Check Your Ebook with Kindle Previewer

by Corina Koch MacLeod

@CKmacleodwriter

Tablets and phones
Image by tribehut (CC BY-SA 2.0)

An author I know hired a book service to convert and upload her book to Amazon. Learning to convert a Word document to various ebook formats without glitches is not for the fainthearted. Many authors decide to hire someone to do the ebook conversion for them.

After her book was uploaded to Amazon, I downloaded a copy, and opened it on my iPod using the Kindle for iOS app. I discovered that it contained several e-reading distractions: the “Go To” menuor the external table of contents (TOC) that readers can use to navigate the book in a manner equivalent to flipping pageswas missing. Complete lines of text had disappeared. Uh oh.

I picked up my Android tablet to see if the problems existed in the Kindle for Android app. Same story. What happened?

How readers read ebooks
When you create an ebook, you don’t know which device readers will use to read it. You likely upload your file and hope that everything will turn out alright on the reader end. And, if you’ve paid someone to do the conversion, you might just assume that they will address device-specific difficulties. No so. When you hire someone to convert your file for you, ask them how they check to see whether your book will read well on various devices. If that’s not included in the service you’re paying for, you’ll need to check your ebook yourself.

Yup. First it’s author as marketer, now it’s author as quality assurance inspector. You just got a new hat to wear!

When you upload your book to Amazon, readers can read your files in any one of these ways:

  • on an e-ink device (Kindle DX, Kindle Touch, Kindle Paperwhite)
  • on a designated tablet (Kindle Fire)
  • on an iOS device (iPad, iPod, iPhone)
  • on an Android device (tablets and phones)
  • on a computer (Kindle for PC, Kindle for Mac)

Amazon has done a very nice job of creating apps and devices that give readers choices for how they want to experience ebooks.

But wait minute. Does that mean you have to buy a slew of devices to see if your book is going to work on various e-reading devices? Not necessarily. As I mentioned in a previous post, some ebook developers invest in a slew of devices on which they can check your book, but developers also use this nifty tooland authors can too!

Kindle Previewer
Kindle Previewer is a free tool that allows you to see what your ebook will look like on Kindle e-ink devices, on a Kindle Fire, and on iOS devices. Here’s a screenshot from the Kindle Paperwhite view in Kindle’s Downloadable Previewer:

Amazon offers two options for viewing your ebook: the Online Previewer and the Downloadable Previewer. You can access both of them through your Kindle publishing account.

According to Aaron Shepard, author of From Word to Kindle, the Downloadable Previewer does a much better job of simulating your book on various e-reading devices than the Online Previewer. If the Online Previewer is your only option, then it’s certainly better than nothing. But if you can, he recommends that you use the Downloadable Previewer to preview your ebook.
Here’s the kicker, though: the Downloadable Previewer only accepts files in epub, mobi, HTML and OPF formats. Most authors work in Word. If you’ve hired someone to convert your ebook for you, they will likely have created an epub or mobi fileask them to send you the file so you can open it in Kindle Previewer to identify potential problems.
*Note: The Downloadable Previewer works in tandem with a free command line tool called Kindle Gen. Be sure to download this tool. Though you won’t actually need to open it, it needs to exist on your computer to allow the Downloadable Previewer to do its thing. 

But I Didn’t Hire a Designer
So, what if you’ve taken the DIY route and your ebook file is not in a format that the Downloadable Previewer can read? Not to worry. You have a few choices:

  • As I mentioned earlier, after you’ve uploaded your file, you can preview it online using the Online Previewer, keeping in mind that this choice is second best. The online previewer is not entirely accurate, but it will tell you if you have some glaring formatting issues.
  • You can upload a Word file to Amazon and Amazon automatically converts it to a mobi format using the Kindle converter (the Kindle conversion software that runs invisibly after you upload). You can download the mobi file that it produces to your computer and then preview it on the Downloadable Kindle Previewer. 
  • You can save your Word file as an HTMLa file format the Downloadable Previewer can read. If you’re using Word 2010 for Windows, Building Your Book for Kindle recommends that you save your file as “Web page, Filtered.” Other later versions of Word will allow you to save your file as an HTML as well.

You don’t need to own every e-reading device to preview your ebook. You can make use of Amazon’s free previewing tools to ensure a distraction-free reading experience for your readers.

Related Posts
How to Proofread Your Ebook Like a Pro
How to Proofread Like a Pro, Part 2
How to Get Your Book Ebook-Ready
Authors, Images and Copyright: How to Stay Out of Trouble

2 thoughts on “Check Your Ebook with Kindle Previewer

  1. I have one question. I think maybe you answered it with a video but I want to make sure. When I preview Word documents in Ipad it seems to look good. But with the Kindle it warps the margins all over the place. It Right Justifies, and that’s fine, but instead of between words it puts the space at the beginning of the sentence. This is odd and waves out the paragraphs. I’m going to do the Pilbow thing, or the Hide feature. I’m trying everything and attempting to suffer as much on my own, but…

    Nekrobomb@Gmail.Com

    1. Thanks for your question. How frustrating for you!

      It’s true that when you upload a manuscript in Word to Amazon, your book will look slightly different on a Kindle than in the Kindle for iOS app, for example. But you shouldn’t be distracted by the formatting.

      Pilcrow (Show/Hide) in Word will show you extra paragraph returns, soft returns, and extra spaces between words. I wonder if something else is going on in your document.

      If you’re using Word for Windows, you might try using the CrossEyes add-in to reveal what’s going on in the background (I’ve written a post about this, too). If that fails, you could try Mark Coker’s Nuclear approach (see the Smashwords Style Guide for instructions). This last approach will generally sort out any inexplicable formatting problems.

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