The world of self-publishing has moved on a lot in the last few years. It is not all that long since self-publishing on Kindle was a nightmare; now it is easy. There is one snag, formatting. Most books published for Kindle have plain narrative text; they are novels or text-based non-fiction. Fair enough, that is what works with Kindle’s reflowable text.
In my particular case that is no good. There are two reasons: my books have complex formatting of numbers, bullet points, spacing, headers tables etc. and they include phonetic symbols in the Times New Roman Phonetics font, which does not display on a Kindle screen.
However, there is a solution. Kindle Textbook Creator is a piece of software that takes a pdf file and converts it into an image of the page suitable for Kindle viewing, adding digital rights management (DRM) as it does so. This preserves all the formatting and fonts of the original. The result can only be viewed on devices that display an image, i.e. not basic Kindles but Kindle Fire, other tablets, phones and Kindle for PC. This is something of a drawback, but perhaps not so great a one since people use such books for reference and clarity of presentation rather than for casual reading, and the displayed text has the usual facilities for searching, highlighting, annotating etc. It also claims to incorporate pop-up images and mp3 audio files, though I haven’t tested this. All in all, Kindle Textbook Creator is a good idea.
Or it would be if it worked properly. The problem is that it doesn’t.
My books contain a large number of hyperlinks for cross references. A pdf file can easily be made that preserves these links functionally within the document. Unfortunately, Amazon have proved incapable of preserving these functional links when they add the digital rights management (DRM) protection to the pdf file before publishing it. Worse than that, the problem has existed since I first uploaded a book in February. During that time I have experienced the frustration of dealing with the Kindle Direct Publishing Help service, which does not send an immediate acknowledgement of messages posted via the web site, takes several days to send a boilerplate response to a specific request, does not allocate a reference or case number to each input and, once you fight your way through the boilerplate, signs each response with a different name so you never know who you are dealing with.
When I had this problem a second time and went back to their Help service, referring to my original complaint, I received the same boilerplate as before. That made me angry. I had no intention of going back to square one.
Finally, after some persistence, I received a clear assurance that they had at last solved this glitch and that the links would work on all image devices for Kindle. I published my book and downloaded it yesterday. Unlike most publishers, including Amazon’s print-on-demand arm CreateSpace, Kindle Direct Publishing offers no possibility for authors and/or publishers to obtain free copies of their own works. I found that the problem was exactly the same as before: the functionality of the hyperlinks in the pdf file that I uploaded had been removed by Amazon in the process of adding DRM and publication. As this is in flat contradiction of what I was told would be the case, and in view of everything that I have experienced in the last six months, I find it impossible to believe that Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing division is dealing with me in good faith.
I have new editions of two books ready to go, Great English Mistakes and Pearls of the English Language. My plan was to announce both print and Kindle editions of these two books at the same time, available from the same page on all Amazon sites, for the beginning of the academic year in September. As things stand, this seems impossible.
I will be on holiday for the rest of August. I hope that Amazon manage to solve this snafu before I return. If not, they will hear from my lawyer, claiming compensation for the loss and damage that my business has suffered as a result of their incompetence and untruthfulness, including delay to the publication of the print version if the two versions cannot be published simultaneously.
I should make it clear that my dissatisfaction is limited to Kindle Direct Publishing. I have no complaints at all to make about CreateSpace, Amazon’s print-on-demand arm, or Amazon in general as a supplier.