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Old 04-22-2013, 05:49 AM   #1
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Noob preparing Mobi kindle books

I have been working with epub for a while, and understand the CSS and HTML sorta kinda pretty ok. I've been revamping and uploading public domain books to the MR library.

I have been considering learning to prepare books for the Kindle, but I do not own a Kindle. MUST I have a Kindle to properly test, or will Kindle Previewer for PC do the job well enough?

And if I do go down this long lonesome road, which format(s) do you recommend to use?

I look forward to any input you might share with me.
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Old 04-22-2013, 10:01 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by grannyGrumpy View Post
MUST I have a Kindle to properly test, or will Kindle Previewer for PC do the job well enough?
Kindle Previewer usually does a very good job, but is not 100% reliable.

However, with the introduction of the new KF8 format, Kindles now support pretty much all ePub2 tags/styles and even some HTML5 and CSS3 elements. (Usually, only dropcaps styles are rendered differently. I.e., you'll probably have to use a variation of the dropcaps style recommended in the Amazon Publishing Guidelines.)

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Originally Posted by grannyGrumpy View Post
And if I do go down this long lonesome road, which format(s) do you recommend to use?
Since all current Kindle models (K3 and higher) support KF8, I'd recommend focusing on that format. (You can use media queries to cater for older devices. For more information see the Publishing Guidelines.)
Of course, you can also decide to only upload .azw3 files. (azw3 is the extension that Amazon uses for KF8 files.)

If you plan to convert books for the MR library with KindleGen/Kindle Previewer, you'll also need to use Kindlestrip.py to strip the source files from the compiled .mobi file. (By default, KindleGen generates a hybrid mobi file that can be read on older Kindles and new Kindles and also attaches the source files.)
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Old 04-22-2013, 11:47 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Doitsu View Post
Kindle Previewer usually does a very good job, but is not 100% reliable.
Hi Doitsu, and thank you for your reply. So, tell me -- just between you, me, and the fencepost, in what areas does the Previewer fail of reliablity? If I'm forewarned, I might be able to avoid problems, maybe.

I can see I'm going to have to learn about some new tools (I only ever used Python scripts a tiny bit some years ago when I was using Avisynth to edit video). Thanks for the heads-up about Kindlestrip.

So what do most uploaders do? Upload the hybrid? Split the file and upload one? Or split and upload both formats?
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Old 04-23-2013, 03:36 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by grannyGrumpy View Post
Hi Doitsu, and thank you for your reply. So, tell me -- just between you, me, and the fencepost, in what areas does the Previewer fail of reliablity?
I've only occasionally noticed minor differences. For example, dropcaps look slightly different in the previewer in Kindle Paperwhite mode.

Hopefully, some more experienced MR users will also chime in.

Quote:
Originally Posted by grannyGrumpy View Post
I can see I'm going to have to learn about some new tools (I only ever used Python scripts a tiny bit some years ago when I was using Avisynth to edit video).
Using Python scripts isn't actully that complicated. If you're using Windows, just install ActivePython and you're done.
BTW, you can also use Calibre to generate .mobi, .azw3 or hybrid files. Many MR uploaders apparently go that route, which also has the advantage that Calibre will add an HTML TOC and guide locations, if they're not present in the epub.

Quote:
Originally Posted by grannyGrumpy View Post
So what do most uploaders do? Upload the hybrid? Split the file and upload one? Or split and upload both formats?
I've seen all 3 versions, but since the KF8 format hasn't been around that long, most .mobi books in the MR library are non-KF8 books that can be read with any Kindle.
I usually only upload hybrid files, when I embed fonts and otherwise non-KF8 .mobi files.
(If you use KindleGen with the -c2 option, hybrid .mobi files are on average only 10-20% larger than the corresponding ePub files after stripping the source files.)

As I mentioned before, creating KF8 files from ePub files isn't that complicated. Since your books usually already contain an inline TOC and guide items for TOC and cover, you'll only need to add another Text guide item for the Kindle Start Reading location and slightly change the dropcaps style.

To give you an idea what your book looks like on Kindle, I took 4 screen captures of your latest Mark Twain book: Kindle Previewer, Kindle for PC, K3 with embedded fonts and K3 without embedded fonts.
Attached Thumbnails
Click image for larger version

Name:	K3_EmbeddedFontsOff.JPG
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ID:	104828   Click image for larger version

Name:	K3_EmbeddedFontsOn.JPG
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ID:	104829   Click image for larger version

Name:	KindleForPC.JPG
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Size:	121.0 KB
ID:	104830   Click image for larger version

Name:	Previewer.JPG
Views:	73
Size:	66.9 KB
ID:	104831  
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Old 04-23-2013, 05:24 AM   #5
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Thanks so much for coming back with more info. And PICTURES! (I see now why folks talk about the drop-cap difference on Kindle. Are they tweakable?)

Ok, you're making this sound awfully easy, and Calibre conversion is possibly the easiest part of it all. I feel like there are no excuses left to drag my feet.

I guess there's nothing left but to dive in and try, and see where I come out on the other side.
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Old 04-23-2013, 06:04 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by grannyGrumpy View Post
(I see now why folks talk about the drop-cap difference on Kindle. Are they tweakable?)
You could fiddle with the top margin value to pull your dropcaps up a bit, but, IMHO, it's simply not worth the hassle, since the resulting .azw3 file might display fine on a Kindle Fire but not on an eInk based Kindle or vice versa.
Since the default Kindle fonts natively support small caps, I'd recommend replacing the dropcap and the following letters with bold smallcaps. Alternatively, you could only make the initial letter larger and bold.

Since KF8 supports text-transform in stylesheets, you could also style the first word to display as all caps in ADE (and non-KF8 mobis) and small caps in KF8. For example:

Code:
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8" standalone="no"?>
<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.1//EN"
  "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml11/DTD/xhtml11.dtd">

<html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml">
<head>
  <title></title>
  
<style type="text/css">
  span.sc {font-variant: small-caps; font-weight: bold; }
  span.sc2 {text-transform: lowercase; font-variant: small-caps; font-weight: bold; }
</style>
</head>

<body>
  <p><span class="sc">M</span><span class="sc2">ORALISTS</span> and philosophers have adjudged those who throw temptation in the way of the erring, equally guilty with those who are thereby led into evil.</p>
</body>
</html>
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Old 04-24-2013, 02:57 AM   #7
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Doitsu, thank you much for the tips and the link.
(I haven't even started yet, and I'm learning tricks already!)

I think this is going to be very interesting.
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Old 04-25-2013, 11:50 AM   #8
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A dropcap looks fine as long as you can tweak it. But if a reader prefers another font-size (bad eyes), he will get the effect as shown in the 4th example ot Doitsu (empty space below the first letter in different size depending on the chosen font-size).

George
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Old 04-26-2013, 02:33 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GMcG View Post
A dropcap looks fine as long as you can tweak it. But if a reader prefers another font-size (bad eyes), he will get the effect as shown in the 4th example ot Doitsu (empty space below the first letter in different size depending on the chosen font-size).
Does this mean the drop-caps do not scale accurately when font-size changes?

If that's the case, I think it will be simpler to forget drop-caps.
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Old 04-26-2013, 03:23 AM   #10
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Yes. Think of it: You have the dropcap as high as two lines of text and the empty space between them. If you use a bigger font, the margin will be bigger too and so the third line will be moved a little downwards.
A similar effect will occur with a capital letter at the beginning. If you use a bigger font, the margin below this letter will increase too and so you get a higher margin to the following line whereas the other lines with margin will be shown with correct proportions. You can see this effect also when creating your e-book. Play with 1.2em, 1.4em, 1.6em for the capital letter. You have to tweak it with margin-bottom like 0.8em.

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Old 05-01-2013, 01:36 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by GMcG View Post
Yes. Think of it: You have the dropcap as high as two lines of text and the empty space between them. If you use a bigger font, the margin will be bigger too and so the third line will be moved a little downwards.
If you mean the body font, then if you specify an explicit line-height for your paragraphs and use relative units for everything, font changes should make basically zero difference. My drop caps do not shift by even a pixel (as best I could tell from a quick visual inspection) when I switch from my own custom font to Georgia, Times, Helvetica, Palatino, and Charon. The only thing that changes is what word gets butt-jointed up against it on the second line.

Now if you allow for overlap (e.g. the top bar of a "T" above the first line of text), then this does not necessarily work if the font for the drop cap itself changes, simply because that top bar may be at a different relative offset from the baseline, but the layout itself still shouldn't change.

Last edited by dgatwood; 05-01-2013 at 01:41 AM.
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Old 05-01-2013, 01:49 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by dgatwood View Post
My drop caps do not shift by even a pixel (as best I could tell from a quick visual inspection) when I switch from my own custom font to Georgia, Times, Helvetica, Palatino, and Charon.
Can you please post the dropcaps style and the line-height value that you're using for Kindle books?
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Old 05-01-2013, 10:54 AM   #13
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Assuming you use a "normal" font (i.e. a font where all the caps are the same height and none of them have descenders other than the Q) and start with an em size of 1, the correct way to calculate the em size of a drop cap is ((n-1)*L)+C where n is the number of lines you want the drop cap to take up; L is the line-height of the paragraph and C is the caps height of the paragraph font. If you don't know the caps height of your font, 0.7 is a good starting estimate. The drop cap should have a negative bottom margin = (M-1)*((L-1)/2) where M is the drop cap em size and L is line-height.

You should also make a negative adjustment to the right margin of the drop cap of (M-1)*w where M is the drop cap em size and w is the advance width of the drop cap letter.
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Old 05-01-2013, 11:19 AM   #14
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@ dgatwood: "My drop caps do not shift by even a pixel."

It's not the drop cap that shifts, but the following line of text if the reader resizes the font.

George

Edit: Or you do some mathematics as William suggests.
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Old 05-02-2013, 02:04 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Doitsu View Post
Can you please post the dropcaps style and the line-height value that you're using for Kindle books?
@dgatwood: I would like to see your styling also. Do you mind sharing?
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