Amazon is releasing a new file format for Kindle e-books. Called Kindle Format 8, or KF8, the new format is based on HTML5 open standards, and is intended to help create the next phase of electronic publishing.
The company said in a statement that KF8 "enables publishers to create great-looking books in categories that require rich formatting and design, such as children's picture books, comics and graphic novels, technical and engineering books, and cookbooks."
Replaces Mobi 7
Several existing e-book formats, such as EPUB, Mobipocket, and Mobi 7 are all derived from HTML, but they are limited in the control they offer publishers in such areas as screen and text design.
The new format replaces the previous Mobi 7 format and adds more than 150 new formatting capabilities. These include fixed layouts, nested tables, call-outs, sidebars, support for scalable vector graphics, and such CSS selectors as line spacing, alignment, justification, margin, color, style and border.
For children's books, the format enables fixed layouts and Kindle Text Pop Up. Comics and graphic novels can be shown in high-resolution color with Panel Views, and the company said that engineering and technical books can be created more efficiently. Cookbooks or other titles that need rich design can use embedded fonts, call-outs, sidebars, drop caps, and text on background images.
The new format will be available soon in updates to KindleGen2 and Kindle Previewer 2 publishing tools.
The recently announced Kindle Fire tablet is the first in Amazon's product line to support the new format, and the company said it will roll out support in new devices and updates to the free Kindle reading apps for non-Amazon devices. The Kindle Fire, which goes on sale Nov. 15, was launched at the end of last month.
Think of a 'Service'
The initial Fire model is a 7-inch tablet, has Wi-Fi but not 3G, no camera or microphone, and only 8 GB of memory. It comes with a 30-day free trial of Amazon Prime, the membership service that includes streaming video and free two-day shipping. The company has developed a custom interface for Android, which some observers have described as relatively easy to use.
There are reports that, within a few months, Amazon will also release a larger tablet, possibly with a 9-inch display. A common reaction among analysts is that a 7-inch display is an awkward form factor, being larger than a smartphone and harder to fit in a pocket, but not large enough for useful interaction. Some have suggested that, at $199, this Fire might be used as a second tablet for some tablet-lovers, or even as a fancier e-book reader.
In fact, it appears that Amazon's strategy is not exactly a head-to-head confrontation with Apple's iPad, but more of a sideways move that builds on its content strengths, a view which is supported by Amazon's releasing the new KF8 to advance e-publishing. In an interview with Bloomberg News Service, Amazon founder and head Jeff Bezos said his company doesn't "think of the Kindle Fire as a tablet. We think of it as a service."