From ePub to Kindle: Technical Writing 101 now has a Kindle edition

Alan Pringle / News3 Comments

We just released the Kindle edition of Technical Writing 101. You can download the Kindle edition instantly from amazon.com or amazon.co.uk. You can also get a free sample if you want to try before you buy.

Using the free KindleGen command line tool from Amazon, I converted the ePub version we released last year. If you’re thinking about converting an ePub book to Kindle format, here are a few tips that will make the process run more smoothly:

  • My first conversion failed immediately because of this error: No DC-METADATA tag found in opf file. The fix turned out to be surprisingly simple, but it took me a bit of time to figure it out. I opened the ePub file with 7-Zip (an ePub file is essentially a group of baggage and HTML files zipped up together). I then edited the content.opf file in the OEPBS directory so that the <opf:metadata> open and close tags at the top of the file read just <metadata> . Dropping the opf: prefix from the tag solved that problem.
  • Prepare yourself for frustration over the Kindle’s limited ability to handle tables. Simple tables with basic text work fine, but if a table is wide with several columns, has lots of text in the heading row, or contains images, you’ll likely need to rethink that content. You can revamp the content as text, or you can—brace yourself for this—include the table as an image, as the Amazon Kindle Publishing Guidelines (PDF, 1.85 MB) mention. That suggestion won’t win accolades for content accessibility, so I was displeased to read Amazon offering it as a solution to the Kindle’s table-rendering deficiencies. In Technical Writing 101, I had one problematic table in particular would not work well as just paragraphs, so I resorted to converting it to an image (and felt dirty doing it, too). However, I included detailed alt text that explained the content so that the Kindle’s text-to-speech capability would still convey the information. Bottom line: if your content contains a lot of tables, the Kindle is not a good fit. At all.
    Kindle Previewer showing a page from Technical Writing 101

    Kindle Previewer showing a page from Technical Writing 101

  • Amazon’s free Kindle Previewer program is very helpful when you don’t have access to a Kindle for testing. When you select the buttons that display the table of contents and the cover, the emulator will let you know when your converted Kindle file doesn’t have the cover image and HTML table of contents correctly specified.  The Amazon Kindle Publishing Guidelines explain how to modify your content.opf file to include the required TOC and cover information.
  • The Kindle will render graphics the full width of the screen if your <img> code doesn’t contain height and width attributes. If full-width images don’t look good in your Kindle file, add height and width attributes. (An even better solution would be having your HTML files automatically include the height and width for all images, but sometimes you have to work with what you have.) There are several line drawings in Technical Writing 101, and I was concerned about how they would render on the Kindle. I shouldn’t have been concerned: PNG versions of those graphics look flawless on the Kindle.

Because the Kindle has limited support for tables (and cascading style sheets among other things), I felt like I had jumped into a time machine to the late 1990s and was creating HTML code for the browsers of old. Simpler is better—and is often the only option for Kindle output. That being said, I did get a chance to see Technical Writing 101 on a Kindle, and I was amazed at the sharpness of the print and the images. I can see why people become very attached to their Kindles!

About the Author

Alan Pringle

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Content strategy consulting. Publishing (electronic and print). Eating (preferably pastries and chocolate). COO at Scriptorium.