Kindle Format 8

Standard

This is an interesting bit of news I thought I’d share with the world:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html?docId=1000729511

“Announcing HTML5 Support in Kindle Format 8″

  •  CSS3 support
  •  Floating elements
  •  Fixed layouts
  •  Text on background images
  •  Embedded fonts
  •  Numbered and bulleted lists
  •  Drop caps

In other words, rather than the very limited format we’ve come to know and… if not love, at least make peace with, we’ll be able to do pretty much anything that’s possible with a web page – which is quite a bit.

In some ways, that’s a good thing.  Some kinds of books really need more than the current Mobi format can deliver in terms of tables, charts, fonts and images.  Textbooks especially, tend to be very laborious to translate into something that works well on the Kindle, because they tend to have lots of sidebars and tables and images and other things that require some thinking about and serious work to make them function well on the Kindle.  With the new possibilities offered by a more modern HTML and CSS, it may be possible to do some more interesting things graphically.

With that power, though, comes responsibility, and, I’m worried, “enough rope for people to hang themselves with”.  Many people don’t realize it, but one advantage of the very simple formatting that the Kindle currently has, is that even if you spend a lot of money, your book is not going to look much different from one done simply and competently, because there just aren’t that many things to change.  In other words: your self-published book is going to look as good as many books from major publishers.

With fancier formatting options, this may break down some – you might be able to get that “pixel perfect” layout (if, of course, you forget about different devices for reading), but it may also require a lot of work to get it just how you want it.

Another issue is how they’re going to support this on older Kindle devices.  The Kindle 3 has a fairly decent browser, so I’m sure it’s possible for it to handle this new format, but it remains to be seen exactly how it will work out.

Indeed, without the new Kindle Fire, and the new tools, we can’t actually say much with 100% certainty, with the exception that this is going to be a major change for the Kindle formatting and conversion industry.