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Kindle Will Get More HTML5 Support Soon

Amazon has just released some technical  details on the new Kindle ebook format, which they are calling Kindle Format8. (If you were one of the people who wanted Amazon to adopt Epub, well, this is about as close as they’re going to get.)

It’s a follow-up to the previous 7 (I didn’t know there were that many) generations of the Mobipocket file format, and as you can tell from the name change Amazon is finally killing off Mobipocket.  Amazon is boasting that it adds "150 new formatting capabilities, including fixed layouts, nested tables, callouts, sidebars and Scalable Vector Graphics, opening up more opportunities to create Kindle books that readers will love."

Now, the Kindle file already included support for a pair of HTML5 tags, audio and video. The Kindle itself cannot support these tags, but you can use them to embed audio and video files that can be read by the Kindle iOS apps. The new file spec includes support for a number of formatting features that I’ve been wanting for a long time now as well as a number of rather exotic components that I’m not sure any one is using, even in Epub.

It’s important to remember that at this point we don’t know quite how Amazon will use the tags nor do we know which of the tags will actually end up inside the Kindle ebook file itself.

You see, Amazon has long allowed you to make ebooks using the latest valid HTML 4 tags. Amazon then took the code you supplied, threw out the formatting that wasn’t supported, and made an ebook which contained the old, funky, and limited formatting supported by the current Kindle (and old Mobipocket) apps.

Trust me, I’ve looked at the actual contents of a Kindle ebook. There is often a big difference between the source content and the ebook. In fact, the HTML5 tags that Amazon currently use in the Kindle format are not used according to spec.  Amazon did their own funky thing with the tags, and I suspect they will repeat that behavior.

Given the vast change in the supported tags, I wonder if Amazon will also make a radical change to the Kindle file itself?

Right now the standard Kindle ebook is a single file with metadata at the front, followed by one long string of text (the content of the ebook, TOC,and more), with images attached to the end. The file is often compressed, but the organization never changes.

Here’s the interesting part. If you want to support really complex formatting, it’s best to have multiple files. That’s how Epub does it; the Epub file itself is actually a ZIP file. If you unzip it you will see that it contains a bunch of different files and folders. Amazon will likely have to do the same thing with the new Kindle ebook file. Oh, joy.

BTW, you might want to replace your Kindle 2 if you still have one. The various Kindles will need a firmware update before they can support the new format, and there’s almost no chance that Amazon  will update the K2 again.

On  a related note, the K3 will very likely get the update; Amazon recently gave it support for the Kindle Cloud.

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fjtorres October 20, 2011 um 9:30 pm

It sounds like a dual package, both old mobi and new html5. It is simpler than storing two versions and providing the right one to old and new devices/apps.

"Q: Will I have to provide two versions of my titles going forward? A: No. The upcoming updates to our Kindle Publishing Tools will take care of this for you. KindleGen 2 will convert your content so that it works on all Kindle devices and apps. You will be able to preview how your title will look on the range of Kindle devices and apps using Kindle Previewer 2."

Sherri October 20, 2011 um 9:50 pm

Isn’t the X-ray reference stuff going to be in a separate file included with the book? I don’t know if that means they’re going to ZIP the files together or not, but it does sound like a departure from one book, one file.

As soon as my Kindle Touch gets here and I can hand my Kindle Keyboard down to my daughter, I’ll trade in my K2. I’ve already got my shipping label printed for my first K1, and as soon as I can find the second K1, it’s going back, too.

Nate Hoffelder October 20, 2011 um 9:53 pm

Good point. You’re right. The Kindle format actually has multiple sidecar files now, so it would make sense to bundle them up.


fjtorres October 20, 2011 um 10:58 pm

Hmm, we may be in danger of missing the forest for the trees here.
So, Amazon is adding a new ebook format. Why?
Their bread and butter is narrative text which works fine with the old mobi format. All the fancy HTML5 stuff may look good to techies and on the specsheet but it really doesn’t add much value to their core market.
What it does do, however, is open up *other* ebook markets; textbooks (10in Fire, anybody? An updated DX incoming?), interactive cookbooks, native-format comics (note the example they highlight? Kindle panel views? Plural? Could it mean reflowable comics? ;)).

The timing is interesting, too: The announcement comes right after epub3 is finalized but before any of the ebook competitors can start bragging of epub3 compatibility. I’m thinking Amazon is up to the old "embrace-and-extend" move.

Things just got a lot more interesting.
And the margin of error tighter for the (non-Apple) epub camp; if HTML5 rich content starts showing up before they’re ready things could get ugly fast….

bowerbird October 23, 2011 um 3:32 pm

> If you want to support really complex formatting,
> it’s best to have multiple files.
who told you that? it’s nonsense.

might want to stop listening to that person…


Nate Hoffelder October 23, 2011 um 4:32 pm

Yay! My first comment from bowerbird!

Folks, a word of advice. I’ve learned over the years that the best practice is to listen to what bowerbird says and then do the opposite. He’s one of those people who are usually wrong.

bowerbird October 31, 2011 um 7:21 pm

nate said:
> Yay! My first comment from bowerbird!

well, maybe the first comment which you allowed to be posted…

> listen to what bowerbird says
> and then do the opposite

but yes, folks, listen to nate, and do the _opposite_ of what i said…

what you will find, if you split your book into pieces, is that it becomes far more difficult to track down any inconsistencies. because then you must searchacross multiple files instead of simply searching a single file…


Kira Gale November 3, 2011 um 10:33 am

I have a question. I am converting my travel guide to the Lewis and Clark trail into ebook format. It would make sense to have a "My Trip Planner" where readers can design an itinerary. I don’t think this is possible at the current time, so I am thinking to just link to Google Maps. The formatting is hard enough with three levels of information. Any thoughts?

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