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Enhanced Kindle Edition format uses HTML5 tags

You probably recall that a couple months ago Amazon announced an updated Kindle app for iOS. The new app gave you the ability to play audio and video that were embedded in books like Nixonland.

I’ve been waiting to hear back from Amazon PR about the tools to make the new ebooks (and the file spec), but who knows when the tools will be ready. So this weekend I decided to tackle this problem the hard way. I bought a copy of Nixonland, and I’ve been using it as a test subject.

Let me answer the question at the top of your mind: I did not find an easy answer on how to make the enhanced ebooks. But I did learn one or 2 interesting details.

Update: You can make the EKE with KindleGen.

First, the Enhanced Kindle Edition (EKE) isn’t a new format. I pulled my copy of Nixonland out of a backup I made for my iPod Touch. It’s a straightforward AZW, and I confirmed that the file is Mobipocket compatible (I found BookMobi in the header). Also, the file is the same size on the Kindle, K4PC, and iPod Touch.

The video files were stored in a sub-directory and referenced from the ebook. They were all MP4 format, and the resolution was the same as that of the iPod Touch.

Here’s an example of the tag that Amazon are using to refer to the video files from inside the ebook:

<video mediarecindex="00010″ controls="controls" recindex="00011″></video>

That is a standard HTML5 tag, but the mediarecindex and recindex attributes are Amazon’s own creations. BTW, there’s supposed to be a src attribute that  names the video file. I wish Amazon had used it; it would have made building EKEs so easy.

Because of how Amazon are misusing the video tag, there is no easy way to make the EKE. I was hoping we could embed a simple tag and use MobiCreator to build the ebook. Unfortunately, we are going to need a tool that understands exactly how that tag is being misused. Seeing as how Amazon won’t share that tool, there’s nothing we can do.

I wonder if Amazon are going to misuse the audio tag like they are misusing the video tag? That would be unfortunate, IMO. But it’s rather telling that Amazon chose to misuse part of HTML5 (rather than use it correctly). I think it says something about their motivations.

P.S. If you know of any details that I have wrong, please let me know. I really don’t like handing out bad info.

P.P.S. If you have any related technical info, please, please, please share it with me. I want to learn how to do this.

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Moriah Jovan August 29, 2010 um 3:27 pm

I think the more important question is if they’re MISusing it or DISusing it.

It’d be to their advantage to lock that down to the Kindle. Combined with the fact that they’re opening up the code for developers…

I dunno. Maybe I’m too cynical by half.

Mike Cane August 29, 2010 um 6:26 pm

I think it might point to a proprietary extension meant to make the book easily compatible with their future plans of web-only books. Sounds like book files will all point to one server (or virtualized server) that stores the media files. Plausible? In that way, they also make piracy frikkin difficult! People could rip off the text — maybe — but socking away the media elsewhere could stop current media ripping tools.

Mike Cane August 29, 2010 um 6:28 pm

Now that I’ve hit Publish, I’m also thinking they could further extend that possibility by having separate servers as storage soups for book *chapters*. In other words, break everything up in ways that can only be reassembled by Amazon itself.

Kindle Will Get More HTML5 Support Soon – The Digital Reader October 21, 2011 um 6:16 pm

[…] 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 […]

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