Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Amazon Perfects Word to Kindle

By mid 2013 Amazon had ironed out all of the kinks entailed in converting a Word doc directly to a Kindle book, meaning there was no longer any need to part format in Word, convert to html and complete the format in such as NotePad++, or God forbid write it from scratch in html.

What this means is that any "normal" book PROPERLY formatted in Word, whether a novel, technical book with images, cookbook etc can use the simple Word-to-Kindle process.  The only exclusion [by way of normal tag] is what is referred to as fixed format children's books, but with the new ease and features of the "normal" system, one should carefully consider if one really needs to use the complex fixed format system, ESPECIALLY as it does not render on all devices.

The Method

We start with a typical section of the Word screen showing several Normal Style paragraphs as well as both Heading 1 and Heading 2 Styled paragraphs, as indicated by the Style Ruler on the Left.

Then we see the final product on the Kindle for PC.

With reference to this image above, there is yet another aspect of the improved Amazon system we will point out at this juncture.

At this stage we have "perfected" our book in Word to the point of simply wanting a Preview before Publishing.  So we are at the bottom of Page 1 on the Bookshelf having uploaded the cover image file and the Word file.  The system has confirmed that the file is both Uploaded and Converted.

We then go below and download the mobi file for Preview [ie NOT the on-line Preview].  We use the "save" option and then go to top right in our [Firefox] browser and click the download button as shown below.

From the list that comes up we simply double-click the mobi file and Kindle for PC opens with the new book.  We simply inspect the book and, if OK, save and goto Page2 to set pricing and PUBLISH - job done.

If you are particularly edgy you can of course open the Kindle Preview App and look at the same mobi file in all the devices but there is really no point because if you formatted correctly in Word and confirmed that in Kindle for PC, then it WILL be fine in all devices because that's the way Amazon has designed the system.

However if you have done all manner of silly things using Siggle, Wiggle or Diggle [whatever] or used html with CSS then you are on your own and it will most probably look bad in all devices because that is NOT the Amazon system as of late 2013.

A Dissection

Notice that we did not need to inspect or edit one single html entity in this new and vastly improved workflow, but the rest of this post does a dissection of the system in case you are wondering how it works.  We start by downloading the "html" file at the same time as the mobi file, and find that it is actually a zip file as shown below.

The zip file is shown in zipped form on top line and the remaining 4 lines are the same file unzipped.  As seen the opf file [Open Packaging Format] sits on the root directory with 3 sub-directories and here is the first part of the code once opened in NotePad++.

A person with only a basic knowledge of html will be able to see that this file is simply the "organising" agent and you will see how it references all of the other files where they sit in the 3 directories and assigns "jobs" for them in building the mobi file.  But the nice thing is you did not need to know ANY html as this was all done automatically for you simply by uploading a Word file.

The first of these files is the html file in the html directory, and here is the start of the file.

Once again you did not need to know anything about this file but the thing that stands out is the absolute "cleanness" of the format with only one "div" tag situated on the first page, ie essentially NONE of the normal hundreds [typically 2,000] lines of "CSS" styles previously associated with html files.  That is because ALL style information is simply given after the individual <p tags. 

Here is last page with the single instance of /div and the closing /body and /html tags, still totally simple.

The xml directory contains the ncx file below, also automatically produced by the process.  This [Navigation Control file for XML applications] file drives the buttons on your Kindle.

Finally the image directory contains the image we uploaded for the cover, and it seems the only change is the name of the image.

So there we have it folks, the latest totally KISS and totally foolproof method of producing a Kindle book directly from Word, but with the qualification that it is only foolproof IF you use STYLES as detailed in this blog and book


  1. Hello and thank you very much for this very useful post and explanation.

    However, I use OpenOffice (nor MS Word) and some things work differently. I am still doing the conversion from .odt format to HTML, fixing a couple of formatting instruction and then using the Kindle Previewer to create a MOBI file which I then upload to the Amazon Kindle publishing site. I have a basic knowledge of HTML and would really like to keep the formatting as clean as possible.

    Would you advise saving my original .odt file to Word format (instead of HTML) and then following your simplified procedure?

    1. Well the problem is that Amazon have designed their system to work directly with Word only, eg one can make an auto toc in OO but Amazon does not recognise it if you try to upload OO directly. So you have to go via the convert to html process which produces a CSS style html whereas Amazon have recently gone back to the simple tag type html.

      All in all it is quicker and better to use Word [until Amazon might go "cloud"?] and you can get Word2003 free still if you Google

    2. Thank you for your reply. My latest effort came out well enough so there is no immediate problem, but I will look into better ways of doing things. Cheers.

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