11 Replies Latest reply on Sep 29, 2015 1:15 PM by WalkSlow

    Tweaking InDesign-produced fixed-layout EPUB to get a good KindleGen result? Is it even possible?

    WalkSlow

      I know we've been down this path before, and I think I've read through all of the threads on the subject, but I haven't found one yet that really digs in, and maybe someone's got some better thoughts on all of this that I do, and just maybe we can help some folks (me included) out. I know there are people way smarter about all of this than me here.

       

      We know the situation: a lot of us doing fixed-layout e-books would love to work from our InDesign file and get all of the necessary forms of our end products, including a .mobi. Douglas.Waterfall has been gracious enough to respond to so many of these discussions, and we have been told that .mobi support is low on Adobe's list of priorities. Fair enough, in my book. Likewise, I think we can all safely assume Amazon couldn't care less about this particular use case.

       

      Typically, the conversation tends to degrade at this point into a pseudo-debate about who is "responsible" for an easy solution, which I couldn't be less interested in. The fact is that in my professional life I'm faced with this situation often, and I'm probably not the only one. So I think it falls to the users—for now at least—to deal with reality. So, I've been looking for a viable workaround for a while now, and I think it's just sort of beyond my ability to figure out myself. When I crack open the sample fixed-layout from Amazon here it doesn't look all that different from any fixed-layout EPUB I've seen, aside from different entries in the OPF, different headers on the pages, etc. So it feels like it should be possible to tweak an EPUB into a state where KindleGen's output is close to the input. If it's not, maybe someone can better explain why it'll never work.

       

      Things I'd add:

       

      • Unless I'm totally missing something, I don't think CircularFlo (which I often see prescribed as a solution) does this for real. It appears to display a .jpeg of the page with the live text beneath it (so that there's searchability and whatnot, I assume.) Or am I stupid? That's definitely how the sample book I did seemed to come out.
      • Lots of other one click solutions appear to just run KindleGen.

       

      I made a little 5-page sample and exported to fixed-layout EPUB. As expected, it looks fine in iBooks:

       

      Screen Shot 2015-09-28 at 3.55.46 PM.jpg

       

      Doing nothing to it at all and running it through KindleGen, the result looks like this:

       

      Screen Shot 2015-09-28 at 3.58.08 PM.jpg

      (This screenshot is from the Kindle Previewer, but the behavior is identical on my Fire HD.)

       

      The text gets crushed together, but it's live. I at first thought maybe this is a font embedding thing I'm doing improperly. Deleting the encryption.xml file from the package, replacing the fonts, and converting the new package nets the same result.

       

      Cracking open a page's .xhtml file—this is not news to anyone—suggests that InDesign pretty much handles all of the FXL stuff by giving each word its own CSS style definitions. So just the chapter heading of "Chapter 1: Peter Breaks Though" looks like this:

       

      <p class="H1 ParaOverride-1"><span id="_idTextSpan010" class="CharOverride-4" style="position:absolute;top:0px;left:1445.12px;letter-spacing:2.52px;">CHAPTER </span><span id="_idTextSpan011" class="CharOverride-4" style="position:absolute;top:0px;left:3147.87px;">1: </span><span id="_idTextSpan012" class="CharOverride-4" style="position:absolute;top:0px;left:3538.46px;letter-spacing:1.92px;">PETER </span><span id="_idTextSpan013" class="CharOverride-4" style="position:absolute;top:0px;left:4718.88px;letter-spacing:2.31px;">BREAKS </span><span id="_idTextSpan014" class="CharOverride-4" style="position:absolute;top:0px;left:6150.92px;letter-spacing:1.95px;">THROUGH</span></p >

       

      That's not  tidy, but I don't know why the Kindle wouldn't be able to handle it. I wonder if the real problem is here, right before the actual page content begins:

       

      <body id="Test_File_for_Adobe_Forums-2" lang="en-US" xml:lang="en-US" style="width:612px;height:792px">

              <div id="_idContainer001">

                  <div style="width:9360px;height:12960px;position:absolute;top:3.97px;left:0px;-webkit-transfor m-origin: 0% 0%; -webkit-transform: rotate(0deg) scale(0.05);transform-origin: 0% 0%; transform: rotate(0deg) scale(0.05);">

       

      My guess is that maybe what's lost in translation is something about the way all of the positioning information is expressed.

       

      Maybe I'm grasping for straws. But is there any way to alter the output source of InDesign's EPUB to make it workable with KindleGen? Any superior expertise would really be appreciated. Thanks.

        • 1. Re: Tweaking InDesign-produced fixed-layout EPUB to get a good KindleGen result? Is it even possible?
          Derek Cross Level 6

          I would have thought that for the kind of content you have used as an example, you would be better producing a Reflowable Text ePub rather than a Fixed Layout ePub.

          • 2. Re: Tweaking InDesign-produced fixed-layout EPUB to get a good KindleGen result? Is it even possible?
            BobLevine MVP & Adobe Community Professional

            In addition to Derek's comment, any issues with Kindle should most certainly be made to Amazon.

            • 3. Re: Tweaking InDesign-produced fixed-layout EPUB to get a good KindleGen result? Is it even possible?
              WalkSlow Level 1

              Hey there, Derek —

               

              You're quite right, but that's not the goal here. The behavior I'm trying to understand is what happens when we have large blocks of text, which does sometimes occur in fixed-layout books—especially cookbooks. I'd love to just make every book reflowable all the time, but I have a job—with bosses and everything—that requires me to try to figure out a solution.

               

              @BobLevine, of course I've also tried to talk with Amazon, and no luck. I'd argue that it's not even entirely a "Kindle issue," but if you read my post you'll see that's not even a little bit why I posted here.

               

              So does this thread go like all the others, where nobody actually tries to offer new info and instead says either "don't do that" or "it's Amazon's problem?"

              • 4. Re: Tweaking InDesign-produced fixed-layout EPUB to get a good KindleGen result? Is it even possible?
                Derek Cross Level 6

                If you have the budget for it you could consider consulting Joshua Tallent: Contact Us | eBook Architects

                • 5. Re: Tweaking InDesign-produced fixed-layout EPUB to get a good KindleGen result? Is it even possible?
                  BobLevine MVP & Adobe Community Professional

                  You can argue that all you want…and you might even be right…but that doesn’t change the facts.

                   

                   

                   

                  FXL is new and there is very limited reader support, but there is support. iBooks is fine and Readium for Chrome is also very good. So why shouldn’t we point you to Amazon since they’re the ones taking your file that works perfectly well and turning it into something doesn’t?

                   

                   

                   

                  We offer free advice around here. Your closing remark is uncalled for. Sometimes the solution is to do something different. From the screenshot you provided there is no way I would even consider FXL for this.

                  • 6. Re: Tweaking InDesign-produced fixed-layout EPUB to get a good KindleGen result? Is it even possible?
                    WalkSlow Level 1

                    Hey again, Bob —

                     

                    Sorry if you found my response argumentative; it certainly wasn't meant that way. I'm not exactly sure why this is even a controversial topic, though, or why the kneejerk response is always "don't try to figure it out"—the goal is to take a good product and try to figure out a creative way to further extend its use. Or, alternatively, to better understand why it's not possible in a technical sense. I had thought that perhaps other people like myself would have a professional interest in learning more about a problematic workflow that there's clearly some demand for, and if I understood it better, I could even facilitate a free tool to help folks out, since Amazon is unlikely to do it themselves. I do a lot of books, and I can honestly tell you that there is definitely interest among Big Five publishers for good solutions to use everyone's favorite tool—InDesign—more fluidly with the largest online book platform. I don't think users need to beg Adobe or Amazon for a solution—I think the community is creative enough and bright enough to provide its own solutions. Obviously, I wouldn't consider FXL for a two-page sample from a novel, either. This is not a real project, but a test case to demonstrate the problem that arises when big blocks of text are present. Like I said, there is a particular demand for this sort of thing with cookbooks, which might mostly be well suited for FXL but then have introductions and whatnot that look more like my example.

                     

                    Hey, Derek —

                     

                    Thanks for pointing him out, and maybe I'll just see if he wants to have a conversation. For my part, I can make a KF8 FXL from scratch myself (as can probably most people who have asked this sort of question in the past.) The goal is to have one workflow, not multiple, of course. A paid consultation from someone who knows this stuff well and is interested in the topic just might be a great solution. I'll get in touch. Thanks.

                    • 7. Re: Tweaking InDesign-produced fixed-layout EPUB to get a good KindleGen result? Is it even possible?
                      BobLevine MVP & Adobe Community Professional

                      Again, though, that’s the idea here.

                       

                       

                       

                      Sometimes there just isn’t a way to do exactly what you want the way you want to. That’s why often times, the response to a question is a question about why it needs to be done that way. We’re trying to help here…really, but Amazon has been an issue for a long time. Their insistence on a proprietary format while everyone else is supporting EPUB speaks volumes.

                       

                       

                       

                      They haven’t updated their mobi plugin to InDesign since CS6 and even then it never got past beta. Adobe isn’t innocent here, either. There are long running bugs that need to be fixed and haven’t been and for those we need to stay on them but for Kindle, the target is squarely at Amazon.

                      • 8. Re: Tweaking InDesign-produced fixed-layout EPUB to get a good KindleGen result? Is it even possible?
                        WalkSlow Level 1

                        Completely agreed. And like I said, I'm not interested in assigning "blame" anywhere at all. Nothing is ever perfect. InDesign is wonderful, and from a business perspective I wouldn't actually expect Amazon to care about this—it affects too few people. For a few years now I've been telling people all over the country that there "isn't a way to do exactly what you want the way you want to," like you say. But the thing is, like I said back in my original post, is that I personally don't know why. I look at these books and it seems like it should be able to work with a little handholding, and I strongly suspect there's someone out there who knows better than I specifically why it breaks. It's not a question of "here's this Adobe problem that I want support for," it's more like "hey, are there other people out there who have thoughts on this rather interesting professional puzzle? Let me ask in this place with smart people who are educated about the subject." I understand that you do not think it's worthwhile (or probably possible) to pursue the line of thought, and I understand that is the majority of users here. I am hearing you, and thanks for your feedback.

                        • 9. Re: Tweaking InDesign-produced fixed-layout EPUB to get a good KindleGen result? Is it even possible?
                          BobLevine MVP & Adobe Community Professional

                          WHY? Well, that is a long running question, isn’t it?

                           

                           

                           

                          Reader support is increasing with no change to the mark up in the EPUBs. While I won’t claim to be a top expert, that fact alone points to the reader being the problem, not the EPUB.

                           

                           

                           

                          Others will probably be along to add their $0.02

                          • 10. Re: Tweaking InDesign-produced fixed-layout EPUB to get a good KindleGen result? Is it even possible?
                            Ellis home Level 4

                            I've done some experimenting using different fonts and playing a bit with open type features (ligatures). Try with Source Serif Pro, uncheck ligatures and see if you get a better result. This is by no means a solution, just a workaround to get a better result. What font are you using by the way?

                            • 11. Re: Tweaking InDesign-produced fixed-layout EPUB to get a good KindleGen result? Is it even possible?
                              WalkSlow Level 1

                              Thanks for that tip. Source Serif does work much better. There are still occasionally words oddly spaced. I too have tried a bunch of different fonts and found that some are closer to usable than others. That example was with Times New Roman. There's a hint in there somewhere—I notice that sans-serif fonts work a little better (I guess the spacing aberrations are just not as harsh), and I also notice that with a lot of fonts, lines in all-caps will be much better. Right now my best guess it that it's down to Kindle not properly handling the way InDesign's code scales everything up and then back down.