Saturday, July 21, 2012

Problems Formatting Books for Kindle Using Word


       This post is not meant to be a comprehensive lesson on Kindle formatting.  I'm going to hit on two points that are driving me bonkers as I try to prepare "The War of the Stolen Mother" for Kindle.  One is the map and the other is the footnotes.  What I do is make up a sample post with all the points in it that I think could cause problems and then upload it.  I've already tried three versions.

The Map
       Kindle's instructions are quite clear.  An image file must be a JPEG and be under 127 KB.  My original map was 75.2 KB and I made it into a JPEG.  Fine, I thought.  Then it said something about compressing the file and gave instructions.  Frankly I don't see why you have to do that if your file is small enough already, but I tried the upload without the compression and no luck.  Then I tried compressing it.  Still no luck.  Then I thought, well, my map is a lot bigger dimensionally than a Kindle screen, which is a dinky 4.75 inches x 3.5.  So I reduced the size of the map to about 4.5 x 2.8 (I doubt anybody will be able to read it when it comes right down to it).  That made the KB count  only about 22.  Nope, still doesn't work.  All I get on both the MobiReader and on the Kindle is a picture of a camera with a triangle containing a ! superimposed on it.  So I give up.  I wrote to Kindle Help and we'll see what they say.  If it comes right down to it, I'll publish the book without the map.  Maybe I can put a note telling the reader to come to this website to see the map.  As I say, I doubt anybody be able to read that dinky little thing anyway.  (Or maybe I should tell them  to buy the paperback!)

The Footnotes
       In Word, footnotes are so easy! It's one thing that works with near perfection, unlike their section breaks/header/footer stuff, which is impossible.  You can number the footnotes by page, by section, or continuously through the whole document, or you can convert the footnotes into endnotes.  So I thought maybe I could put the footnotes at the ends of chapters, but that's impossible (probably by applying some HTML coding you could do it, but again I know nothing about that), because Kindle makes you delete all the section breaks and substitute page breaks, and the choices in Word for placement of endnotes is End of Section or End of Document (ironically, that might work in Smashwords, which makes you use section breaks).
       Then there is the problem of linking the footnotes to the text reference.  I tried to do something with the in-document bookmark/hyperlink setup that I use for the ToC, but it didn't seem to work, and without a double linking back and forth, notes at the end of the book are next to useless.  Kindle is just too hard to navigate.  You can't stick your thumb or a slip of paper into the area you want to return to.
       So I reject endnotes, and I can't put the footnotes at the bottom of the page or the ends of chapters, so I'm resorting to inserting them into the text.  Now, I want to say that the book has a lot of notes in the early chapters, but this slacks off later as the reader becomes more familiar with the nature and language of the Shshi.  This will mean that the notes may make for bumpy reading, but the only other alternative I can think of (short of omitting them altogether, something I refuse to do) is to make a Glossary and Notes section at the end of the book, and that's useless, too; nobody will ever bother to read it and you really need the information as you go along).
       So I tried inserting each note in the text, using several dashes ------- before and after.  This caused a different problem; that row of dashes automatically produced a line drawn all the way across the page, and I thought, well, that's OK.  But in the Kindle upload, those lines disappeared.  I think they were considered a drawing object.  Then I couldn't get the damn things deleted out of my text!  As I tried to delete them, it kept duplicating them and moving them up and down the page!  Grrr!  Finally I deleted the whole chapter, copied a new one in, and started over. 
       This time I used a group of three asterisks *** .  And it turned that into a whole row of bullets (little squares, maybe called slugs)!  Fortunately, those were erasable.  So I used the *** both before and after the note to separate it from the text, and I used a slightly smaller type.  And it worked fine in the upload.  So I'm all set to begin formatting the whole text if I do use that method.

       I'm presenting here the first page from Chapter 1 of Stolen Mother
showing you how it will look.  It's a spoiler for "The Termite Queen," but I've given up trying to avoid that.  The type size in the notes won't be a small as it shows here.  Please do give me your opinion on whether you find this system offputting (if you don't like it, you really can buy the paperback, where everything looks the way it's supposed to look.)

Chapter 1
Di'fa'kro'mi Reminisces

Twenty-eight years … I was hatched twenty-eight years ago, this very season.  Do both of you know that?  Now I lie here in a dark chamber and rarely move – I who was accustomed to wandering long distances under the sky and gazing at the stars during every darktime …  I have felt rain on my wings and sand crunching under my claws … the heat-blast of volcanoes’ firestreams and the sting of the ice-field’s frozen pellets …  I have seen the waves of the Great Water and I have immersed myself in them …
It is a strange end I have come to, the strange end of a very strange life …
What is it, Chi’mo’a’tu?  Yes, yes, put all that down … Ru’a’ma’na’ta wanted everything I have to say – if she ever comes again …
I do not think I will ever see her again – she comes less and less often …  Did you know, Chi’mo’a’tu, that the Star-Beings die even as the Shshi do?  You did?  Well, some refuse to believe that, but it is certainly true, because we know that Ru’a’ma’na’ta’s King died.  You met Ru’a’ma’na’ta when she was last here, did you not?  You are so young …  Oh, an imago for nearly two whole years!  So much experience!  I am overwhelmed!
Well, anyway, what I started to say was – you may have noticed that the mat of hairs on Ru’a’ma’na’ta’s head was white, or mingled white and gray.  It used to be a sort of even brownish-tan.  She told me that that color-change is a sign of age among her kind of Star-Beings.  They live long – much longer than the Shshi do.  When I last saw Ru’a’ma’na’ta, she told me she was an astonishing ten years past the two-antennae count.‡  So one day she will no longer come at all …  Perhaps no Star-Being will come …  That makes me feel a little sad.
‡[The Shshi count by threes and sixes; each of their moniliform antennae has 18 knobs, so they name no number above 36.  Any larger amount becomes simply “many.”]
I also feel sad because her King died here in Lo’ro’ra.  She told me once that she had never produced offspring – that she had cared so much for her King that she refused to take another.  That seems unnatural to us, but then the fortresses of the Star-Beings each contain many shma’na’ta|,‡ so it is not essential that every one of them lay eggs.  But there is something very touching in this single-minded devotion of hers.  And of course her King died because of Lo’ro’ra’s aberration – because he was caught in that long-ago rebellion led by the Unnatural Alate whose name I refuse to speak.  And so the memories of that will always sadden me.
‡[Plural of ma’na’ta|, mother, the Queen, the only fertile female denizen of a Shshi fortress]
Something of her King was left behind with his destroyers.  When Ru’a’ma’na’ta first returned and saw what we had done, she made the sorrow-display where the water drips from the Star-Beings’ eyes.  Perhaps you should write down what we did and why we did it, so it will not be forgotten.


  1. The internets tell me that the typical way to do this in epub is with endnotes. You can add an HTML link from the note position to the endnote, then from the endnote back to the text. Amazon doesn't use epub, of course, but I can't imagine that the Kindle format doesn't do something similar.

  2. Thanks for the response! I just discovered the cross-reference feature in Word. I'm going to look into that before I give up. I still don't like the idea of all the notes grouped at the end of the whole book, though. I seriously doubt they'll ever be looked at.