From PC Pro:
I’ve finally bitten the bullet and published my own Kindle book. I’d been thinking about it for several years, cutting out PC Pro features about how to convert your work into Amazon’s MOBI format, but somehow I’d never got around to actually doing it.
. . . .
I had my content, in the shape of a short book I wrote.
. . . .
[S]o far I’d made it available only via Scribd, and on my own website in PDF form.
This meant that I already had it in a more or less publishable format: paginated, with chapter headings and subheads, a table of contents and a properly formatted bibliography. I’d done all that easily enough in Microsoft Word, using Times New Roman for body text and Arial for headings
. . . .
There’s only one game in town for doing this conversion, and that’s a free program called calibre.
. . . .
Converting my PDF produced a total dog’s breakfast. Pagination was screwed, with chapter headings halfway down pages. Subheads were indistinguishable from the main text. The contents page was spread out with one chapter per page – and its links didn’t work. Most intriguingly, every single apostrophe in the book had been replaced with a little empty box. Apart from that, it was fine.
What I hadn’t understood before is that MOBI supports only one font family per document, although it does permit bold, italics and various sizes. Bye-bye to my sans serif headings. I generated new PDFs with altered settings to no effect, then decided to dump PDF.
Calibre can’t convert DOCX files directly, so I tried outputting HTML. That paginated better, but the contents page still didn’t work, and my apostrophes were still atrophied. ODT didn’t work too well either. Finally, I tried good old RTF and it all looked good, with subheads in bold and a working contents list… but still, those bloody apostrophes.
Link to the rest at PC Pro
PG included this because the author is apparently a computer expert but is actually producing an ebook for the first time. He assumes that because he is a computer expert, that expertise should transfer to ebook file creation and the manner in which those files display on ereaders. A few years ago, PG would have made the same error.
One fairly obvious newbie error that the author made was trying to start with a PDF file to create his ebook file. Calibre warns against using PDF files as does KDP.
Calibre is a useful program and some indie authors use it for ebook conversions, but it is far from “the only game in town” for ebook conversions. There are many other ebook conversion programs. For example, PG has used Calibre but much prefers Jutoh. Many visitors to The Passive Voice love Scrivener.
Additionally, since KDP recommends uploading books in MS Word DOC or DOCX formats, it’s not clear why the author of the piece didn’t try a direct upload to solve his problems instead of fighting to get Calibre to work for him.
As to the fonts issue, older Kindles can only display Caecilia and Courier regardless of what is in the ebook file and newer Fires allow readers to select their favorite fonts in which to read their books and readers probably don’t want those changed. PG doesn’t think trying to force specific fonts is a good idea for most ebooks.
But, it’s easy to second-guess someone else’s problems and everybody’s a newbie at something. FWIW, PG has encountered a variety of problems with ebook formatting, but never with apostrophes.