Amazon Updates Kindle Book Format From Mobi 7 To KF8

Up until now, despite certain efforts to use the Kindle for iOS app to encourage media embedding in eBooks, the Kindle line has really been all about the bare content.  Yes, page formatting is not only possible but important, but for the most part writers and publishers have been restricted so much by the format and the capabilities of the devices used to read their books that the only thing really possible was the basic layout stuff.  Now, with the Kindle Fire on the horizon, things are changing.

Amazon has already got a lot planned to take advantage of the color screen on their newest Kindle.  Kid’s books and magazines will be getting a huge push, for example.  There has even already been some fairly major controversy in the world of comics over Amazon’s exclusive deal with DC for some digital editions and the repercussions this is having on that industry.  Naturally none of this would be simple to pull off using the rather outdated Mobi 7 eBook format.  Amazon’s solution is a new release called “Kindle Format 8”.  Over time it will completely replace the obsolete format, though all Kindle devices will continue to be able to access these older files.

Kindle Format 8 brings the power of HTML5 and CSS3 to the eBook.  This gets you greatly expanded layout control, including fixed layouts.  That’s going to be especially important for things like children’s books and comics, where relative positioning of the illustration is important to meaning.  It will also finally make possible footnotes, which will please academic publishers among others.  Personally I’m hoping that that particular application won’t take off, since there is a lot of potential in the Kindle‘s existing annotation framework if they could figure out how to adapt it to replace footnotes, but that may be an unrealistic hope now.  On top of formatting, Kindle books will now be able to contain their own specific custom fonts, text displayed over images, and a number of other welcome updates.

This update is anything but a surprise, in a way.  Existing popular formats like EPUB and Mobipocket are already based on HTML, so there is a certain sense of inevitability to the development of a new eBook format based on modern standards.  The greater functionality will be welcome for many, should the development tools prove effective.  Both KindleGen 2, the Kindle Format 8 publishing tool, and Kindle Previewer 2 will be available soon, assuming they’re not already out by the time this is published.

While the Kindle Fire will be the first device in the Kindle line to support this update, eReaders should be updated to support KF8 within the next several months.  No word yet, to the best of my knowledge, if Amazon will be making any effort to update either of the first two generations of Kindle to allow for compatibility, but the currently available devices should have no trouble. Hopefully users will enjoy a greatly improved reading experience once authors and publishers get the hang of the new tools.

5 thoughts on “Amazon Updates Kindle Book Format From Mobi 7 To KF8”

  1. Does “Kindle books will now be able to contain their own specific custom fonts” mean there is a better chance for Kindle books in languages not currently supported by the device? Will this addition make this more plausible? Now only the PDF feature in Kindle supports this and it is far from being satisfactory. Right to left support would be nice also…

  2. Hopefully users will enjoy a greatly improved reading experience once authors and publishers get the hang of the new tools.

    Actually, no, they won’t. All of these things you think are so wonderful will disable the ability to increase font size, word spacing, line spacing, and font choice.

    You want media in your books. You want pages to be frozen as is, take it or leave it. Your blog, your opinion, which is absolutely your right.

    But this is a basic assumption that you, and people just like you, are the entire market. Not only that, it’s a lack of any consideration of the possibility that other people might want or need different things from what you want.

    Most people with ereaders are using them to duplicate the reading experience, and the adjustable features that greatly improve the ability to read text are an added plus.

    You want it to do other things even if that seriously degrades the reading experience for those people who do just want to read books. Again, your right. But don’t assume what you want is an improvement for everyone.

  3. Vicki,
    While you are certainly entitles to that view, I think that you’re making assumptions that remain to be borne out. While, yes, there is the ability to set certain variables in the formatting that will make an individual book less flexible, you would have to go out of your way to make those choices as the producer of the book. That’s how it seems, at least.

    The advantage that this provides is that it allows for greater control when needed, like in the case of magazines, comics, and other graphics-heavy applications, while not forcing plain text books to in any way apply the new abilities of the format. The way I anticipate this being used, in terms of enhancing the reading experience while reading novels, is nothing more than better positioning of maps, pictures, diagrams, and chapter headings.

  4. And why didn’t they just go with a format like Epub 3, which also supports HTML5 and CS3? And yes, that was a sarcastic rhetorical question.

  5. I waited for several years for Amazon to support EPUB. My plan was to buy a Kindle when they’ll support EPUB.

    And now they come up with yet another *proprietary* format. All the other e-reader vendors support EPUB except Amazon. What a shame.

    EPUB hardware reading systems on Wikipedia.

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