Amazon has released early tools and documents for producing ebooks in the new KF8 format.
A more thorough tutorial on KF8 will follow in an upcoming post, but here are links to Amazon’s KF8 tools and documents along with links to relevant articles.
The Kindle Format 8 Home Page - includes links to the Previewer, KindleGen, and supporting documents.
KindleGen2 — A command-line application for creating KF8/Mobi ebooks from X/HTML and ePub, this tool is probably too technical for most self-publishers. However, the ability to convert from ePub files to KF8 files is notable. Because all other eReaders use ePub files, the most efficient workflow will likely involve exporting a single ePub or ePub3 file for distribution across eBook stores and then converting that same file into Kf8 for distribution by Amazon.
KindleGen is a command line tool which enables publishers to work in an automated environment with a variety of source content including HTML, XHTML or EPUB. KindleGen converts this source content to a single file which supports both KF8 and Mobi formats enabling publishers to create great-looking books that work on all Kindle devices and apps.
KindleGen is officially supported by Amazon to convert files to the Kindle format. We recommend you use KindleGen to create content that is compatible with all Kindle devices and apps. Files created with third-party software may not work properly on current or future Kindle devices and apps.
Highlights of KindleGen functionality
- Support for all KF8 functionality
- Generates a single file supporting both KF8 and Mobi format
- Support for multiple source formats including HTML, XHTML and EPUB
Kindle Previewer — An interface for viewing, converting, and validating KF8 ebooks. Think of this as a Kindle Fire simulator that runs on your desktop.
Kindle Previewer documentation (PDF) — Specs and Guidelines for Kindle Previewer.
Kindle Previewer is a graphical user interface tool that emulates how books display across Kindle devices and apps. Kindle Previewer makes it easy for publishers to preview the layout of a book and make sure its text displays properly for any orientation or font size to ensure publishers produce and submit the highest quality Kindle books.
As a best practice we recommend you use the Kindle Previewer to review how their books look across all Kindle devices and apps.
Highlights of Kindle Previewer functionality
- Ability to preview your content across Kindle devices and apps
- Support for previewing Kindle Text Pop Ups and Kindle Panel
- Accurate rendering of your content across Kindle devices and apps
- Faster previewing through features like Auto flip mode, Image flip mode
- Auto updates for future enhancements
Kindle Publishing Guidelines (PDF) - revised to include the KF8 format, this PDF includes general instructions on how to self-publish on Amazon
Kindle InDesign Plugin (Beta) — this update to the Kindle export plug-in for Adobe InDesign includes KF8 support but lacks support for some of the enhanced features mentioned in the original KF8 announcement. For now, Amazon recommends converting to KF8 from Microsoft Word files, something most serious self-publishers will be hesitant to do unless the final typeset version of the book is identical to an earlier MS Word manuscript. Though it seems that would logically be the case, it’s common to make changes during the final round of readings after the book has been typeset in InDesign. Because of the importance of InDesign to the publishing process for publishers of all sizes, I expect Amazon will focus their energies on updating the plug-in to support all of KF8’s features.
Kindle Plugin for Adobe InDesign® (Beta) is a plug-in designed to make it easier for publishers to convert documents or books created in Adobe InDesign to Kindle Format 8. Kindle Plugin for Adobe InDesign® converts the InDesign source content to a single file which supports both KF8 and Mobi formats enabling publishers to create great-looking books that work on all Kindle devices and apps.
Kindle Plugin for Adobe InDesign® (Beta) is officially supported by Amazon to convert files to the Kindle format. We recommend you use Kindle Plugin for Adobe InDesign® (Beta) to create content that is compatible with all Kindle devices and apps. Files created with third-party software may not work properly on current or future Kindle devices and apps.
Highlights of Kindle Plugin functionality:
- Seamless integration into InDesign
- Direct conversion of InDesign file to a single file which supports both KF8 and Mobi formats
- Easy export for most InDesign text formatting
- Ability to adjust image quality
- Adding and editing of metadata for Kindle books
- Formatting for table of contents
- Auto updates for future enhancements
Kindle Plugin for Adobe InDesign documentation (PDF) — The document explains what features are supported or not, but neglects to instruct users on how to use the plug-in. My initial explorations did not reveal an “export to KF8” option. Apparently, the KF8 is created by the Kindle Previewer application after using the plug-in to export to an updated version of the original Kindle .mobi format. Lack of documentation of the required workflow is an unfortunate oversight.
Kindle Publishing Guide — A detailed online reference for publishing Kindle ebooks. Most of this documentation does not appear on first glance to have been updated to specifically address KF8 eBooks.
For an early technical analysis of the KF8 format, see EPub Guru Liz Castro’s article about the HTML code that drives the new format. Her conclusion: Kf8 is just a wrapper for an ePub File.
Additionally, read Liz’s article about fixed layout in KF8 eBooks . Different screen aspect ratios (the relationship between height and width) on various eReader devices and the ability to change from vertical to horizontal layouts by rotating the eReader create problems for publishers who want to create fixed layouts that maximize screen area.
These problems and limitations are not unexpected; it’s early in the eBook game. Amazon is first to offer a “rich eReader device,” but other vendors’ ePub3 eReader devices and good tools for exporting ePub3 files are still in development. Adobe has already demonstrated innovative “Liquid Layout” (video below) solutions that fit documents to multiple screen aspect ratios and orientations; they work in a web browser so we can assume they’ll work in ePub files. I suspect the eBook publishing game will change dramatically this Spring when Adobe releases an update to its Creative Suite publishing tools.
Addendum: On the heels of Amazon’s announcement come rumors that Apple will be announcing their own EPUB3 tools on Thursday, January 19. Read the Ars Technica article here.