Creating a Free Kindle-Compatible eBook: Part 2

June 20, 2012
Author Article Technology

Collecting the Software

Amazon KindleIn the first post of this series, we looked at the reasons that you might have for creating a free Kindle-compatible eBook. In this second post, we will look at the software and applications that you need to collect to begin the process.

1. Mobi Creator

Mobipocket.com is a website that has been encouraging and distributing eBooks for a long time. Their books are in the .prc format. They have a very nice 32-bit program called Mobi Creator, which I suggest you use to prepare the final eBooks. This software simply collates all the other files that you have previously prepared for your eBook, according to the instructions given in the next chapter (Preparing Your Files). The Mobi Creator comes in two formats—home edition and publisher edition. However, since both are free, it is best to use the publisher edition, as it gives you more options. It can be downloaded from:

http://www.mobipocket.com/en/DownloadSoft/DownloadCreator.asp

After downloading, double-click the .msi file to install the software.

The software also comes with the Mobi Emulator, which enables you to view the eBooks. However, you want to encourage the people downloading your free eBooks to use them widely, so you want to make sure that they look OK on a Kindle. For that reason, I don’t tend to use the Mobi Emulator, but have downloaded and installed:

2. Kindle PC Application

This free application is available from the Amazon website, at:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html/ref=kcp_pc_ln_ar?docId=1000426311

This is best installed after Mobi Creator, so that it overrides Mobi as the preferred application for reading .prc files (though, of course, you can change this yourself if you know your way around changing file format properties). After installing the Kindle Reader, if you double-click a .prc file it will open in the Kindle Reader, enabling you to check how well it has worked. It is worth checking carefully through your prepared book using this reader, to see if there are any errors or problems.

If you are not familiar with Kindles yet, you could take the opportunity to download a couple of free books from Amazon, to see how they work on your Kindle Reader app. Most classic works of literature can be “bought” on Amazon for $0, even though they are in the DRM-protected .azw format. The advantage of getting a couple of these is that you can compare how they work with your own .prc book. There should be no difference in the way that they perform.

3. A Standard Word Processor App

Any word processor can be used to prepare your files. The open source OpenOffice.org can be used. Of course, Microsoft Word can also be used.

You should prepare your book file(s) in your Word Processor. At this point, I have to assume that you are used to defining Heading Styles, instead of just creating headings by increasing the font size on one line. If you are not familiar with using Heading Styles in your Word document, you should go away and read up on that issue before proceeding with this tutorial.

4. Word HTML Cleaner

In both cases, it is usually best to prepare HTML files for actually importing into Mobi Creator. Both applications mentioned produce a lot of “junk” HTML, which, while not stopping the formation of the eBook, just causes unnecessary download size for your eBook. Clean HTML files are better. To produce such clean files, you need an HTML cleaning app. I don’t bother with desktop software for this. I simply use a good online HTML cleaner. Here is a couple that you could try.

http://word2cleanhtml.com/

http://www.wordhtmlcleaner.co.uk/

It has to be said that, since Office 2003, Word HTML files have not been anywhere near as “messy” as prior to this. After all, the newer .docx files are actually an implantation of well-formed XML.

Although designed specifically to clean up the HTML files produced by Word, these sites work equally well on the HTML produced by OpenOffice.org Write.

In either application, use File > Save As HTML to produce your initial “messy” html files. Then run the file through one of the cleaners and save your resulting code.

5. An HTML Editor

Personally, I find it useful to make some tweaks using an HTML editor. There are a number of good HTML editors that you can use. I use an editor called CoffeeCup HTML Editor (www.coffeecup.com). This software is not free, but they keep updating it for free once you have bought it, so I have used versions of this software for years now. The editor enables me to preview files and edit them easily. However, those people wanting to use open source programs would probably find Notepad++ tobe a useful source code editor (www.notepad-plus-plus.org).

Descriptions of how to use HTML editors and how to edit the code are beyond the scope of this tutorial. It is not absolutely necessary to use an editor, though, if you have the skills, you will produce cleaner code and probably make a better eBook.

Using a combination of word processors and HTML editors, you should prepare the files containing the main body of your book. In fact, for most purposes, a single HTML file is all that is necessary. However, Mobi Creator will allow you to input one file for each chapter, if you would prefer, though it might have more difficulty making the Table of Contents in such a case.

6. An Image Editor

You need something that will make your cover files. I use GIMP, which is an open source editor. In fact, Microsoft Paint would probably work well enough for the purpose of making cover files for your eBook. Your eBook cover needs to be in .png or .jpg format, and should probably be about 396 x 412 pixels, as this makes 5.5 in x 8.5 in at 72 dpi. 72 dpi works fine, because this image is not going to be printed. If you were preparing the file for a print version, you should make it at least 400 dpi. However, the eBook does not require more than 72 dpi, so there is no point in wasting the excess file size.

In the next post, we will be finding out how you prepare the necessary files, out of which you are going to make your eBook.

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