Tag Archives: Kindle Previewer

Swimming Against the Current

There are lots of different E-readers out there…just as there are lots of different rivers in Brazil.

So far, these tutorials have been using pretty nonpartisan, platform-independent technologies: HTML and CSS, EPUB and RTF, JPG and GIF. My most recent instructional blog post covered using open-source Sigil to get us to an EPUB, the standard E-book format recognized the world over as the dominant electronic book platform for people who have never heard of an Amazon Kindle.

kindle vending machine at MSP airport

I hate it when the Kindle tablet just kinda hangs there at the edge of the shelf until I jolt the vending machine.

Right. Sure. EPUB is recognized the world over as the dominant electronic book platform for people who have never heard of an Amazon Kindle. But a lot of people have heard of an Amazon Kindle. As I learned during Christmas travels, even the Minneapolis-Saint Paul Airport has heard of an Amazon Kindle.

Someday, we will all drive solar-powered cars, vacation in Castro-free Cuba, and read E-books that are not on Amazon-controlled Kindles. I look forward to those days, but I need to live in (and publish for) the real world of 2015. “Kindle” is synonymous with “E-reader” the way “Google” is synonymous with “search engine”: many people aren’t even aware that the alternatives exist. Even Apple’s iBooks platform, arguably the most sophisticated and certainly the most widespread implimentation of EPUB, has but a small fraction of the North American readership.

Few small presses can afford to ignore Kindle’s huge chunk of the market. (Even large presses struggle to do so.) If we want our poetry books to be bought, sold, and read electronically, we have to get them into a format that Amazon likes, and that means the proprietary formats of KF8 and/or mobi7. Continue reading

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Filed under Publishing Industry, Testing and Uploading

The Poem? How Many Divisions Does it Have?

As I put the finishing touches on Yellow Buick Review No. 2, I take a minute to reflect on what has changed, for good and ill.

This tutorial is based on the first generation of HTML/CSS techniques we figured out (with plenty of help) for our poetry E-books and E-book anthologies. The first issue of Yellow Buick Review used those techniques. The commercial offerings at Bicycle Comics all use the first generation markup/code. It works, it looks good, it’s even elegant in the right light.

We have a second-generation set of techniques, though. Those are what I’ve been using on Yellow Buick Review No. 2. The biggest difference? YBR 2 uses the div element to structure each stanza of a poem.

(Update: We now have a third-generation set of markup techniques that use media queries to serve cascading style sheets appropriate to the device in use. Most of this post is now outdated, but I’ll leave it here as a marker of our thinking in mid-September, 2014.)

Here are two stanzas of a poem formatted using 1st Gen YBR markup:


<p class="PoemStanza">Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit.</p>
<p class="PoemLine">Etiam id lacus ligula. Sed libero sem, ullamcorper</p>
<p class="PoemLine">Non pulvinar eget, ultricies eu felis.</p>
<p class="PoemStanzaIndent1">Etiam lacinia metus ligula, sed convallis turpis tristique eu.</p>
<p class="PoemLineIndent1">Nam in tortor dictum odio dapibus egestas.</p>
<p class="PoemLineIndent1">Nullam id odio ut ante lobortis sodales eget sed quam.</p>

Compare that with the same poem in 2nd Gen YBR markup:


<div class="PoemStanza">
<p class="PoemLine">Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. </p>
<p class="PoemLine">Etiam id lacus ligula. Sed libero sem, ullamcorper </p>
<p class="PoemLine">Non pulvinar eget, ultricies eu felis. </p>
</div>
<div class="PoemStanzaIndent1">
<p class="PoemLine">Etiam lacinia metus ligula, sed convallis turpis tristique eu.</p>
<p class="PoemLine">Nam in tortor dictum odio dapibus egestas. </p>
<p class="PoemLine">Nullam id odio ut ante lobortis sodales eget sed quam.</p>
</div>

The big difference? In 2nd Gen, each stanza gets wrapped in its own <div> tags. It is the <div>, not the <p>, that holds the margin-top attribute and value. 2nd Gen also uses percentages for most of its measurements, not em.

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The Poetry Workflow Flowchart

Everything Bicycle Comics has learned about formatting poetry anthologies for Kindle and Kobo.

workflow illustration

From MS Word to Kindle in six steps!

There it is. Depending on where you are in your publishing journey, that workflow looks beautifully simple or laughably Byzantine. Don’t worry; I’ll walk you through each of these steps in future blog posts. But big-picture, here is how we move an anthology from manuscript into Kindle and Kobo.

  1. Paste and proofread all the poems as plain text. We remove nearly all formatting from the poems. The document should look like (or actually be) a text file. Here we can check spelling and discuss proofreading/editorial changes with poets via E-mail. The entire interior of the book is in one whopping-huge Word document.
  2. Lightly format the book in Microsoft Word. We add basic structure to the book. If it can’t be done via the Style menu, then we probably won’t do it. We try to have all of our content debates now, because after this step, our book “forks” into two paths: one set of files goes to InDesign for our paperback edition, and one set of files goes to Dreamweaver for our E-book. If we make a change now, we make it one time. If we make a change later, we’ll need to make it twice.
  3. Save the document as HTML + CSS. We tell MS Word to export our document as HTML, and then we use Adobe Dreamweaver to tidy up the resulting code. We also pull all styling of the document into an external style sheet. If you’re coming from a traditional publishing background (QuarkXPress, InDesign, PageMaker), this step will seem the most foreign and tedious. I’ll talk you through it!
  4. Separate the HTML into chapters. We split our one huge interior HTML file into several smaller HTML files. For the most part, we split at chapters; each month of our Tandem anthologies is one chapter. Our table of contents, foreword, and contributor biographies become additional “chapters.” For the most part, we try to have all our chapters use the same, external cascading style sheet, but we’re open to adding one or two mini .css files if we really need them.
  5. Place the HTML and CSS files into an EPUB. We’ve been using Sigil, a free, open-source EPUB editor. Sigil wrangles together our HTML/CSS files, plus any images or media files we’ll be using. Sigil also helps us make a Table of Contents. Once we’re happy with our Sigil EPUB, we’re ready to publish on Kobo, Nook, and Google Play Books!
  6. Create a MOBI and/or KF8 book with Amazon Kindle Previewer. We use the free Kindle Previewer program to translate our EPUB into Amazon’s specialized Kindle format(s).

On a tight budget? Bicycle Comics uses both commercial and free software to make our poetry E-books. In subsequent posts, I’ll offer advice on how to work through each step using low-cost substitutes for some of the expensive programs.

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Filed under Look and Feel, Manuscript Preparation, Organization and Data