A Philosopher's Blog

Kindling

Posted in Technology by Michael LaBossiere on March 28, 2011
Cover of "Kindle Wireless Reading Device,...

Cover via Amazon

While the Kindle has been out for a while, I published my first Kindle book, 42 Fallacies,  in November of 2010. While the content of the book has been freely available for years, people expressed an interest in a Kindle version and I put one together. I was rather surprised by the fact that people have been buying about 40 copies each month. After all, there are free PDF, text, and Word versions all over the web.

This modest success motivated me to produce other Kindle books. The most recent is McDonald’s is for Breakups and I have four other books currently in the works. I have no delusions of making a lot of money. Rather, I am more interested in sharing my ideas and raising a little cash to help buy the supplies I need to teach. Thanks to the budget cuts in my state, my department has no dedicated funds for such things. In fact, the university is currently being “restructured” and the current theme is that we are all “lucky to have jobs.” Yes, I have had the occasional daydream of Oprah pushing one of my books and being able to become independently wealthy on the proceeds.

While I doubt Oprah will be pushing anyone’s minor Kindle books anytime soon, getting into the Kindle publishing business can be fun and perhaps even profitable. While writing books can be a bit challenging, the Kindling process is fairly easy. The following is a very simple guide to simple Kindle publishing.

First, you need to set up your Kindle direct publishing account by going to https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/signin. If you do not already have an Amazon account, you will need to set one up and sign in using that account. Otherwise, you just need to set up the KDP, a process that is rather quick.

Second, you need to write a book. Good luck with that. When writing a book for the Kindle, it is a good idea to consider the nature of that format, which leads to the third step.

Third, you need to format the book. Kindle books are, in effect, written in a HTML code with some support for style sheets. It is this code that controls how the text appears as well as handling the navigation of the text.  For example, the table of contents for a Kindle is essentially a set of hyperlinks to anchors in the text.

Given this, the more you know about HTML and style sheets, the better. Fortunately, if you are doing a basic book, then you can get by without knowing much (or anything) about HTML.

Fortunately, you do not have to write your book in an HTML editor. After all, most word processing and page layout programs support saving files to HTML. Also, as will be discussed below, you can convert certain file types directly to the Kindle format.

Since my books have been rather basic, I have been using Word to create and edit the content. Conveniently, Word’s table of contents generator will generate a usable table in the document. Simply set the style for each item you want in the table and Word will do the work for you.

Once the book is formatted in Word, the file can be saved as HTML, text or even simply as a Word (.doc) file for conversion. You can even save it as a PDF file. HTML does seem to be the preferred format, however.

Since Word is somewhat notorious for creating crappy HTML, you might consider cleaning up the code in an HTML editor if you are not getting the results that you want when you convert the book into the Kindle format (see below). This does, of course, require knowing about HTML and the Kindle format. Fortunately, you can create decent looking books without knowing any of this.

There are, of course, many options other than Word. Given that all you need is,crudely put, a file with the proper HTML code, any program that can create HTML files (or a file that can be converted to HTML) can be used to create a Kindle book. You can even use programs that are designed for page layout, such as Adobe InDesign.

Fourth, you need to convert the book into the format used by Amazon. Amazon offers two free options. The first is the command line (think DOS) Kindlegen that converts files into the correct format. The second is a (beta) plug in for Adobe InDesign (Mac and Windows versions are available). Both are available here.

A second free option is the MobiPocket Creator. This is the option that I recommend, since it is not a command line program and provides various useful options (such as adding a cover graphic). The program can import HTML,  Word (.doc), text, and PDF files. However, it produces the best results from HTML in regards to having the Kindle book resemble the original in regards to layout. I have tried several PDF files, generally with very disappointing results. Not surprisingly, the simpler the layout of a book, the easier it will be for the program to maintain that layout properly.

Given that Amazon is pushing Kindle hard, I have been hoping that they would provide software that could be used to create and directly save Kindle book files. The current method seems a bit jury rigged: you create the book in one program, save it and clean it up with another, then use a third program to convert it to the Kindle format. But perhaps this is intended to put up a barrier or perhaps the folks at Amazon are getting enough books so they need not worry about this.

Fifth, you will upload the book to Amazon via the KDP page. You will need to enter the details regarding your book, set a price, enter a description and (if desired) upload an image of the cover. Amazon will process the book and it will be published in 48 hours (in the United States).

Here is my super simple bullet list method:

  • Create your Amazon KDP account.
  • Write your book in Word, create a table of contents, save it as HTML.
  • Convert the book using MobiPocket Creator.
  • Upload it to Amazon KDP.
  • Wait for Oprah to call you.
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11 Responses

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  1. A J MacDonald Jr said, on March 28, 2011 at 6:44 am

    Great article. Many people are writing books for Kindle now and your guide can be a great help to many more. Do you have any of your free pdf books on Scribd yet? Scribd is a very popular site, here’s a related article I wrote recently about how Amazon and Google have become the author’s de facto business partners: http://www.scribd.com/doc/45525210/Google-and-Amazon-An-Author-s-Business-Partners-in-the-New-Digital-Age

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on March 28, 2011 at 6:22 pm

      I haven’t put them there yet, but that is an excellent idea. They already know all about me via Facebook, which was just a tad creepy. :)

  2. T. J. Babson said, on March 28, 2011 at 7:20 am

    Nice post.

  3. frk said, on March 28, 2011 at 10:02 am

    Congratulations, Mike But, seriously, you’ve been spending so much time writing and teaching that you’ve failed to keep up with the Biggest News of the Decade (decade: otherwise known as the first three months of 2011). Oprah’s retiring in a couple months and, and likely her signature book recommendations will retire with her. So, chop-chop. :)

    My wife has a Kindle. I’ve downloaded one or two books onto it for myself.
    Now, I’m sure I’m not alone in my fondness for underlining and writing notes in my books. Underlining isn’t too hard on a Kindle, and making notes on a passage isn’t terribly difficult. But using the notes later is a mild pain in the rump. I can quickly access all notes but, unlike with a real book, I must move back and forth between the text and the note until I figure out why I wrote that particular note based on that particular text. I find going to my bookshelf, pulling down a book, leafing through real pages, and seeing my own personal handwriting right there beside the item I commented on much more satisfying.

    I’m not tech-savvy by any means. Is it possible that Kindle will ever have page numbers or the the capability of saving notes on the the actual page where the note belongs? Or do newer versions have that capability already? If not, does anyone out there use a different method with notes on the reader? I’d love to know if I’m missing anything, because I love the Kindle format for fiction, and I’d like to feel the same fondness for the Kindle when I read non-fiction. If I could, I might even purchase a Kindle of my very own and purchase one of your books, Mike.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on March 28, 2011 at 6:24 pm

      The newest software for the newest Kindles is supposed to support page numbers for books. Odd how that ancient feature of paper is considered a significant upgrade.

      I haven’t looked into the note feature, but that will most likely be improved as well.

      • frk said, on March 28, 2011 at 10:24 pm

        In my relatively brief exposure to the device I’ve become quite fond of the font size control. With this feature your Kindle book collection could follow you from bright-eyed youth to near- blind old age.

        • Michael LaBossiere said, on March 30, 2011 at 10:06 am

          Kindle is also available as an app on various platforms and, surprisingly enough, you can download all your books to any device. So, I have all my books on my hardware Kindle as well as on my iPod Touch. Naturally, you have to link each device to the account-but that is no problem.

  4. FRE said, on March 28, 2011 at 1:12 pm

    I considered buying the Barns and Noble version of Kindle. Before going to the B & N store, I made a list of actual books that I had recently purchased; many were books on renewable energy and nuclear power since I’d been doing research on them and few were history books. Then, at the B & N store, I had the clerk check to see if the books were available on their electronic reader; only one was. So, I decided NOT to get an electronic reader since the sort of thing which I commonly read is not generally available in electronic format.

    Probably there is some good material available electronically, but most of the material available electronically is for the hoi polloi; those of us who are not satisfied with what is available are considered to be elitists and not worth considering. That’s unfortunate because it is more environmentally responsible to get books electronically. Also, it reduces clutter.

    • frk said, on March 28, 2011 at 4:58 pm

      Thus demonstrating how easy it is to join a loosely defined segment of society that conservatives and liberals alike (many of whom inhabit the ranks of the elite) rail against . Many Republicans, and a few Democrats who wish to protect their “seats” by appealing to the common man, have narrowed the pejorative connotation of the word to mean elitist intellectuals, who, by “definition” , are educated, ivory tower, bubble-heads- – -“not worth considering”. Sorry. No Kindle for you my friend. :(

  5. [...] little while ago I wrote a post about how to create and sell Kindle books through Amazon. While Amazon seems to be the biggest seller of eBooks, Barnes & Nobles is also a [...]

  6. Anonymous said, on April 28, 2011 at 11:38 pm

    [...] Kindling (aphilosopher.wordpress.com) Previous in category « » [...]


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