Moving to the latest e-book formats • 3 November 2011 • The SnowBlog

Moving to the latest e-book formats


KF8 comic

So, if you read this blog, or if you keep up with this stuff already, then you'll know that Amazon is replacing its current e-book format (based on Mobipocket) with KF8, which is based on the latest web standards. The old Amazon/Mobipocket format was also based on web standards, but from a few years ago. KF8 brings things up-to-date by using HTML5/CSS3. Those are also the standards you'd be looking at if you were considering a snazzy makeover of your website. On the web, HTML5 allows designers to do a number of cool things which they could only do previously if they added lots of behind-the-scenes code (=javascript) to their web pages or they used a third-party platform like Flash or Air or Silverlight. With HTML5, a web page can do a lot of that with no extra code required. HTML5 lets you make use of embedded fonts, lots of new layout commands, transparency, custom-curved corners to shapes, animated transitions - and it can better tailor its behaviour to the device it's being displayed on. Presumably not all of these new web features will make it into KF8, but there's talk of "embedded fonts, drop caps and CSS selectors such as line spacing, alignment, justification, margin, color, style and borders.[1]" One of the things I'm looking forward to (which I think is supported) is footnotes implemented as popups, rather than as jumps to another page. I'm also hoping that we can have e-books laid out with the same attention to detail as paper books have always enjoyed. What I haven't seen much information on yet is the tools publishers can use to create these better, more beautiful e-books. We've been gradually trawling our way through what's available for the creation of current-generation e-books - the software that takes our print-ready layouts and gets them ready for the Kindle platform - and it's not particularly impressive. Unless new e-book-oriented tools appear soon, I imagine most of the potential for better, KF8-based Kindle e-books will remain untapped for now. On the other hand, Amazon are not likely to create a juggernaut of a media-delivery system, the way they have, and overlook the fact that it will need some new content. Is Amazon working with their favourite publishers on KF8 showcase titles? Has anyone caught glimpses of where this new content is going to come from? The two scenarios I can picture are a) KF8 starts off as a damp squib because there are hardly any e-books available that properly demonstrate its capabilities or b) there's a two-tier system where publishers who are within Amazon's fold launch cool-looking titles in time for Christmas while the rest of us press our grubby faces against the glass. Option b sounds a little more likely to me because it assumes that Amazon are on-the-ball. Given that Amazon have pre-sold at least half a million Kindle Fires,[1], we're talking about a pretty major launch here. That said, option b is not exactly desirable from the point of view of us urchin publishers out in the relative cold.


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