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I am planning to publish on Kindle and wish to make it tightly fitted to their process and formats. There seem to be two main choices for eBook format: AZW, the older standard, and KF8, the newer standard.

My book is black and white with line drawings so color is a non-issue.

I want to maximize my compatibility with older readers.

Would it be better to go with AZW or is AZW just so completely obsolete that it would be a bad idea?

If I use KF8 instead, are there any backwards compatibility problems I can expect?

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The way I did my last Kindle book was this. I'm at a different computer right now so I don't have the files, I don't remember the extensions and all. If I'm misleading you on details, let me know and I'll go back and confirm.

I downloaded the Kindle previewer. Then I sent KDP my docx file and got back their conversion, which I used as a first draft. This is a zip file, which includes a file with the HTML, a file for each image, a file for the table of contents, and a control file to tie it all together. I unpacked the zip to a directory and then hand-edited the text files with Notepad++ and replaced the image files with cleaner, correctly-sized conversions produced with Corel Draw (the program I used to create the images in the first place).

The previewer will convert the directory to a single file suitable for re-uploading back to KDP. I forget now if that's AZW or P-something-something or whatever, but whatever the previewer creates.

I think it's a good idea to start with the KDP conversion because then you get a usable, syntactically correct file as a starting point. It eliminates having to figure out everything from scratch. In my case, anyway, it included a LOT of junk tags that I deleted with mass search-and-replaces. And lots of crudely done stuff that I cleaned up, like link targets are often put in not quite the right place.

The folks at KDP seem to assume that you'll upload a docx and just use their rough conversion, because they make the software and documentation really hard to find.

To directly answer your question, I'd say: Use the newest formats, but keep in mind that some things won't work on older model Kindles and you have to consider the implications. The previewer will show how your book will look on various versions of the Kindle, and you can see when stuff isn't recognized.

Obviously color won't work on the e-ink Kindles, so you want to see how things look in b&w. I had some diagrams that used color coding that made them easier to read, but this didn't look good in b&w, so I ended up making two versions of all the diagrams: one in color with the color-coding and another in clean b&w. You can make it pick the right one with CSS media queries. Oh, and you can use CSS to make images size to fill the screen.

The format of the index has changed, but the old format is still recognized. So I used the old format.

The really old Kindles don't recognize tables. If you can avoid using tables, do. But if you want a real table -- a chart with rows and columns -- there's not much choice, and I think you just have to say too bad for the oldest Kindles.

Umm, those are the things that come to mind.

As I said, I'm not at the computer where I have my actual files. If I've messed up or left out an important detail, post a comment and I'll update.

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I think there's a misunderstanding that you'll have to convert your manuscript to the appropriate file format yourself. You won't, though. Authors simply feed a clean file in accepted formats into the KDP, and the conversion to the appropriate file format for wide use across their platforms is automatic.

That being said, having a clean file, without a lot of "crufty code" (a term I learned on someone's blog this very morn), can go a long way to having a well-formatted output file.

I realize this isn't a direct answer to your question, but the answer really is, you don't have to do that conversion yourself. The KDP will do it for you. All you have to provide is a clean file in one of the acceptable formats. See here for those formats.

From that page:

Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) lets you upload and convert your final draft from several formats. For best results, we recommend that you upload in DOC/DOCX (.doc/.docx) or HTML (.html) format. Be sure to read through the tips below for your preferred format prior to publishing your work with KDP.

And this is a helpful guide on creating an ebook on Kindle, if you've not already read it.

Hope that helps some.

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  • I want to use the format as directly as possible, not convert from some other format like Word. I have seen kindle books generated by converted Word documents and they look like shit. I want to layout the text and illustrations so they match with kindle exactly. – user11233 Oct 15 '15 at 21:08
  • You CAN just send KDP a docx and let them convert, but you can get much more control over the final product by formatting the file yourself. You may be able to get the results you want by careful manipulation of the docx, but it's more direct to learn the format and just do it. – Jay Oct 16 '15 at 13:24
  • @Jay's method is one way to go. Good luck! Report back and let us know how it goes. – Josh Oct 16 '15 at 15:28
  • Maybe I should qualify: Depends on the sophistication of the formatting that you want/need. The simpler your requirements, the more likely that the auto-conversion will do what you need. I don't want to disparage it more than is warranted! – Jay Oct 16 '15 at 15:47
  • @Jay - I don't think you disparaged it at all. You didn't say anything I haven't heard all over the Internet. The hiccup here is the artwork, IMO. He would probably be fine uploading a cleaned-up/tightened Word document, or something generated with Open- or LibreOffice just fine if he didn't have artwork. That puts the conversion at greater risk for failure than straight text. I think the method you outlined above works well, and I know a couple of formatters who charge people for that, so offering it here, for free, is really generous of you. :) – Josh Oct 16 '15 at 21:07

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