Amazon recently announced Kindle Format 8 (KF8), the new ebook file format they plan to use instead of Mobi 7. It’s a shame they didn’t switch to epub as rumoured, but KF8 offers much needed improvements to layout and typography. However, my heart sank when I read that only the latest Kindle devices will support KF8. The Kindle 3 or earlier will be stuck with Mobi format ebooks, which could make things difficult. Imagine the following scenario: A client comes to me with a proposal for a graphically rich title such as a cookery book. I think “Ah, KF8 provides the layout controls we need for this and it will look fantastic on the new Kindle Fire”. Quite reasonably, the client wants to sell as many copies of her book as possible so doesn’t like the idea of limiting it to owners of the latest Kindles. Therefore, I’ll have to create two versions of the ebook, doubling the time and cost for the project. Also, the version for older Kindles won’t look very good because of the limitations of the Mobi format. And that’s before we start looking at a version for the iPhone, iPad, Nook…
Amazon claim the upcoming version of KindleGen will convert existing content, but managing two versions of an ebook won’t be as simple as creating the first one and clicking a button. For example, I recently worked on a non-fiction title with illustrations, but we knew the Kindle wouldn’t let us wrap text around the images. After some trial and error we removed the images from the main text flow and centred them in a separate block. Not as elegant as our original design, but acceptable, and it worked across the Kindle devices and apps. However, this issue would slip through an automatic conversion tool as it requires hands-on attention.
It’ll be some time before KF8 is in use, so maybe this is unnecessary worrying. Hopefully KF8 will be supported by all Kindle devices.
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