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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” menu—or the external table of contents (TOC) that readers can use to navigate the book in a manner equivalent to flipping pages—was 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 tool—and authors can too!
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.
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 HTML—a 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.