bluelake publications

digital | content | creation

zzOz | zig zag across Australia ebook image

E-books | All you really need to know about formatting for the Amazon Book Store

One of the wonders of the Internet is how you can learn things from people who know, and who happen to live in various far off places around the globe. To resolve my font embedment weirdness I’ve been communicating with a woman in Phoenix, Arizona, a guy in Pennsylvania, and another in Rosario in Argentina. You just have to distinguish the useful stuff from the mumbo-jumbo and time wasters.

Success. Happiness. After, err, four weeks.

I’ve finally sorted this e-book formatting for once and all, as they say. And my problem with ebook formatting turned out to be not anything much to do with my allegations of font stripping.


I did nothing.

I’ve worked out that my markup had been just fine apart from an initial bit really early on. Fortunately one persistent and experienced e-book formatter I’ve been communicating with worked it out, it’s actually been an issue with my understanding of how the public side, ie, the Amazon Book Store previewer, Cloud Viewer, works.

Just to go back a bit, my uploading side Preview has shown for some time a particular e-book in all its mobi format glory, just as it has been designed to be.

There are strangely two public side previewers at the Amazon Book Store, each with their own peculiarities, if not curiosities.

Look Inside shows a very much unformatted e-book, I can’t really understand why Amazon would display anything that would not be the absolute best it can be but, for whatever reason, I guess there’s a lot to do with the substantial legacy of basic Kindles and people reading propped snuggly in bed. With Look Inside you just get a 2005 style essentially unformatted string of information.

Okay, we can cope with that because there’s a second preview app, where you can download the first 10% of any particular e-book. This is the part I just didn’t quite get. If you have a Kindle style reader of any type, it’s automatically downloaded to your device, you read it on that and all is good.

Me? I don’t currently have a Kindle and can’t actually see the possibility of ever getting a specific dedicated reader. I’ve got a laptop, (and an iPod touch), to do reading, using an app, either iBooks for an epub e-book, or, I guess sometime I can use the Kindle app to read any mobi.

Here’s the thing. If you don’t have a Kindle you preview your downloaded e-book in what’s termed the Cloud Viewer, which simulates a Kindle Fire, similar size, and format, except the Cloud Viewer does not, can’t, show embedded fonts. Remarkable. It shows all the other aspects of your CSS but it ignores both embedded fonts and any sans-serif fallback.

So the reason I couldn’t see my embedded fonts is because the Cloud Viewer can’t show them.

So here in 2014 we have the situation of one of the world’s biggest companies, because of legacy problems, just not having the sense to realise that they are really in the e-book business, not the hardware so much. In the long term this kind of proprietorial exclusiveness has never worked, think DRM, ie, Digital Rights Management.

There’s something more, every time I modified the e-book, I uploaded a complete new version. I could check it in the KPD uploading Previewer. Looks great. But the book store Cloud Viewer does not update what you see, ie, you cannot check on your revisions online. The reason offered is that you would lose any bookmarks or annotations you have made.

So I’ve spent the last few weeks revising my markup to do with my font embedment and not seeing any difference, like any rational being would imagine, on the public side. I’ve probably uploaded 40 different versions altogether of the various ebooks. Frustrated, well, perhaps.

Well, I’ve solved the problem, but I still can’t see any ebook as anyone with a Kindle will see it. The woman in Phoenix has said she can see it “nice and font-y” and I’ll take her word. She wasn’t so impressed with my fluoro green colouring on her sepia screen.

author | GJ Coop | posted | 16 August 2014
← Kindle Digital Publishing and custom font embedding Phew ... the first eight ebooks finally cranked out →