Kindle HowTo: File Conversion

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[edit] File Conversion for the Kindle

Amazon Kindle is natively able to read unprotected documents (see DRM below) built upon Mobipocket's e-book technology. These include e-books with the .MOBI, .PRC, .AZW, and .PDB extensions. Any unsupported format must therefore be converted for use with the Kindle. Here are a few things to keep in mind before you follow the conversion instructions in this how-to:

  • DRM
    • Many e-books purchased from vendors other than Amazon.com may be encrypted with DRM. These e-books cannot be read by the Kindle, nor converted to a format readable by the Kindle.
  • Advantages of HTML
    • As Amazon has built their e-books on Mobipocket technology, Mobipocket's technology is based on HTML, so the best conversion results can be achieved by using well-structured HTML documents, like those found at Project Gutenberg.
    • Though Amazon does not include .HTML as one the Kindle's natively-supported formats, it can read structured HTML just fine. The easiest conversion method for .HTML is to simply rename the file extension to ".TXT". (You can also rename it to ".NOWNOW" if you are feeling particularly madcap.) Either way, the file will appear in your e-book list, and will retain its original formatting.
  • Caveat for .PDF conversion
    • Unlike .HTML, .PDF documents are notoriously conversion-unfriendly because of their fixed layouts. For best results a lot of hand-crafting is required, which is not a topic we will cover in this basic how-to.
  • Metadata
    • Metadata is information embedded in the header of a document, allowing the Kindle to properly display the title of a book and its author. Amazon's conversion service will not return a converted e-book with proper metadata, and neither will Mobipocket Reader, but using the Mobipocket Creator technique outlined below will help you change the metadata so a converted e-book is listed correctly on your Kindle. You can also change the metadata in unprotected Mobipocket-based e-books by using the mobi2mobi script which is included in the Mobiperl program. Its usage will not be included in this how-to.
  • Which file do I transfer to my Kindle?
    • If you use Amazon's conversion service, the file will end with the .AZW extension. If you use either Mobipocket Reader or Mobipocket Creator, the file will will end with the .PRC extension. Any other file created during conversion (.XML, .OPF) is unnecessary.

[edit] Converting using Amazon Tools

For private use or to offer an eBook for sale on Amazon the preferred way is to use KindleGen or Kindle Previewer. KindleGen is a command line tool while Kindle Previewer has a GUI. Both can use an ePub file as the source for the conversion.

[edit] Converting files through Amazon

Amazon provides a service to easily convert documents to Kindle's native .AZW format through e-mail. The service is free if the converted file is sent to your established Kindle e-mail address. The service costs ten cents per document if returned wirelessly via Whispernet.

  • What formats can Amazon convert?
    • Microsoft Word (.DOC)
    • Structured HTML (.HTML, .HTM)
    • Plain Text (.TXT)
    • Adobe Acrobat (.PDF)
    • JPEG (.JPEG, .JPG)
    • GIF (.GIF)
    • PNG (.PNG)
    • BMP (.BMP)
  • Pros
    • Very easy, especially using the Whispernet option
    • Only requires an ability to send e-mail, so is cross-platform
    • Can batch convert multiple documents at once if sent in a .ZIP file
    • Free if returned to established Kindle e-mail address
    • Can handle non-embedded images
  • Cons
    • Costs ten cents per document if returned via Whispernet
    • Metadata (see below) is often problematic
    • Little control of the returned document's formatting
    • Conversion of .PDF files is experimental, and the end result ranges from "pretty readable" to "yucky"
  • Steps
  • Metadata
    • The title of the converted e-book returned by Amazon will be the name of the original file (e.g. "charlesdickens_taleoftwocities.pdf") and the author will be your e-mail address (e.g. "nobody@nowhere.net")
  • Troubleshooting
    • If you send in a document for conversion and it is never returned, the document is likely password protected or encrypted with DRM

[edit] Converting files with Mobipocket Reader

Mobipocket Reader 6.2 Build 608

Mobipocket Reader is primarily used to read and organize Mobipocket format e-books on a Windows PC, Windows Mobile device, and Symbian or Palm-based cell phones and PDAs. For the purposes of this how-to, we will concentrate on the Windows PC version of the software.

  • What formats can Mobipocket Reader convert?
    • Structured HTML (.HTML, .HTM)
    • Plain text (.TXT)
    • Adobe Acrobat (.PDF)
    • Microsoft Word (.DOC, .RTF)
    • Microsoft Excel (.XLS)
    • Microsoft PowerPoint (.PPT)
    • Microsoft Visio (.VS*)
    • Microsoft Compiled HTML Help (.CHM)
    • Open eBook (.EPUB)
  • Pros
    • Mobipocket Reader is the Swiss Army knife of Kindle compatible software: converts, reads, and syncs
    • Fast and simple one-click conversion
    • Support for many Microsoft Office formats
    • Able to change metadata
    • Free
    • It's just like iTunes
  • Cons
    • The built-in Mobipocket Store browser is useless for a Kindle user
    • Apple Macintosh is not currently supported
    • Little control of converted document's formatting
    • Don't expect miracles from converted Excel, PowerPoint, and Visio documents
    • Results for .PDF conversion are nearly identical to Amazon's conversion service
    • Unlike the Amazon service, cannot handle images other than those embedded in a document
    • It's just like iTunes
  • Where to download
  • Steps
    • By default, Mobipocket Reader will open with your Library as your main screen. You can drop any supported file onto this main screen, and it will be automagically converted. The converted e-book will now be available in your Library from within Mobipocket Reader, and in "..\Documents\My eBooks\" if you haven't changed the default setting.
    • Alternately, you may drag and drop a file onto the "Import" icon on the navigation bar (see illustration).
    • If you think all that is too easy, you can click on the "Import" icon (see illustration), then browse to the file you wish to be converted.
  • Metadata
    • Metadata ends up a little crazy using Reader. For documents such as .HTML and .TXT, the file name will become the book title. For .PDF documents, the title will come from the first text found within the document.
  • Troubleshooting
    • If something goes wrong with the conversion, the document is likely password protected or encrypted with DRM

[edit] Converting files with Mobipocket Creator

An e-book authoring suite, at its heart Mobipocket Creator uses the same technique for conversion as does the Reader version (above), but allows more control over the formatting of your Kindle-ready e-book. The software is available for Windows 2000/XP/Vista only. We will cover basic conversion below; advanced formatting techniques using Mobipocket Creator will be covered in a separate topic.

  • What formats can Mobipocket Creator convert?
    • Structured HTML (.HTML, .HTM)
    • Plain Text (.TXT)
    • Microsoft Word (.DOC)
    • Adobe Acrobat (.PDF)
  • Pros
    • Greater control of the final e-book's formatting using advanced techniques
    • Templates for custom books (e.g. photo albums, date books, recipe databases, shopping lists)
    • Able to change metadata before final conversion
    • Can handle unembedded images if placed in a blank document, or appended to a document
    • Can combine multiple documents into a single e-book
    • Free
  • Cons
    • To get the full benefit of Mobipocket Creator, the user should have basic HTML authoring knowledge, or be willing to learn as they go
    • May seem overly complex for new users
    • Apple Macintosh is not currently supported
    • Because Mobipocket Creator is geared for experienced users, it supports only basic format types with the expectation that the user has already converted complex documents (Excel, for example) into structured HTML
    • .PDF conversion results are the same as Amazons' and Readers', but can be smoothed with HTML adjustments (Advanced)
  • Where to download
  • Steps
  1. By default, Mobipocket Creator starts in the Home screen. Here you will import your document.
    1. Drag and drop your document onto the appropriate document format type under the "Import From Existing File" heading. This will fill in the necessary information on the following screen -or-
    2. Left-click the appropriate document format type, then Browse to the document you wish to import. -or-
    3. Left-click the appropriate document format type, then drag and drop the document into the blank after the "Choose a file" prompt.
  2. Left-click "Import". Note: if you are importing a Plain Text (.TXT) document, you may get better results by selecting "Suppress single carriage returns" before importing.
  3. Before building the e-book, you need to correct the metadata.
    1. Left-click "Metadata" in the View menu on the left.
    2. Enter the "eBook Title" and "Author".
    3. Scroll to the bottom of the window and left-click "Update".
  4. Left-click the "Build" icon in the navigation bar on the top of the screen.
  5. If there are any pictures in your document, choose "No Compression", otherwise keep the default values and left-click the "Build" button.
  6. Your Kindle-ready e-book can be found in your "..\Documents\My Publications\" folder unless you have changed Mobipocket Creator's default folder setting.
  • Troubleshooting
    • Most build warnings you receive can be safely ignored. They generally concern advanced e-book authoring.
    • If you have trouble importing a document, the likely cause is, once again, our good friends password protection and DRM encryption.

[edit] Other Tools

  • Calibre can create Kindle compatible files from a variety of other formats.
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