Why are we talking about saving and testing your Kindle book before you’ve even started formatting it? Because while you’re tinkering with the ebook’s formatting in Word, you’re going to want to see how the formatting changes you’ve made actually look on a Kindle. Is your text size big enough? Are the images the right size? How does that paragraph spacing look? Those are the kinds of things you’ll want to check and test long before uploading the final version of your book to Amazon for publication.
Saving and packaging
To save your document as you’re working on it, just save like you normally would; that is, click the save icon or go to File > Save. Word is pretty good at autosaving, but frequently saving manually is still a good habit to have.
If you want to test your book to see how the formatting looks on a Kindle—or if you’re ready to upload the final version of your book to Amazon—you’ll have to save your ebook in a different way, and it’s very important that you save that way. While you can upload a regular .doc file to Amazon, the formatting will be a bit messed up. The video below (2:00 in length) shows the correct way to save and package your file for testing or final publication purposes.
Above: Properly saving and packaging your ebook [2:00]
Uploading and converting
To see what your ebook will look like on a real Kindle or on one of the Kindle emulators, you’ll need to first convert your saved file into the format that Kindles read. This is a .mobi file. Amazon does this conversion for free, and it’s fast and easy to do.
First, you’ll need to go to http://kdp.amazon.com. This is Amazon’s self-publishing portal. It’s where you go to upload your books, publish them, check sales numbers, and do anything else associated with your ebooks. Go there and sign in or sign up. You sign in with your Amazon account. If you’ve never signed in to KDP before, you may need to fill out some additional information. Do whatever it is you are prompted to do to complete the creation of a KDP account.
Once your account has been created and you’ve logged in to KDP, navigate to the Bookshelf page if you aren’t there already and click the orange Add New Title button.
Again, if this is your first time logging in to KDP, you may have to fill out additional information (like your address, etc.) before you see these options.
Note that clicking the Add New Title button doesn’t commit you to publishing a book right away—you’re just temporarily using the Add New Title page to convert your book files into Amazon’s .mobi format for testing purposes.
Once you’ve clicked the Add New Title button and are on the next page, scroll down to the Upload Your Book File section (it’s at the bottom of the page). Choose to either enable or disable DRM (I personally always disable it), and then click the Browse for Book button. Find the file you want to upload—which will be the .htm file if your book doesn’t have images, or the Archive.zip file if your book does have images—and then click the Upload Book button. The uploading process can take up to a few minutes, depending on how big your book’s file size is. Note that KDP has a 50 MB file size limit. If your ebook is larger than 50 MB, it will not upload.
If you do have a book cover ready, you can upload that before you upload the book itself, though a cover isn’t necessary to get the final Kindle file that you can test and preview. When you upload your book the final time—that is, when you’re getting ready to publish it on Amazon—you will, of course, definitely need to upload a cover along with your book. Also, when you’re just uploading your book to test or preview it, you don’t have to enter in any of the other information on the page. Just upload the file and you’re good to go.
Once your book is uploaded, there are a few different ways to preview and test it, and each one of those is covered below.
3 ways to preview and test your book
There are a few different ways to test or preview your Kindle book to see what it looks like once you’ve uploaded your file, and you should test it using as many of these methods as possible. For reasons known only to Amazon, the same book can actually look slightly different on different devices, so it’s good to test using different methods to make sure everything looks OK on as many devices as possible.
Once the book has been uploaded and converted, scroll down further to the Preview Your Book area. Now, there are basically three different ways to preview your book and test it to make sure everything looks right:
- Use the Online Previewer right there on the book’s KDP page.
- Download the book file and use Amazon’s free Kindle Previewer software to view the book on your computer.
- Download the book file and send it to your Kindle or device that has the Kindle app installed.
We’ll look into each one of these separately in more depth below.
1. Previewing and testing using KDP’s Online Previewer
After you’ve uploaded your book through KDP, you can preview it right there in your browser. In the Preview Your Book section (which will appear after you’ve uploaded your book), click the Preview Book button next to where it says Online Previewer.
The video below (1:20 in length) gives you a brief overview of the Online Previewer.
Above: Using the Online Previewer [1:20]
2. Previewing and testing using Amazon’s Kindle Previewer and Kindle desktop software
Another way to see what your book looks like after you’ve uploaded it is to view it in Amazon’s free Kindle Previewer software. It’s a free app that you download onto your computer. Kindle Previewer is currently compatible with Windows XP, Vista, and 7, and Macs with at least OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard).
After you’ve uploaded your book’s file and it’s been converted on the Add New Title page, scroll down to the bottom of the page and click the Download Book Preview File link. This will download the .mobi file, which is the file format that Kindles read. It’s also the file that you will open up in Kindle Previewer.
Once you’ve downloaded and installed Kindle Previewer, watch the video below (1:50 in length). It runs you through how to use the app.
Above: Using Kindle Previewer [1:50]
You also have the option to open up your book in the Kindle for Mac or Kindle for PC programs. This is the official Kindle reading app for desktops and laptops, and is the program you’d use if you wanted to read on your computer (offline) the regular Kindle books that you’ve purchased from Amazon. To view your book in the Kindle for Mac app, you first need to have the app installed (duh). Once it’s installed and open, you can go to View and then select Open for Kindle in Mac. That will open up the book, and you’ll have options to do things like change text size and go to locations within the book.
You can also email the .mobi file to a special email address associated with the Kindle desktop app, and that is covered in the section below about using your Kindle or mobile device with the Kindle app.
3. Previewing and testing using your Kindle or mobile device with the Kindle app
Another way to see how your ebook looks is to actually put it on your Kindle or device like a smartphone or tablet that has Amazon’s free Kindle app installed. The easiest way to do this is to email it to your device using its Send-to-Kindle email address. You can find information on how to do that here.
Once you’ve set up an email address for your device, download the converted book preview file from the KDP page where you uploaded your book. Then send that file (it’ll be a .mobi file) as an attachment to the Send-to-Kindle email address. The Send-to-Kindle service is free if you download the file on your Kindle or device using Wi-Fi. If you have a Whispernet-enabled Kindle (Whispernet is just Amazon’s fancy way of saying 3G), then you can download the file without a Wi-Fi connection as long as you have a 3G connection. Delivery via Whispernet does cost money, though—currently $0.15 per megabyte in the US and $0.99 per megabyte outside of the US. (You can find more information on these fees here.) If you want to make sure that you are never charged, you can set the amount you want to spend to $0 (see the Setting your Personal Document Charge Limit section on this page), or email the file to [your_username]@free.kindle.com.
Once you’ve got all of that configured and have emailed the .mobi file as an attachment to the email address you’ve set up, open up your Kindle or Kindle app (this actually works on computers that have the Kindle reading app installed, too) and refresh or sync the Kindle. Depending on which device you have, your ebook will show up either with all of the other books you have, or in the Documents tab/section on your device (as opposed to the Books tab or section).
If you have a Kindle or Kindle Fire device (and not a tablet or smart phone running the Kindle reading app), you can also plug the device into your computer and manually transfer the .mobi file. See this Transferring Files Via USB page for more information. If you don’t have a Kindle or Kindle Fire but do have one of Apple’s iOS devices, you can manually add Kindle documents to an iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch via iTunes.