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Taking a Look At Kindle Format 8 76

Posted by timothy
from the early-looks-are-best-looks dept.
Nate the greatest writes "Got a Kindle Fire? Here's your chance to try the new Kindle Format 8. The new format is in beta testing right now with a limited number of publishers, and a few days ago one of those publishers leaked the tools and the guidelines to me. It turns out KF8 isn't all that new. I've looked at the code, and I'd call it an attempt to graft a number of Epub features onto the existing Kindle format. It simply adds a lot of new formatting and is only slightly more capable than Epub. There's a number of screenshots at the link as well as a demo file. You can probably also find more KF8 ebooks in the Kindle Store; look for the Kindle Fire exclusive magazines and graphic novels."
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Taking a Look At Kindle Format 8

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  • by EponymousCustard (1442693) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @10:34AM (#38382744)
    It makes me sad that Amazon don't support it natively.
    • by Defenestrar (1773808) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @10:45AM (#38382884)
      It makes me sad that the article doesn't even mention which epub version [wikipedia.org] (1, 2, or 3) the author was comparing it to. Most new books are in 3, but there's a ton still out there at version 2. Not to mention that the International Digital Publishing Forum [IDPF] [idpf.org] is an active standard and will continually be updated for the foreseeable future. Some quantitative data would be very useful when comparing proprietary and open standards, especially as each format (and distribution system) have strong pros and cons. Personally I'm all for fully open standards for any data type, it'd take a lot of superior features to draw me into a vendor lock-in system.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Mobipocket is a well-documented standard and conversion to and from ePub is pretty straightforward. This isn't like the old binary Microsoft Word format or something. Yeah, it would be nice if Amazon used the same file format as everyone else but ePub was not a mature data format when Amazon was releasing the first Kindle (first release of ePub standard: September 2007, launch of first-gen Kindle: November 2007), so now Amazon is stuck with their current format. It's really not a big deal.

        • I understand why they went with their own standard at the time (although i may have personally preferred if they had contributed to the standards process), but now that epub is mature, the clear winning standard, and possibly superior technology.

          It seems to me that at this point Amazon could manage backwards compatibility just fine while transitioning to (and contributing in) the epub format; so if it's no longer a question of quality is KF8 more aimed at vendor lock-in?

          • by boristhespider (1678416) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @11:30AM (#38383418)

            It would be pretty trivial for Amazon to keep backwards compatibility - Sony have already demonstrated that when they transitioned from LRF to ePub. It all went seamlessly, Readers still support LRF (so far as I know; certainly my old PRS-505 does) and read ePub no problem, or if you want you can go to the Sony store and redownload anything you'd bought as an LRF as an ePub instead. Amazon could do exactly the same - it's just a matter of adding ePub support (which would itself be trivial; Mobi and ePub aren't *that* different) and converting their eBook store into ePub.

            I doubt they want to do this and that's their prerogative, but it would be trivial to do if they ever did choose to.

          • by 0123456 (636235)

            I understand why they went with their own standard at the time (although i may have personally preferred if they had contributed to the standards process), but now that epub is mature, the clear winning standard, and possibly superior technology

            Most writers I've seen give numbers say that 70-90% of their sales come from Amazon. So why would Amazon want to switch to using a standard that encourages people to buy from other stores?

            Format lock-in sucks for a user, but it's great for a retailer who owns most of the market.

            • by DrXym (126579)
              The format says nothing of the DRM layered on top. Apple uses EPUB + their own DRM rendering their device incompatible with other stores. But it still doesn't make sense to use a proprietary format and deny people the ability to read non-DRM'd EPUB books. I wonder if Amazon permits alternate e-readers on their app store.
              • by Dog-Cow (21281)

                iBooks is not incompatible with other stores, though it doesn't integrate with them. It supports non-encrypted epubs and PDFs, both of which I have on my iPad right now. The ePub came from Baen. It probably supports other ebook formats as well, but I don't have any to try.

              • by ynp7 (1786468)

                For whom does it not make sense?

                From Amazon's perspective sticking with their proprietary format gives them two benefits: 1) it requires publishers to specifically target their platform, which creates a clear distinction between Kindle and the rest of the industry, and 2) it encourages customers to buy their ebooks from Amazon rather than another store. There's also the third benefit of Amazon not having to put development resources into providing ePub support. The software developers Amazon has working on

                • by DrXym (126579)
                  It makes no sense to everyone including Amazon. There is a perfectly functional EPUB format which they could use and still DRM in whichever way they pleased.
                  • by ynp7 (1786468)

                    No, it really doesn't. As I already said, with their current proprietary format Amazon gets:

                    1) Publishers who have to pay special attention to their platform, rather than creating a single ePub that may or may not display correctly on their devices because they were only tested against a competing ePub reader.

                    2) It encourages customers who buy a Kindle to buy their ebooks from Amazon because a) no other major ebook vendor is selling in MobiPocket format and b) converting ePub to Mobi will usually result in

    • by DrXym (126579)

      It makes me sad that Amazon don't support it natively.

      Amazon is an Apple wannabe. They want the entire cake to themselves including the distribution format. They might have had the technical excuse of not supporting EPUB on their e-ink devices for legacy / constraint reasons. They have no such excuse for tablets.

    • If Amazon are selling a awz for every epub sold how can you claim that epub is the standard?
      It may not be a popular stance to take but it doesn't seems to stop sales enough to make a difference.

    • by bcrowell (177657)

      It makes me sad that Amazon don't support it natively.

      It is at least a good sign to see that they're improving the kindle format. That shows that they're feeling a need to stay competitive with epub. It's actually a much better situation than what we ended up with on the web with technologies like mathml. It's pretty pathetic that Wikipedia articles still don't use mathml because IE doesn't support it except through kludgy workarounds. Epub 3 supports mathml (although I doubt that any actual devices support it yet). Math and science textbooks are a very lucra

  • by wygit (696674) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @10:46AM (#38382892)

    I'm wondering how many different "exclusive" editions publishers are going to publish in.
    This is stupid. The only paid "exclusive" iPad publications I have are magazines that had a free iPad subscription when you bought the dead-tree edition.

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      That's one big reason why I'm ignoring Kindle and looking at the Nook. Of course, I may just forego an e-reader completely; I have a notebook and may get a tablet. With a tablet I see no use for an e-reader.

      • The nook can also run Linux if I'm not mistaken.
      • Re:"Exclusively" (Score:4, Informative)

        by 0123456 (636235) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @11:04AM (#38383094)

        With a tablet I see no use for an e-reader.

        I guess you don't read much, or you'd know how much better an e-ink screen is for reading books.

        Not to mention that I only have to recharge my Kindle every few weeks, so I just leave it plugged in when I connect it to my computer every now and again to download non-Amazon books to it.

        • by Ferzerp (83619)

          I have to agree here. There is no substitute for an e-ink display when reading. I end up with horribly bloodshot eyes if I read an LCD non-stop for hours (whether for lack of blinking or something else, I don't know). I suffer no ill effects from reading off an e-ink display though.

          • by ubrgeek (679399)
            > I end up with horribly bloodshot eyes

            Along with a terrible case of the munchies?
          • Re:"Exclusively" (Score:4, Insightful)

            by hawguy (1600213) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @11:57AM (#38383826)

            I have to agree here. There is no substitute for an e-ink display when reading. I end up with horribly bloodshot eyes if I read an LCD non-stop for hours (whether for lack of blinking or something else, I don't know). I suffer no ill effects from reading off an e-ink display though.

            I was surprised at the difference as well. I have an eInk Kindle, but got a Nook Color (with CM7 so I can run the Kindle app) for reading books in bed without needing a light that might keep my partner awake. I figured that the backlit display with the brightness turned down to low would be perfect for reading in a dark room.

            Well, I was wrong, reading the Nook for more than 30 minutes is uncomfortable while I can read the Kindle for hours, even with a clip-on book light.

            So now I use the Nook for web surfing and the Kindle for reading.

            • I figured that the backlit display with the brightness turned down to low would be perfect for reading in a dark room.

              This kinda sorta works with OLED smartphone screens, but only because their black is really black - and you need to turn brightness all the way down, and use a dark font (e.g. #402000).

        • Re:"Exclusively" (Score:5, Informative)

          by TheRaven64 (641858) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @11:15AM (#38383216) Journal
          There's also the difference in size. The pictures really don't do the Kindle justice - I played with one in an airport shop and they're astonishingly thin and light. I have an iRex iLiad, which is one of the first generation of eInk devices. You could easily fit two or three 6" Kindles inside it. You could probably slip the kindle into a coat pocket without noticing. Doing that with the iLiad or a modern tablet would be difficult. The smallest tablet I own is a Nokia 770, and it fits, but it's much more bulky than a kindle. Most of the difference is the battery - a TFT screen draws a lot more power than eInk so an eInk device can get away with a tiny battery in comparison with a tablet (and a less power-hungry CPU, since you're not going to be playing back videos on the eBook reader).
          • by 0123456 (636235)

            True: the only tablet I've used is the Asus Transformer, and that felt heavy enough that I wouldn't want to have to hold it for half an hour. The Kindle isn't much heavier than a paperback.

        • I guess you don't read much

          You guess wrong in my case. I do a lot of reading on an LCD screen - attached to my laptop, on a tablet, on a phone. In fact I spend most of my working life and much of my liesure time reading the web and books on it, and the advantages for reading (colour, resolution, response time) outweigh the disadvantages (lower battery life, sunlight) to my mind. YMMV.

        • by StikyPad (445176)

          I read ebooks all the time, and that's why I hate "e-ink." With a backlit device, I can read in bed or a dimly lit room without disturbing my spouse. Additionally, I can check my mail, check the weather, search the web for something, and perform other tasks that catch my fancy while reading all without having to find/use a separate device.

          And while I own both an iPad and an iPhone, I can't stand reading ebooks on the iPad -- the resolution is too low and the screen is too bright for a darkened room, even

        • by mcgrew (92797) *

          I read a lot, but mostly paper and compuer screens. I haven't had an e-ink device.

      • Re:"Exclusively" (Score:5, Informative)

        by Nursie (632944) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @11:06AM (#38383110)

        "With a tablet I see no use for an e-reader."

        I've used both. I don't see a need for a tablet (I have a netbook), but the e-reader (kindle touch 3g) is pretty great. It's the ultra-long battery life and e-ink display that do it.

      • Re:"Exclusively" (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Lumpy (12016) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @11:15AM (#38383214) Homepage

        I cant. Kindle is the ONLY ones making a 10" epaper display. Nook is a tiny toy great for paperbacks but useless for educational and scientific texts.
        If nook would release a 10" unit or better yet an a4 page size screen unit. I would be all over it as would every single college student and college looking for a decent reader for college textbooks.

      • by morari (1080535)

        A tablet isn't nearly as comfortable to read with as an e-reader. There's a lot to be said for the Nook's (and Kindle's) e-ink screen.

    • by gl4ss (559668)

      I'm wondering how many different "exclusive" editions publishers are going to publish in.
      This is stupid. The only paid "exclusive" iPad publications I have are magazines that had a free iPad subscription when you bought the dead-tree edition.

      as many as new media editor companies can sell them.

  • Just one thing... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Penguinisto (415985) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @10:49AM (#38382924) Journal

    It may be a sign of getting old, but seriously - if I laid down hard cash for something, I'm not in much mood to be a beta tester on it. This is doubly true for items which are locked down to one proprietary vendor. Triply true for an item (like, say, this tablet) which should be homogeneous to the point where developers really don't have to account for a wild variety of configurations, so the whole idea of accounting for differences should be pretty frickin' moot.

    Now sure, I'll hackintosh my desktop box (which I had done) or happily goof off with a new Linux distro, but only because the former is assembled out of older parts, and the latter is in a VM first, before I decide whether or not to migrate it to my main home server box.

    OTOH, the Kindle Fire is a product that (much like the iPad, to be fair) serves as nothing more than a front for Amazon's app/media store. Screw that - if they want me to test it out that bad for them, they can damned well pay me as a tester.

    • by Baloroth (2370816)

      All of what you say is true. But if you want to be the first to try out something new, or you simply have to have the latest and greatest, beta testing gives you that opportunity. Most of the time, the beta is perfectly stable anyways. Besides, it sounds like the beta testing was meant to stay internal (although I'm not going to read the article to actually find out).

  • by inflex (123318) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @11:00AM (#38383036) Homepage Journal

    It's already a nightmare trying to cover all the bases as a book writer/publisher, adding more to the mix just makes things more annoying, confusing and likely to pop up crazy formatting mistakes. The forums are already filled with people having enough grief getting a decent looking eBook generated (though I blame them for using MSWord... tsk tsk *hugs LaTeX*). A lot of us would LOVE it if Amazon simply supported ePub, though that would in many ways erode their empire, at least in their view. Right now a lot of publishers are pushing out mobi / ePub / pdf as the main 3 formats to support, at least along with print publishing, unfortunately even within ePub there's a few quirks and you have to generate slightly different versions for iPad, Nook and 'everything else'. ... reminds me of the bloomen browser wars at their worst ... and to think I switched to doing novels / writing / publishing to try avoid this sort of crap *maniacal laugh*.

    http://elitadaniels.com/ [elitadaniels.com]

    • Glad to see you're using LaTeX to build your eBooks too :)

      • by inflex (123318)

        Just don't dare tell people that you don't use MS-Word ... :D

        • Alas, I put stuff out through Smashwords and they *force* me to use MS Word, so that they can then generate an ePub almost, but not quite, identical to the one that I hand-construct (and therefore almost, but not quite, what I want). That's extremely frustrating even if I understand why they do it.

          • by inflex (123318)

            I fully sympathise... it made me cry to do it, literally (because of a huge argument I was having). It'd be nice if SW offered an ePub or HTML+CSS upload, since that's what they work from internally to feed the meatgrinder. Given that they're forcing people to use the SW Styling Guide, I don't see why they can't offer an equally strict HTML/CSS styling guide. The biggest pain I found is the disconnect between your submitted doc and the errors that often come out say from the ePub validation, you just hav

            • Absolutely. The first story I uploaded came back with about 25 errors, none of which made any sense. The Word document was extremely tightly-styled, but meatgrinder refused to accept the style I put on it. I learned never to leave a style I wanted called "Normal", and to always use that document as a template - or I'll just get into another ten hour pissing contest with meatgrinder... I don't know why they won't accept at least HTML+CSS, and ideally an ePub (which for how I use ePub for is just the same thi

    • I think the fact that Amazon uses a proprietary format is a heaping pile of crap, but that's as a user, not an author. As an author, I just upload the ePub I generated for B&N and let Amazon handle the conversion to whatever they call their zip file full of HTML.

      I use Scrivener [literatureandlatte.com] to do my writing, and it exports to ePub directly. There's also a plugin that will export to Kindle format, if you want to do that. And it exports to Word, which is what I have to use for Smashwords. And it exports to PDF, which is what I use to edit. It's a fantastic piece of software.

      But, yes, the rest of the world needs to get on the ePub train. It's a really nice format, very fit for what it does.

    • by dgatwood (11270)

      Don't get me started ranting about my experience publishing eBook content with LaTeX....

      What I want to know is whether there's some way to combine the new content created with the new tool with the old content created with the old tool programmatically. Because KindleGen is remarkably bad at handling CSS, I had to make fairly dramatic (and massively non-spec-compliant) changes to my EPUB doc to create something that still looked reasonably formatted after transforming it into Kindle format. I'd love to us

  • by GSloop (165220) <networkguru AT sloop DOT net> on Thursday December 15, 2011 @11:09AM (#38383136) Homepage

    The AZW format got broken a long time ago, and while I don't purchase a lot of content from Amazon, I don't buy ANYTHING I can't break the DRM on so I can move it [sell it, give it away, etc] at my convenience.

    I'm sure not going to purchase a bunch of content on Amazon that's lost/stuck because I decided I wanted to get a different device to read it with.

    So, hows the cracking with the new format going? Once it's cracked, I'll consider buying it, at least once I decide to buy a KF.

    Seriously, once books move into a more reasonable price range in general, I'd guess that it clearly doesn't make sense to use DRM. MP3's made this transition once the vendors realized that $20 for a CD wasn't going to fly for MP3's. Books are going to do it too, I suspect, and sooner rather than later.

    But until then, I'll avail myself of the tools to do what the publisher failed to do right - and if that's not possible - well, I just won't buy it at all.

    -Greg

    • Re:Cracked yet? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Colonel Korn (1258968) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @11:15AM (#38383218)

      Seriously, once books move into a more reasonable price range in general, I'd guess that it clearly doesn't make sense to use DRM. MP3's made this transition once the vendors realized that $20 for a CD wasn't going to fly for MP3's. Books are going to do it too, I suspect, and sooner rather than later.

      Sadly, ebooks are moving away from reasonable prices, not toward them. Apple managed to raise ebook prices by roughly 50% when they negotiated deals with the publishers before the iPad's launch. Given another major vendor willing to charge much more for books, the publishers were unwilling to allow Amazon to continue selling at their sometimes below cost price point, and now they had the leverage to do something about it. I hope that Apple's influence wanes so that prices can come back down, or that cheaper prices align with Apple's interests at some point in the near future.

      • by inflex (123318)

        Depends on where you stand... right now, from an independent writer's perspective, eBook prices are plummeting - couple of years ago most people were at $2.99 and $0.99 was the 'magical free marketing ride', then last year going $0.00 was the key and everyone was trying to get on the Amazon free bandwagon to get some exposure... I expect soon that writers will be _paying_ people to read their book. In the race to the bottom, it seems we're going to punch through and start digging our own graves. We've pe

        • by 0123456 (636235)

          Depends on where you stand... right now, from an independent writer's perspective, eBook prices are plummeting - couple of years ago most people were at $2.99 and $0.99 was the 'magical free marketing ride', then last year going $0.00 was the key and everyone was trying to get on the Amazon free bandwagon to get some exposure... I expect soon that writers will be _paying_ people to read their book.

          Which is odd, because the indie writers I know are increasing their prices and getting more sales. Probably because many people now see $2.99 and below as the swamp of crap.

          • by inflex (123318)

            It's something we certainly discuss in great length between each other (independent writers), most frequently becoming rather heated. For some it works best to go to $2.99+, for others they find they lose their traction and retreat back to $0.99 or lower.

            Personally I'm just glad we're sticking with the $2.99 vision because there's just no practical way to do it as even a small scale home job/business, not when you have to factor in artwork, editing, proofing and marketing. I suppose some people could make

            • by dgatwood (11270)

              As soon as you say "go to", that's where they made their first mistake. The first rule of sales is that you never, ever lowball your initial asking price. If you do, people come to expect it at that price and won't pay more. That's why most books have a fixed price that doesn't change for the life of the book, sales on the used market notwithstanding. Raising the price of an existing book will always cause sales to dry up.

              The second rule of sales is that you should set the price at whatever you think yo

  • This is rather some news, because up until now, Amazon Kindles have used *.AZW which is *.MOBI (mobile book) based. _NOT_ *.EPUB which is a main competitor.

    I do not see anything about compression, which is my main reason for preferring EPUB over MOBI . The files are ~50% smaller unless there are photos/dwgs.

  • by stevenvi (779021) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @11:29AM (#38383410) Homepage

    I really don't follow ebook formats because pdfs have always been my portable format of choice, and I have no ebook reader. I skimmed the article, but I could not find any points on what makes this superior to a pdf file. What advantages does the Kindle format or epub format offer which a pdf cannot do?

    I saw some mention of audio and video and javascript, but pdfs can support that. Why recreate the wheel? From reading the article (where perhaps the author doesn't know what he is talking about?), it sounds like it's trying to do everything HTML can, but not be HTML.

    Can anyone please clarify this for me?

    • by artor3 (1344997)

      Most (all?) ebook readers let you adjust font and margin size. Formats like epub and mobi (azw) allow this to work without breaking the formatting. PDFs don't support that feature, so you have to either pan-n-scan or else be stuck with a tiny font size.

    • by inflex (123318) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @11:53AM (#38383788) Homepage Journal

      As a general rule, PDFs cannot be reflowed (there is a new revision in the PDF standard that allows this now, but it's a bit of a crutch).

      ePub/mobi/what-ever-other-ebook-format is more akin to HTML than Postscript/PDF, as such eBooks can then be read on all manner of devices without knowing in advance the limitations of the output media. So it's fine if you have a nice 9~10" tablet to read the PDFs on, and things like datasheets for electronics work well in this format, but if you try it on a 5~6" display device it becomes a case of either scrolling/panning to read or reading with a lot of detail lost.

      • by stevenvi (779021)
        Ah ha, that makes sense. Thanks for explaining it to me. (And thanks to the others who responded, too!)
    • by Per Wigren (5315)

      it sounds like it's trying to do everything HTML can, but not be HTML

      Basically it IS just (a subset of) plain HTML+CSS with a standardized naming structure for table of contents, chapters, cover and similar, all bundled together into a zip file. It defines a default style for unstyled tags and which subset of HTML and CSS the renderer must handle to be compliant.

  • Instead of coming up with yet another format that people will now have to support. I love my kindle, but they're seriously pulling a Sony on this one.
    • by inflex (123318)

      They would stand to pick up a lot more sales of their hardware and subsequently their instore books if they did this, at least that's my theory. A lot of people avoid the Kindles because of the lack of ePub. I suppose Amazon fears people will buy their books from elsewhere and read them on the Kindle, but in reality Amazon does have a nice 1-click/buy/delivery system which is hard to walk away from, it's just so damned convenient (most of the time).

      • by Anonymous Coward

        A lot of people do not avoid the Kindle because of lack of ePub, as the vast majority of people have no idea what "ePub" is.

        This is not significantly different than the Linux argument, where some insignificant (from a revenue perspective) percentage of people extrapolates themselves into a lot because they wish a certain for-profit corporation would do something.

        In general, I agree with you 100% that ePub should be natively supported and it sucks it doesn't, but I guarantee you that the vast majority of peo

  • 1 SVG images so that math books can be written. I heard KF8 is supporting it, but I found no reference.

    2 Ruby annotations, essential to Japanese books. Still not supported.

    Why can not they just go html?

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