2 December 2017

Testing Software: Kindle Create

While I was constructing the three books of the Torc of Moonlight trilogy into a digital boxed set, I came across mention of Kindle Create, Amazon KDP’s formatting software. I decided to give it a whirl, but not on a three-book boxed set (!).

Normally I use my ancient version of  Word (2002), but even I can live in the past for only so long and I have recently moved on to LibreOffice5 Writer for its ability to open and work in docx files, and for its associated Calc to read xlsx spreadsheets. So far so good. Would KDP’s dedicated formatting software be a help or a hindrance?

Kindle Create is free software dedicated to producing a file (kdf) which can be uploaded via Amazon’s KDP dashboard. The software, launched earlier this year, is acknowledged to be still in “beta” mode, so it is out in the wild to be tested by real-time users like me. Or you. Have a cursory look at it on YouTube. I found it easier to download – for PC or Mac – as it comes with a 27-page easy-to-understand pdf User Guide, and half of that is dedicated to creating a print book, which I wasn’t interested in doing. There is also a plug-in for Word 2010 and above for PC.

So what did I think? Mmm. If you’ve never uploaded a file for an ebook, or your idea of formatting a Word document is to use Microsoft’s defaults, then I can see this being of huge benefit. If you are used to formatting a Word document for upload as an ebook, then it tends to be counter-intuitive.

For instance, after choosing a Theme – there are several – the software requires that chapter headings to be included in the Table of Contents are identified, whereas normally this is one of the final formatting steps. However, just about at every turn there are embedded information icons giving a one-click explanation, and used in conjunction with the User Guide it is all easy enough. So although it seemed a bit clunky to begin with, the workflow was well thought out. The software also has some interesting touches: for example, a dropped capital at the start of a chapter is available by ticking a box.

As expected, just about every element can be adjusted, from the spacing before and after headings, to paragraph indents, to font sizing and beyond – everything word processing software offers. For me, though, the huge plus was being able to preview the partially completed file on tablet, e-reader and phone, whereas previously this was only available when in the middle of uploading the file on the KDP website.

Will I be using Kindle Create? Mmm. Not at the moment. I’m too attached to my own formatting system direct in my word processing software. Also, Kindle Create didn’t do what I expected: place a guide item to the Table of Contents page for use with my old Kindle-with-keyboard. Yes, I still use it because it is light and remains highly serviceable, but it doesn’t read an NCX Table of Contents the way the newer e-readers and Kindle-for-PC/Mac do. I can live with that. What I can't live with is the inability to download the mobi file for checking on my e-reader partway through the publishing process on the KDP site, which I can when uploading a doc, docx or html file. That's my last line of checking prior to it being available to purchase. And I appreciate it.

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