How to Check Your eBook Using Kindle Previewer

iPhone 5 & iPad mini & iPad 3
Image by Yakuta Tsutano (CC BY 2.0)

by Corina Koch MacLeod

Curious to know how your Kindle ebook will look on an Apple iPad? How about on an iPhone? On a Kindle Paperwhite? Read on…

In a previous post, I wrote about how to proofread your book on a Kindle and why proofreading a book in its final environment is a wise thing to do. However, readers who purchase books from Amazon don’t just read on Kindles. They have lots of choices for reading their books. They can read a book on a(n)

  • Apple iOS device, like an iPod, iPad, or iPhone
  • Android device
  • Kindle Fire
  • Kindle e-ink device, like the Paperwhite or Kindle Touch 
  • computer

Amazon has created tools — apps and e-readers — that allow readers to decide how they want to read their books. But herein lies the rub: just because your book displays beautifully on a Kindle Paperwhite doesn’t mean it will look the same on an Apple iPad Mini. Here’s how I know:

Why you should care: A cautionary tale
An author I was working with had her ebook professionally formatted and uploaded to Amazon by a book service. Her book displayed beautifully on my Kindle Touch, but had entire lines of text missing on my Apple iPod and on my Android tablet. Uh oh.

In addition to this reader obstacle, I had no way of easily navigating her book on my iPod or Android because the table of contents (TOC) was missing in the “Go To” or navigation menus. A missing TOC is big deal in a nonfiction book.

What went wrong?
What happened? Her book service coverted her file to an epub and uploaded it to Amazon — a common practice for many publishers. I checked that epub file using IDPF’s epub validator, and it passed their epub standard. I looked at the epub in Adobe Digital Editions (a free epub reading app) and the TOC and lines of text were in tact. Huh?

While Amazon will accept epub files, Amazon’s formats are the mobi and KF8 formats — the “apples” to epub “oranges.” Epub files have to get converted by Amazon’s conversion portal into Amazon’s two formats, and those two file formats have to service all the different ways that an Amazon ebook can be read.

I’m an editor, not a programmer or a coder, but it seemed that something went wrong

  • in the epub to mobi/KF8 conversion process, or 
  • there was a problem with the iOS and Android apps.
Because the book displayed well in a Kindle Touch, I suspect the problem was with the iOS and Android apps.
You’ve probably already figured out that these kinds of problems could cost you sales. What do you do if your book doesn’t display as it should on an Amazon device or in an Amazon app?
  1. First, it appears that Amazon has been trying really hard to make it easy for authors to upload ebooks using the tool they already have: MS Word. Most of the authors I’ve spoken to who have uploaded their books in Word have reported few conversion problems. Perhaps keeping it simple is the lesson here.
  2. You have little control over the apps problem, but I would recommend contacting Amazon if you suspect there’s a problem with how a book is displaying in an app. Remember, Amazon profits from authors using their services, so it’s in their best interest to listen to any problems that authors report. 

How to check your ebook
Don’t have have a Kindle Fire? Or an iPhone? It’s unlikely that you own every device a reader might use to read your book. Amazon has a solution: it’s called Kindle Previewer. Kindle Previewer allows you to check your book in various e-reading environments, right from your computer.

Where to get Kindle Previewer
Sign in to your Amazon account. When you first upload your ebook file to Amazon, you have the option of previewing it in the Online Previewer or in the Downloadable Previewer before you publish it.

Both of these previewers work in much the same way and are designed to simulate how your book will look on various devices. If you don’t have a specific e-reading device, Kindle Previewer is an acceptable book-checking alternative.

I like the Downloadable Previewer because I like the convenience of having the previewer on my computer. You can download the Kindle Previewer here. Kindle Previewer needs to work in  tandem with KindleGen, so download KindleGen, too. You don’t have to open KindleGen. It just needs to live on your computer.

Keep in mind that Kindle Previewer only reads epub, mobi, OPF and HTML files. Don’t know what these file types are? Don’t worry. You can convert your book to a mobi file very simply by downloading the Book Preview File in your Amazon account (see highlighted text in the image above).

And here are the various ways that Kindle Previewer will allow you to view your book from your computer:

You’ll see in the image above that Kindle Previewer allows you to see what your book will look like on the various Kindle e-ink devices, like the Kindle Paperwhite, for example. If you click on the Devices menu at the top (circled), you’ll have options to see what your book will like on a Kindle Fire and iOS devices like the iPhone/iPod and iPad. That’s a lot of options for one little tool.

What’s missing?
As of this writing, Kindle Previewer won’t show you what your book will look like on an Android device. This “gap” led me to purchase an Android tablet instead of an iPad so I could see how books present in the Android world. I’m hoping that Amazon will include this capability in a future version of Kindle Previewer.

Good, but not perfect
A final word about Kindle Previewer: It’s not perfect. Sometimes, problems that show up in the Kindle Previewer don’t show up in the book on the actual device. The opposite is also true. But mostly, Kindle Previewer will alert you to big problems, like a missing TOC. And of course, if you’re super keen, you can always find someone with a device you don’t have, and ask them if you can view your book on it.

Related Posts

How to Proofread Your Book on a Kindle
How to Proofread Your eBook Like a Pro
How to Proofread Like a Pro, Part 2
How to Get Your Book Ebook-Ready

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