Problems with Kindle formatting

Since my first attempt at uploading a file, I have had numerous other attempts at sorting out niggling little problems (over ten attempts so far ā€“ and it’s still not quite right).

As I said in my first post on the subject, for some reason the book looked different on different devices. Some had paragraph spacing, some didn’t. Some had first paragraph indents, some didn’t, and some had a double indent on the first paragraph. I also mentioned a few other little problems. I’ll cover them all below.

Paragraph spacing:

My openoffice document had no space between paragraphs so I was pretty annoyed to find that Kindle devices put a gap between them. I downloaded the mobi file and loaded it on to my Kindle and on to an iPad and iPhone for comparison. The iPad and iPhone had no gap, the Kindle did.

The problem appears to be that I specified a gap of 0cm before and after the paragraphs.

The solution is to make it 0.01cm in both cases. It’s a bit of a bodge really. By specifying a zero value, the devices appear to use their default value for the paragraph spacing, which for a Kindle seems to be a single line. By specifying a very small amount, it fools the device into using the specified amount instead of its default. The value of 0.01cm is too small for the human eye to detect on a Kindle or an iPad.

Paragraph no indent:

I specified that the first paragraph in a chapter would have no indent, but subsequent chapters would be indented by 0.5cm.

The problem is that on some devices it works ok but on others there is either an indent the same as subsequent paragraphs, and even worse on others, the indent is twice the size of subsequent paragraphs.

The solution is to revert to the bodge again. I had specified an indent value of 0cm for the first line of the first paragraph, so it again seemed that the various devices took that to mean use their defaults. By specifying an indent of 0.01cm for the first line, it appears on all devices as if there is no indent on the first paragraph of each chapter.

This problem also affected the indents of the table of contents. I indent the chapter numbers under part numbers. Part numbers used a style that specified indent of 0cm, causing the iPad and iPhone to indent it more than the chapter numbers. Fixed by setting indent to 0.01cm. Another way round this problem would be to centre the table of contents instead.

Table of Contents spacing:

I thought the table of contents spread over too many screens, so I thought to close the gap up. I changed the style for the table of contents to have 0.01 before and after each item.

The problem here was it closed up the gaps between them, and yes it looked good and didn’t take up many screens (particularly on the smaller devices), but it wasn’t practical. I have quite small fingers and I struggled to hit the right line when I wanted to go direct to a specific chapter.

The solution was that a gap is necessary. I set it to 0.1cm below and above, which is just enough to separate the lines to make it easier to hit the right one (for me at least). I may revisit this.

Blank lines:

The existence of blank lines in my title page, copyright page and end matter caused issues across different devices. Mostly related to the styles having specified no gap between paragraphs. Where the default device gap was used I ended up with massive gaps between the paragraphs.

I changed all the styles used, and created some new ones, so that I have just about eliminated most blank lines. I still have one on the copyright page where I have also included contact info. I separated them with a blank line, but because the style no longer has 0cm specified above or below, it doesn’t look too bad.

Other stuff:

I converted email address and blog address to be hyperlinks (which I tested on the devices I copied the mobi file to, and they worked)

The bookmark problem with the Table of Contents caused it to be greyed out when you used the Kindle ‘go to’ function. I had specified the bookmark in uppercase. I redefined it as toc and it works ok.

Start point. I have a bookmark called start pointing at the title page in the openoffice document. But some devices go to chapter 1, some to the title page. It’s not consistent. I set the start to be the title page because when I specified it to be chapter 1, for some reason it went to a point somewhere before the start point, in the middle of the table of contents, or towards the end of the book, and the ‘go to’ guide was all over the place. So specifying the title page is again a bit of a bodge, but it seems to make it work after a fashion.

Still outstanding:

The paragraph indent on some devices is very small. It is noticeable but is about half the size of the indent on my Kindle. Not sure how to get round this one. I might leave this one as it’s not a bad problem.

The major issue I have now is that books I have downloaded to my Kindle tend to have the chapters in the ‘go to’ guide. There doesn’t seem to be a way of doing this from a word processor. So on the one hand KDP are saying they prefer the book uploaded in doc (Word) format, but at the same time suggesting it’s a good idea to have the chapters in the guide, which can’t be done as long as you stick with a word processor. That’s how I understand it anyway.

After a lot of time spent trying to find a way of achieving this impossible task, I have decided to download Sigil. So instead of uploading the html document from openoffice to KDP, I have loaded it into Sigil which is supposed to be able to create the table of contents in the right way to allow it to appear in the guide.

So that’s where I am at the moment. I basically have a Kindle version that works, except for getting the chapter numbers into the ‘go to’ guide. I could go live with it as is, but I feel it would be better to utilise the guide for navigating around the book (if readers want to do that). I’ve downloaded and installed Sigil and had a play with it. It seems to be the answer to the problem. I’ll document this in another post.

And I thought all you had to do was upload your source text. There’s a lot of work involved in getting a Kindle book looking good.

My plan now however is to read the CreateSpace proof copy which arrived on Monday to check for any last minute changes, and to check the formatting etc., and then order another proof copy (because of the changes I’ve already made to the source file). So release date is likely to be another three weeks or so, which is just as well because I haven’t finished doing all the setup for either the paperback or the ebook.

2 thoughts on “Problems with Kindle formatting

  1. L. M. Webb

    I think it is possible to get the chapter numbers in the ‘go to’ guide. I managed it by using Word’s automated table of contents though unfortunately, as it was more luck than judgement, I’m not sure I can explain exactly how… It really is a frustrating process. I sympathise.

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    1. Brian Anthony Post author

      You are right, it sometimes feels like I’m playing pin the tail on the donkey. If I’m lucky it might just work. I’m trying to be good by documenting everything I do but inevitably little things get done and forgotten about. As I don’t use Word, the Sigil route looks a promising alternative, but I too feel I am gradually arriving at the solution more by luck than judgement. There just doesn’t seem to be any good documentation out there. What does exist seems to assume we are familiar with, and indeed experts with, html and other technical stuff. I might have worked in the computer industry for over thirty years but I never really got a chance to use html. Not a lot of call for that in big Financial Databases. Anyway if the Sigil route works I’ll put a post up detailing what I did.

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