Kindle Preview: Beware

I love Amazon and I'm thrilled at all the new developments in self-publishing.  So, I was expecting to find formatting and uploading my short story collection to be a straightforward exercise.  I'd bought Amazon's own manual and followed it to the letter.  Generating the web-filtered HTML file was simple.  In fact, nothing seemed to be a problem.

Nothing, that is, until I used Kindle Select's own "online previewer."  The web instructions suggested that most authors could use this without any problem.  So, I previewed the story collection for every device.  Obviously no author wants a reader to be disappointed with formatting-- and the Table of Contents is especially critical in e-books, not to mention story collections.

The stories looked great for iPad and iPhone-- and I thought that I was off and running.  But weirdly, the previews for all Kindle devices (Kindle Fire, Kindle, Kindle Fire HD) suggested a deep problem.  One of the stories appeared with large chunks of missing text-- clearly, unacceptable in a story collection.  Also, in the Kindle (but not, mind you, in the Kindle Fire,) the Table of Contents was inert.  Bummer!

Back I went to the HTML file, and over and over, I tried to find odd code or bits that would explain why this particular story, which had been published in Danse Macabre Magazine, should be different from others.  No rhyme or reason -- the story just wouldn't behave.  I generated the file again, and again, and again.  I re-generated the Table of Contents multiple times, not an entertaining way to spend one's time.

Flash forward four days (which I may refer to as File Hell):  I wrote to Kindle Select customer service explaining my dilemma.  And lo, a cheerful email arrived that nothing was wrong my file.  Apparently Kindle's own online previewer, astonishingly, does not accurately reflect displays on Kindle Devices.  For that exercise, I needed to download the Kindle Previewer-- which I did, and found that, yes, my story collection looks fine on all Kindle devices.

My suggestion to Amazon: Why not simply have two previewers:  one for Kindle Devices (that you download), and one for non-Kindle Devices (that you can use online.)  As for authors, now that you know the problem, you can avoid File Hell.

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