Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Kindle 9 – making your e-book work

Now the unicorn has seen Katherine Langrish’s red-hatted Nis off on the next leg of his blog tour, it’s time to talk about the extras found in an e-book that are not possible in a paper book. If you own a Kindle, you’ll probably realize I’m talking about the “go to” menu that allows your reader to jump to selected places in your e-text. If you are not familiar with reading on Kindle, I suggest you go back and read my second post in this series before going any further.

In the original version of the Kindle software 3.0 (Muse: the latest version when my author wrote her review of the Kindle… see how fast things move in this brave new e-world?), readers could pull up a menu and select GO TO:
cover – the book’s cover image, as seen on amazon’s product description page.
start – the place where the publisher suggests you to start reading (e.g. at the beginning of chapter 1).
location – any location between the beginning of your book (location 1 – which may be different to “start”) and its end (location x, which depends on the length of the book and is shown on the little bar across the bottom of a Kindle screen)
table of contents – your book’s linked contents list.

In the new version of the software 3.1 (available now for download from amazon), readers can GO TO:
cover – as before
start – as before
page – a page number corresponding to the paper edition of the book (if it has one).
location – as before
end – the end of the book (i.e. location x)
table of contents– as before

[Muse: A quick review of these new features... Although page numbers don’t really apply to an e-book, the unicorn understands they are easier to get your human head around than location numbers. Amazon have therefore included them where the book has a print edition so that readers can easily compare the two. This may be useful in classrooms or reading groups, where some people are reading on Kindle and others reading on paper.

If you select GO TO “end”, you’ll find you can give the book a rating between one and five stars and tell everyone what you think of it by tweeting to your followers or the Kindle community. You may also see a list here of other books bought by customers who own the book you’ve just finished, which might help you find more books of the same kind, and is a handy reference to keep on your Kindle!]

All these extra features are great if you are an e-reader. But they create extra work for those publishing e-books. So how do you make sure yours will work properly with the Kindle menu? Well, you have a choice at this stage. If you are really nervous about building your e-book by hand, you can use e-book building software to put these features in for you (I'll review some of the free available software later in the year). Or you can add them by hand using Word’s bookmarks, as I am about to show you. Don’t worry, bookmarks are easy enough to put in. But if you’ll need to be extra-careful when editing your Word file from now on, because bookmarks are also easy to delete by accident… and if you delete them, your links will stop working!

Let’s start with “start”.

Pick a place in your e-book you think your reader should see when it first "opens". This might be a message from the author. Or it might be your prologue, or the start of chapter one. The idea is to skip all the copyright pages and other non-story stuff you put in at the front, but if you want the book to open on the first page after the cover, then that’s fine. It’s up to you. Once you’ve decided where your reader should start reading your book, add a blank line just before this place and immediately following the last page break. (I know I warned you not to use blank lines in your e-book, but this one isn’t really blank, believe me...) Then on this line insert a bookmark called "start". (Word 2000: Insert Bookmark, name start, and click add).

When you view your file (with all the viewing options turned on, remember?) you should see your bookmark as something that looks like a capital “I” (Word calls this an “I-beam”). And that’s it. When you convert your file into an e-book later on, Kindle will find this bookmark in your file and the GO TO menu will take the reader to your chosen location if they select GO TO start. If you don’t specify a start location, Kindle will default back to location 1.

Told you it was easy, didn’t I?

Now you know what a bookmark is and how to put one into your file, let’s tackle the trickier Table of Contents. When your reader selects GO TO Table of Contents, the Kindle will look for a bookmark called “toc”. So in your Word file, go to your contents list and add a blank line immediately before its title and following the last page break. Using exactly the same method as before, insert a bookmark called toc on this line. Again, it will show up in your Word file as an I-beam.

This is where things get a bit more complicated, because your contents list should also be linked internally to the corresponding sections of your book. When your reader selects GO TO Table of Contents, they expect to be able to move the cursor down, click on one of the items, and be taken straight to that chapter or story or whatever. A linked table of contents separates the professionals from the free titles produced by volunteers. But now you know about bookmarks, so it’s really not that difficult to make yours work, provided you are careful and keep your head.

1. Add bookmarks to your chapters, etc.
First you’ll need to work through your file and find each section of the book you've included in your contents list. Put a bookmark on a new blank line immediately before each heading. The Muse suggests you name these bookmarks the same as your headings to avoid getting confused later. (For example, you might add bookmarks called abouttheauthor, reviews, prologue, chapter1, chapter2, chapter3, etc.) You don’t have to add a bookmark to every single item you've included in your contents list, but consider carefully before leaving something out, because your reader might think something is wrong. As you do this, you will no doubt come across your original “start” bookmark, but I suggest you don’t add another bookmark in the same place – the “start” one will do fine.

2. Link your bookmarks back to your contents list
Once you’ve got all these bookmarks in place, you can then return to your contents list and begin linking them up with your chapters/stories. To do this, highlight one of the items in your contents list and insert a hyperlink to that corresponding bookmark in your Word file. (Word 2000: Insert Hyperlink Bookmark, and select the correct bookmark name from the drop down list. This will show up in your insert box with the hash symbol in front of it – eg. #start. Click OK.)

When you return to your contents list, you’ll probably see the hyperlink underlined in blue. This translates fine to Kindle, so I suggest you go with it. When I tried removing all the underlines from my contents list, Kindle put them all back in again. (Muse tip: In Word 2000, if you hover the cursor over the hyperlink you have just created, you’ll see the bookmark name come up in a little box.) If you then click on the hyperlink, it should take you to the place where you added that bookmark… if it doesn’t, then check you haven’t accidentally deleted the I-beam!

3. Testing your Table of Contents
Work through your contents list, adding hyperlinks in exactly the same way, until you have linked up all of your bookmarks. Now test them one by one – ALL of them, both forwards and backwards – to make sure they work as you’d expect. (Muse tip: After clicking on a hyperlink, you can use the left arrow on the toolbar to navigate back to your contents list each time.)

Congratulations! You have just created a linked table of contents. When you upload your e-book and your reader clicks on them, these links should work in exactly the same way as they do in your Word file.

You'll be pleased to know this is handled automatically by Kindle, so you don’t need to worry about it.

This requires linking up with the print edition page numbers, which may or may not happen automatically when you upload your book. Since this is a brand new feature that I haven’t got to grips with myself yet, we’ll look at it in a later post.

This handled automatically by Kindle, so you don’t need to add a bookmark for it.

And finally, the first shall be last…

GO TO cover requires one final bookmark, which we’ll add next week when we’ve designed a cover and got it properly formatted and inserted into your file. (If you’ve already got an existing cover image as the first page of your file and are itching to upload your finished book to Kindle, the Muse begs your patience.)

Happy bookmarking! Oh and before I go, don’t confuse Word’s bookmarks (sometimes called anchors) with Kindle’s own Bookmark feature, which lets the reader fold down the “corners” of virtual pages. See you next week.


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