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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

How to Make an Ebook: Step 6 – Creating the MOBI Ebook and Uploading toAmazon

If it wasn't for Amazon adopting this format for the Kindle, we wouldn't bother creating this file format. It is used on some other minor ereaders that have been used in the past, but when a modified version of it was adopted to use on the Kindle back in 2007, it suddenly became an important ebook format to have in one's list. Not necessarily because the "Kindle Direct Publishing" requires this format to upload a book into their service, but because if you sell directly, people can "side-load" this file onto their Kindle and read it. Between the EPUB and the MOBI formats, you are covering the main two ereaders people use most, and the bulk of non-dedicated ereader devices.

As of this writing, Amazon has recently announced their new line of Kindles, including the Kindle Fire, which is planned to be updated to use HTML5 instead of the MOBI format. It will be able to handle graphics for children's books and the like better than the MOBI format. As that develops and gets implemented, I plan on updating this book to include creating ebooks in that format. However, according to Amazon, the updated ereaders will be backwards compatible. Which means the files you create now will still be readable on the newer devices, and they will still be able to read files loaded on them in the MOBI format. For text-only books, there will be little loss to worry about updating then into the HTML5 format when it comes out.

The format that Amazon likes best is an HTML file, which can easily be exported from either Writer or Word. So the following is not necessary to do if you want to just upload to Amazon. Amazon can also take a Word file, and most report decent results from that, but it is not the preferred format and at times may create unexpected results. They list several formats they accept, which we will not go through here.

So why am I suggesting to create and use the MOBI format to upload to Amazon? Simple. You are killing two birds with one stone. One, it is very easy to create, as you will see. Two, if you are selling books from your own site, you'll want to have this one in the list a reader can download. Three, this is the native Kindle format, so there is minimal conversion for the Digital Service to do, and more assurance that how it looks as a Kindle book on your computer is how it will look on someone's Kindle when downloaded from the Kindle store. It allows you to test the file before you upload. Four, even if you don't plan on selling this ebook from your own store, it is handy to have on hand for reviewers who prefer reading books on their Kindle.

So if you do not want to create the MOBI format, and use one of the others, use "File" in the menu and "Save as" to save the file in the HTML or DOC format, and skip to the "Uploading to Amazon" section.

What You Will Need

We will be using the Calibre software to create the MOBI format. I am using the most recent version as of the date I'm writing this, which is ver. 0.8.23. If you haven't downloaded it yet, go to then download and install the version for your operating system.

To test your file, the best route is to download the Kindle app for your computer at Amazon's download page. When installed, it should associate any file ending with "mobi" or "prc" to open in the Kindle application when double-clicked.

If you haven't done so yet, you'll need to open an account with the Kindle Direct Publishing at and click the second button which says, "Sign up." Follow their instructions, and set up your bio and any other data they need.

Once that is done, you are ready to create the MOBI file.

Creating the MOBI Ebook

Open the Calibre program. Once it is up, in the top-left corner is a book icon with a plus in it labeled as "Add books." Click on that icon. It will open up a window allowing you to browse and select the file to add. Navigate to where the EPUB file was created in the last step, and select that file. When you click on "Open," Calibre will add the EPUB file to the list of books.

If you click on the second icon from the top-left, a blue circle with an "i" in the middle, it will show the metadata for the book. It should be the same information as you added when you created the EPUB file from Writer. But Calibe does have one glitch. If the description is too long, it tends to cut it off. You may need to replace the description with the full version. Click OK to save once it all looks as expected.

You are ready to create the MOBI format. With the book selected in the list, click on the third icon from the top-left, a brown book with curved up and down arrows labeled "Convert books." A window will open displaying the metadata that you saw moments before, but you will notice several tabs on the left side.

First, in the top-left corner of the window, you will see a drop-down box labeled "Input format." Make sure that says "EPUB." If it doesn't, click it and select the EPUB format. On the opposite side of the window, in the top-right, you'll see another drop down box labeled "Output format." Click that drop-down box and select "MOBI."

The default screen upon opening is the metadata and cover screen. You can also change the metadata from here as well, or check to make sure all the entries look as expected. If not, edit. If you need to change the cover, click the little computer icon on the long field labeled "Change cover" right under the cover preview area. It will open a window that allows you to find the cover file you want, and select it. But it should show up the from the added EPUB file automatically.

Click on the "Page Setup" link in the left icon bar. In the first box labeled "Output profile," change it to the "Default Output Profile." Feel free to experiment with the other profiles, but this one will create the most usable copy on any device, whether on a computer or a Kindle. And it will still be e-ink on the Kindle. The rest of the settings on this page can be left at their default settings.

The rest of the settings can stay at their defaults. One note, however. The MOBI file it creates may appear to have some missing blank lines when viewed with the PC Kindle application. However, when viewed with the Kindle device, they will appear normal, just as they do in the EPUB format. I have no idea why, or if all versions of the Kindle PC application do this (I'm using the Windows version). But I put the MOBI files on my Kindle and they appeared as expected there, even though some blank lines were missing on the PC version. But when you see that in the PC version you are using, don't worry about it or try different settings.

When you are ready to start the conversion, click the OK button at the bottom right. The window will disappear, and you'll see the circle of lines with the rotating dark area in the bottom-right corner of the window indicating it is processing the conversion. When that stops, it is done.

Now right-click on the book in the list and select "Open containing folder" from the drop down list. It should open up the directory where your book is located in your file manager. Double-click on the book, and Kindle should open up and display the book in a window. Click on the first icon on the left column that shows a pop-up label when you hover your cursor over it that says, "Table of contents." If all worked as expected, you should see a full list of the chapters in your book. Examine that to make sure it looks as expected.

Then start scrolling through your book, checking to make sure what you expect to be centered is centered, and the font and text look as you want them to, keeping in mind some blank lines may show missing here, but that is okay. It shows up correctly on the Kindle reader. Make sure page breaks happen with each chapter heading, italics is italicized where it should and not where it shouldn't, and so on.

If you have a Kindle, it is a good idea to load the file into its documents directory using the cable that came with it and take a look at the book there. You'll be able to experience how one of your readers will see and experience it on the device.

If you find you need to recreate the book, delete the book from the Kindle library first. If you don't, when you double-click the modified title, it will use the old one and you'll think you are not making any progress. Click on the "Library" button in the top-left corner. It will show a window with all your books listed. The first one should be the new book you just clicked on. Right-click on the book you wish to delete and select "Delete this book." Note: it only deletes the book from the Kindle Library. It does not delete the file created by Calibre.

If you need to make changes beyond what can be done in Calibre, like you realized you didn't italicize something you intended to do, that will mean deleting all the books formats out of Calibre, returning to the source file, making the corrections, and recreating the EPUB file, reloading into Calibre and creating the MOBI from it again. Also, unless they are massive changes, you'll want to change your "-SW" Smashwords version of the file and re-upload to Smashwords.

Once you've verified that the file is in good shape, you are ready to upload to Amazon.

Uploading to Amazon

Go to in your browser, and click the top button labeled "Sign in." Then enter your email address you used to sign up with the Kindle Direct Publishing, and your password in the second choice labeled "I am a returning customer, and my password is:" Once you click the "Sign in using our secure server" button, you'll be taken to a screen showing all your book titles with them, if any.

Under the "Kindle Direct Publishing" logo is a button labeled "Add a new title." Click that and it will take you to the screen to enter in your book. The fields here are very similar to Barnes and Noble's screens, but organized differently, except there is no place to put reviews or a bio. The main difference is you'll be uploading the MOBI formatted ebook to Kindle, or if you went another route, the DOC, HTML, or other acceptable format.

The other consideration, which we've discussed before, is if the price of your story is below their minimum, you'll have to opt for the 35% discount instead of 70%. If your book is priced at $0.99, the lowest you can go, then you'll get $0.35 for each book sold, not $0.70.

Also, Amazon has their screens divided into two pages. You'll click "Save and Continue" after uploading your book, and it will take you to the final page where you'll select the rights, price, and final related information. When you click the box stating you have the rights to publish this file (you own the copyright or have been given it by contract), then click "Publish"

It will take you back to the book list once finished. You'll see your book listed with a "processing" status. It usually, like B&N, takes around 24 to 48 hours before you'll see it on Amazon's on-sale pages. Once it is up, it is a good idea if you have friends or professional reviewers to ask them if they would put their reviews on the page.

Congratulations! Your book is now on sale at all the big online stores. At a minimum, promote your book on your website, blog, Facebook, Google+, or any other networking sites you use regularly. Then get to working on that next book.

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated in any way, shape, or form with any of the products or companies I've mentioned here, other than I've used their products and I know it works for the purposes I've used them for.  Beyond what I've said here, I am not inferring any quality or lack of quality about the  company itself or any of their other products. I am also not responsible for any loss of data or messed up files due to the reader's use of these products or attempts to follow my advice. Use at your own risk.

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