Kindle Format 8 Demo Now Available

click to enlarge

On Monday I posted about the new Kindle Format 8 and how I was pretty sure that the Kindle Fire could already read it. It looks like I was right.

This morning someone left a comment and confirmed my suspicions. Kindle Format 8 is in beta right now and it is being tested by a select group of publishers.

I've checked with Amazon about when it will be released to the rest of us, but I never got a response.

My source pointed me at the guidelines for the new format as well as the tools needed to make KF8 ebooks. While I cannot share the tools, I can share a demo file I made. It only displays correctly on the Kindle Fire, but it does work.

First let me give you the file (because I know that you're dying to try it). You'll need to transfer it over USB; I suspect that emailing it to your KF could mangle the formatting.

Download

Second Demo (embedded fonts, tables, and more)

It doesn't demo everything you can do with KF8, but it was made from a 2009 Epub (source) that used a lot of the more advanced formatting features (which at the time you couldn't do with a Kindle ebook). Note that this is an Epub file, not Epub3; I'm not sure that Epub3 will convert properly.

Sidenote: I'm willing to post any converted files I'm sent so we can all see them.

My source shared a number of details, and I spent most of today reading the guidelines. Amazon is using a fair amount of proprietary tags for some features. For example, the zooming on fixed layout ebooks appear to be all Amazon's html code, not software features. I was also told that the new format is more of an update to the exiting Kindle Format, not something completely new. From what I can see that certainly appears to be true. There is a high degree of similarity between these guidelines and the previous one.

I've converted a few Epub files myself, and I was a little surprised how well they transferred over. It looks like Amazon paid a lot of attention to the Epub conversion. I've read through the error report and virtually everything came through the way it was supposed to.

But KF8 doesn't support everything, unfortunately. For example, the audio and video tags used in the iOS apps won't work on the Kindle Fire (and they are mentioned by name as not working).  And there's no indication of any plans to add them. My source also said that publishers had to modify their Epub files so the table of contents could be converted properly.

I've also checked and the guidelines says Javascript is not supported, and neither are some HTML5 tags:

  • Canvas
  • Command
  • Datalist
  • Script (reserved for Amazon use only)
  • Base
  • Form
  • Eventsource
  • KeyGen
  • Input
  • Embed (Only SVG is supported for Kindle Fire)
  • Object (Only SVG is supported for Kindle Fire)
  • Param
  • Noscript

On a related note, if you want more KF8 ebooks you can probably go buy them. There's a bunchaton of graphic novels available exclusively for the Kindle Fire. Those are almost certainly KF8 ebooks. The same might also be true for the KF exclusive magazines (like this one), but I'm not sure.

Now that I've had some time to think it over, I'm beginning to get the impression that Kindle format  is a response to Epub; it's not an attempt to match the abilities of Epub3. There's still plenty of room for Epub3 to get ahead of KF8, including in terms of active content.

But before that can happen we're going to need devices and apps that support Epub3 as well as tools to make it. Who wants to be that we'll see KF8 on the market first?

P.S. If anyone has an Epub you'd like me to convert, let me know. I want to see what this format can do.

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45 thoughts on “Kindle Format 8 Demo Now Available

  1. Thank you for sharing this information, Nate. I know that many indie authors are eagerly waiting for more answers regarding Kindle Format 8. And screenshots will be especially helpful for those of us based in countries to which Amazon is not yet shipping the Kindle Fire. Cheers!

  2. any word or sign yet if the epub files from pages appl from apple will still be able to be converted via something like calibre?

    or is amazon gonna have it’s own converter for epub files?

    thanks!

      1. thanks nate, and do you think i’ll still be able to use calibre?

        or maybe have to use a special converter from amazon? i didn’t have much luck with the tools amazon provided, and did much better w/calibre

        ‘course all that could just change with the new tools and such

        well i’ve signed up for your site ;-) so i should be able to keep up w/new stuff, thanks! great info

  3. Thanks for sharing. I tried the Jerome demo on both my Android phone and Fire. It seems to demo text wrapping on the fire. The android just threw in the images inline. I slightly underwhelmed. Definitely only an epub2 (not 3) competitor….

  4. Looking at the compiled file, it seems that Amazon are (very sensibly, IMO), putting all the complicated interpretation of HTML4 and CSS2 into the compiler (kindlegen).

    For instance, the bit of for the start of the chapter you illustrated (with the inset picture) looks like this:

    It is the same when you go to the sea-side. I always determine — when thinking over the matter in London — that I’ll get up early every morning, and go and have a dip before breakfast, and I religiously pack up a pair of drawers and a bath towel. I always get red bathing drawers. I rather fancy myself in red drawers. They suit my complexion so. But when I get to the sea I don’t feel somehow that I want that early morning bathe nearly so much as I did when I was in town.

    Exactly how that gets interpreted into the correct wrap around the picture I’m not sure, but it looks like it’ll need a lot less computer power to decode it than the full HTML4/CSS2 that’s in ePubs.

    1. That has been the philosophy of Mobi from day one, no?
      To “offload” as much of the processing of the formatting code to the conversion app.
      In this, they are following the original vision of the Open Ebook Format, where OEB (and later epub) was supposed to be as a publisher archiving format that could be converted to retail formats.
      Essentially, Amazon is betting that rich-format epubs and epub3 will require more hardware power to directly process in the reader app and that KF8 pre-processing will allow deploying those books to lower-powered hardware.

      Nate is probably safe to bet that KF8 Kindles and apps will come to market before any epub3 readers. And it may not be a viable retrofit to existing readers. Apple, of course, being the exception since iBooks relies of the higher-power iPad. I’ve long expected Apple to be the first to deploy epub3 and it looks increasingly likely. It may even be that epub3 hardware requirements will start at 1GHz. And how many ebook readers meet that spec?

      Bottom line: KF8 is *not* epub3 by another name (that’ll be up to KF9) but rather an attempt to shoehorn as much of epub3 as will fit into current gen eink hardware to steal a march on the epub vendors.

      Development to keep in mind: Both Book and Kobo have the ability to imitate Amazon and create proprietary sub-set formats of their own– epub2.5, as it were–to deploy epub3 books to *their* walled garden installed base. This would, of course, take epub fragmentation beyond the dueling DRM wrappers down to the deployed content level and take the epub “standard” back to the original OEB vision.

      It all hinges on just how demanding the *average* epub3 book turns out to be, but Amazon’s bet suggests they will need FIRE/iPad class hardware. So the choice is going to be between forgoing backwards compatibility (and the existing installed base) or adhering to the full epub “standard” and starting from scratch.

      Tricky choice.
      Doesn’t look like epub3 is going to be a magic bullet for the ABA crowd any time soon.

    2. Whoops! Looking closer I find out that the KF8 sample file given here actually contains TWO versions of the file. The first (& the one I looked at) must be for older Kindles, since it DOESN’T include the new clever formatting. The second I don’t know about exactly yet, but I’m guessing it’s probably XHTML.

  5. I’m not having luck getting the Jerome example working on my Kindle Fire — when I open this I get chapter headers on the top of what is otherwise empty blank white pages. I am running system version 6.2_user_3003020 — anyone got any ideas? Or exact instructions on how they downloaded and installed this on their Kindle Fire in order to get it to work?

    1. I have exactly the same problem with any graphic novels I attempt to read on my kindle fire. I’ve been working with amazon customer support for about 2-3 weeks on this issue. So far, I’ve only seen one other person who’s been affected and he started a thread in amazon’s kindle discussions. FWIW, restoring my kindle to factory defaults fixes the issue…for about 1-2 weeks. Eventually, graphic novel files go back to just displaying a blank page. It’s not the file…I’ve re-dowloaded it. I haven’t rooted my kindle or installed anything not from amazon’s store. The only think I can figure that might be going on is there’s something like bad memory…something that over time is corrupting part of the OS. Whatever is happening, my kindle moves from rendering these files fine, but being utterly incapable of showing them. I’m getting ready to ask amazon for a replacement for my Fire. Something must be wrong with my unit. I’m stumped as to what else it could be.

      1. I’m going to be curious as to whether more people start to have this issue as KF8 files become more common. Other than becoming unable to render these files over time, my Fire seems to have no other issues. It just eventually stops displaying graphic novels.

  6. “My source also said that publishers had to modify their Epub files so the table of contents could be converted properly”

    I wonder what he had to do. Thing that sucks about converting EPUB to MOBI using calibre is the horrendous indentation it causes on multi-level TOCs.

    1. From what I can tell, the converter doesn’t automatically convert the external TOC on the Epub. The only KF8 that I saw that had a TOC also had an internal in the Epub before it was converted.

      1. ahh, recently i’ve been creating an internal index anyway, pretty similar to the one automatically created, but with some additional linkings i felt were links i myself liked and therefore other people might find helpful

        this is not a general guideline, but rather particular to the ebook i’m working on

        don’t know the etiquette, but anyone’s curious (it’s no huge innovation ;-) ) the Look inside feature from amazon usually shows my whole inside index

        i’m epublishing 30 years of poetry and other work into subject ebooks, and the itemizing, and being able to link to categories, in the index, then from there to the category starting page or individual poem within that category, is something i found really useful

        my ebooks are listed under my full name, felipe adan lerma

        if this info isn’t appropriate here, please let me know; i’ll be glad to delete / remove etc

        thanks!

      2. I don’t know if would be of useful to those using Kindle tools, but the free EpubFixer utility has a feature that allows the user to add an inline table of contents to an EPUB, which it generates from the metadata TOC. Adding this is useful, since not all devices support multi-level metadata TOCs

        P.S. I don’t know if it is technically correct to say “metadata TOCs,” but for lack of a better word.. …

        http://code.google.com/p/epubfixer/

  7. Ooops just ignore my previous comments. Its very strange because when I opened the sample files a few hours after my first comments the wrap around seems to be fine and some of the embedded fonts are now showing up… hmmm… i have no idea what’s going on…

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