is proprietary and it's a challenge to get your book to produce what is called an inline TOC and get it to work in mobi. It's a breeze in an epub wich is the common format for most other ebooks.
Are you building a separate Mobi from scratch (using Mobi creator or something, which make a TOC fairly easily)? Any properly made ePub I've used the Amazon tools on (KindleGen/Previewer) has come out with a perfectly working TOC with just drag and drop.
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Old 05-10-2011, 08:58 PM   #14
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Are you building a separate Mobi from scratch (using Mobi creator or something, which make a TOC fairly easily)? Any properly made ePub I've used the Amazon tools on (KindleGen/Previewer) has come out with a perfectly working TOC with just drag and drop.
I could never get those to work for me. I built my ePub in Sigil and it would work fine. Mobi Creator would not create a working TOC and neither would KindleGen. I finally converted it to a mobi in Calibre, reformatted that in Calibre back to an epub and then had an HTML fluent friend tweak the inline TOC. From there KindleGen worked just fine.... but it was a rocky road.

L


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Last edited by dreams; 05-11-2011 at 12:39 AM.
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Old 05-10-2011, 09:38 PM   #15
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The quickest and easiest way I have found to get a working TOC in a mobi file is by converting it to epub, letting Sigil create the TOC (make sure it's not multi-level), then converting back to mobi. I get a perfect TOC, with the jump-ticks this way.

I know it's cheating but, like Lazer, I find the mobi-creation tools to be a PITA.

Regarding calibre-created files and DRM, Kovid recently changed the code to add in the empty space Amazon required for it, so that's not supposed to be an issue anymore.
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