Amazon’s new full-color Kindle Fire tablet will arrive next month and with it will come a new e-book format that uses web standards to take advantage of the Fire’s new and improved features.
The new format, Kindle Format 8 (KF8), uses HTML5, CSS 3 formatting rules, embedded custom fonts and SVG graphics to create a richer toolset for book designers. It also means that if you can build a website, you can build a book.
KF8 isn’t the first e-book format to use HTML under the hood. Both EPUB and Mobi — the current Kindle format — are both built on HTML, but KF8 will be the first to embrace nearly all of HTML5 and its associated tools like CSS 3 and SVG.
With KF8 e-book designers can use the same tools web designers have long relied on to handle richer layout options like sidebars, pull quotes, callouts and other common print design elements that don’t translate well to the limited options of current e-book formats. The new tools will be particularly useful for creating better visuals in children’s e-books and graphic novels.
Interestingly, by making it possible to create e-books using the same tools you’d use to create a website, Amazon may be inadvertently making the web the new home of e-books. So far Amazon hasn’t released many specifics surrounding its KF8 format, but if KF8 is essentially a wrapper around HTML5 and CSS 3 then presumably it won’t be too hard to strip away that wrapper. What would be left behind will likely be a “e-book” that’s really just a single page of HTML and CSS — perfect for the web.
When browsers begin to support tools like the proposed Generated Content for Paged Media specification, it will likely be just as easy to markup and release the raw HTML version of an e-book — and let the browser paginate and format it — as it is to put it in Amazon’s storefront where the Kindle can paginate and format it.
Whether or not such an easy dual publishing route is actually possible will be clearer when Amazon releases its updated Kindle Publisher Tools. Amazon hasn’t set a date yet, but you can sign up to be notified when the new tools are available.
Amazon’s Kindle Fire will be the first Kindle to support the new KF8 format, but according to Amazon support for KF8 in the new e-ink Kindles and the various Kindle apps will be added “in coming months.”