Amazon’s Kindle Publishing Guidelines for InDesign

Amazon’s “Kindle Publishing Team” has quietly released a new document called the Amazon Kindle Publishing Guidelines for Kindle Plug-in for Adobe InDesign 0.93. [Update: As of September 2013, the latest Kindle plugin version is 0.973, the PDF guide is here and the guide in InDesign format is here.] It has detailed guidelines, with screenshots and clear instructions, on how to optimize your InDesign files for the Kindle file format (MOBI) prior to uploading to the Kindle store for sale.

That’s cool, but what’s even cooler is that the new guidelines document itself is in InDesign?it’s an INDD file, saved in CS4 format? and was designed by the KP team as an example of a properly formatted (for Kindle export) InDesign file. How cool is that? Answer: Very.

Holey moley it even uses Conditional Text (and discusses its use in the body of the paper):

Of course it uses proper Paragraph Styles:

And even has a linked TOC (placed in the document, per their requirements) created from a TOC style:

Technically, the Amazon Kindle Publishing Guidelines for InDesign document is actually a how-to guide for using their free and recently updated Export to Kindle plug-in for InDesign, which works with CS4, CS5, and CS5.5. The plug-in appears in the File menu as Export for Kindle and also in the Books panel menu, if you want to export an entire InDesign book (INDB) to Kindle format.

The plug-in is smart enough to convert InDesign page breaks (the special character you insert from the File > Insert Break Character menu) to chapter breaks in the Kindle book it exports. The guidelines even suggest that you use the Keeps setting of “Start on Next Page” in a paragraph style so you don’t have to enter the break character manually, and the plug-in will follow through. InDesign’s own EPUB export can’t do that.

Alas, it’s the same plug-in for CS4 through CS5.5,  so other than the special tricks added by the plug-in itself, it uses the lowest common denominator of CS4′s INDD > EPUB features for the heavy lifting. For CS5.5 users that means the Export to Kindle plug-in ignores the Articles panel and Object Export Options settings. If you want to use those features, you’ll need to export to EPUB first, then use other free software from Amazon (KindleGen or Kindle Previewer, links below) and third parties (such as Calibre) to convert the stand-alone EPUB to MOBI.

But remember, the Export to Kindle plug-in is still in beta, and you are most welcome to chime in to the Kindle Direct Publishing forums with your thoughts about its feature set and usability. The link to the discussion thread is below.

Bottom line: If you want to make the best possible Kindle eBook from your InDesign file, the new Kindle Publishing Guidelines for InDesign is a must-read.

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20 Comments on “Amazon’s Kindle Publishing Guidelines for InDesign

  1. I’ve just installed the .93 plugin. Everything worked well, with one problem: when I view it in Kindle Previewer v1.61, some paragraphs aren’t properly justified (that is, there are occasional lines that aren’t justified within the paragraph.)

    However, when I change “devices” in Previewer, Kindle DX, Kindle for iPhone & iBook are almost perfect in their justification, with only a few problems..

    I’m new to creating Mobi files. Is this a problem with how I’ve formatted my ID file? Or possibly with the plugin? Or possibly with the Previewer?

    Thanks for any help!
    Michael

  2. Michael, that’s precisely the type of issue you should post at the KDP site in the discussion thread … they also ask that you email the team directly with those kinds of questions and any other bug reports/feature requests.

    Sorry I couldn’t be of more help, I don’t know the answer. I’d be curious to peek at the HTML files for those chapters to see if there’s anything going on in those paragraphs.

  3. AMC — Thanks for your reply. I’d love you to have a look. What is easiest? Sending one html chapter from the ePub version? The ID file? Mobi?

    And what’s easiest for you? By email?

    Thanks so much, Michael

  4. Hi Michael,I wouldn’t be able to look at anything until next week, as I’m traveling on business. I was speaking more facetiously. ;D

    But in the meantime, you should start a post about this on the InDesignSecrets forum, and post a link to the problem chapter’s HTML file and CSS file, and a screenshot showing the problem on a Kindle/Kindle Previewer.

  5. Too bad about ignoring the Articles! I can’t see going back to trying to create epubs any other way after having learned that. Love that new feature in 5.5.

    Thanks, Phyllis

  6. Aside from the Articles panel and Object Export Options problem, are any of you exporting from ID to EPUB without needing to unzip/edit the internal files? I’m still doing 30% of my work in the EPUB file. At a glance, unless I can get a cleaner export from ID, this plugin may mean more double handing than its worth. If you’re successfully going straight from ID to a quality/finished EPUB – I’ll need to revisit my workflow.

  7. @v-ink No, I’ve never managed to go straight to a finished epub. Always lots of work to do after unzipping the epub. The program Sigil ( http://code.google.com/p/sigil/ ) is helpful as it allows you to do some minor editing without unzipping. Sigil is free software. Even with that, I still have to unzip the epub and edit the CSS etc. in Dreamweaver.

  8. Amazon released .094 of the plugin today, a few bug fixes, and a new feature: create (and link) to your own TOC for the book’s content TOC. The INDD help file explains how to do this with xrefs and page anchors, and includes 2 new Conditions, one with a hand-rolled TOC and one without.

    Download page is still the same: http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html?ie=UTF8&docId=1000234621

    On that page, they have links to the Kindle Plugin for InDesign documentation in three formats: PDF, MOBI/Kindle, and INDD. Be sure to get the INDD version so you can see the Conditional text examples (and the styles etc.)

  9. Great post Anne-Marie. Great idea to do the guide in InDesign. I’ll be sure and check it out. But I thought I’d mention that one of your links, Kindle Publishing Guidelines (general), a PDF, isn’t working because there’s an extra period at the end.

  10. I’ve been working on an e-book but didn’t like the Kindle previewer application. So instead I email the .mobi document to my Kindle email address. This lets me review the book on my iPad and then go back and make changes to the CS4 doc. I’m glad to know about this as I’m still having problems with paragraph and heading spacing.

  11. Hi
    I am very new to publishing books. I have Adobe Indesign CC installed and when I tried to install Amazon Kindle Plug-In didn’t recognize CC as a valid version. Does anybody have the same experience and solution?
    Thanks

  12. I can’t find out how to get an image to appear full screen (or as close as possible)…no matter what image size I use (or by changing Indesign Export for Kindle selection under images: optimized or original). The images appear as a thumbprint size.
    I actually tried converting “Kindle Publishing Guidelines for InDesign” to mobi and the images show up small on kindle previewer for that file as well.
    Do you have any suggestions?
    Thank you!

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