Ebook trials and tribulations: Fixing the Kindle Paperwhite bug

Recently, I had a “rash” of returns, 3 for Yseult and 5 for Shadow of Stone within a couple of days. I try not to let that kind of thing get to me too much, but then on one of my regular visits to the Kindle Boards, I noticed a topic entitled “Returns” and read it. One of the authors there suggested that an increase in returns might have something to do with the “Kindle Paperwhite bug” — which I had never heard of before. The post conveniently linked to another topic discussing the bug in detail.

What it amounts is that on the (relatively new) Kindle Paperwhite, encoding that was acceptable previously now leads to books displaying a fixed sans serif font that can’t be changed, either in the font face or the size.

I’d never had much problem with the formatting of my books before, but it was definitely worth looking into. So I downloaded the latest version of the Kindle Previewer and checked out Shadow of Stone, the book with the highest percentage of returns. And sure enough, my book was not Paperwhite compatible.

Argh.

The biggest problem for authors regarding the Paperwhite Bug is that Amazon refuses to acknowledge that it’s a bug, and keeps insisting it’s a feature. But from what I have been able to uncover while searching for fixes, the bug is related to the limited number of font faces on the Kindle Paperwhite. Any books which define Times New Roman as the default font, probably the most common font in the ebook world, are not supported, and thus display a fixed, sans serif font.

This does not only pertain to indie authors. Out of curiosity, I checked a number of samples of ebooks from traditional publishers using the Kindle Previewer, and about half suffered from the bug-that-is-no-bug.

Just to be perfectly clear here: Amazon never sent out any announcement to authors or publishers that coding would have to be changed to comply with the features of the Kindle Paperwhite. I only discovered that my books suffered from this “bug” by accident.

Mostly, I really love Amazon. I love them as a reader, stuck in the wilds of Central Europe, as a reader who used to have to pay about 20 German Marks ($10 give or take a few) per English paperback. Long before the additional advantages and conveniences of ebooks for me both as a reader and a writer, the Amazon bookstore made my life so much easier and more pleasant, that I find it next to impossible to join into the chorus of the “Amazon is Evil” crowd.

But they very definitely made a mistake here. Which they refuse to admit.

So on to the practical part of this blog post, how to fix the Kindle Paperwhite bug:

For those who are more versed in style sheets than I, there is an excellent summary here:

https://docs.google.com/document/pub?id=1E3vJOdiEq2qLiN8TBzgz70HuxpjMXP1-u4tnpLttzBQ

For those like me who create their ebooks using Scrivener, there is now a beta version that fixes the bug:

http://www.literatureandlatte.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=34&t=21207

Unfortunately, the Scriverner beta fixes the bug for Mobi files, but not for Epub, at least not entirely (changing font size works, but not font style). My normal ebook production process usually involves compiling the books as Epub, because I want to edit the automatically generated table of contents, which produces an entry for every single chapter. Mobi files can’t be edited. For my ridiculously long epic novels in the Pendragon Chronicles, a TOC with every chapter listed doesn’t make a lot of sense, since I want the reader to have immediate access to the glossary, the map, and the list of characters and places. With a long list consisting of nothing more than “Chapter 1, Chapter2, Chapter 3 …” the important stuff gets lost, and the reader might well not notice that I have provided maps and glossaries. So normally I get rid of the listings of individual chapters, and leave the rest.

So to keep my novels the way I wanted them, I used the following procedure:

Compile as Epub in Scrivener
Edit TOC in Sigil
Open edited Epub file in Calibre
Convert to Mobi with Calibre
Upload Mobi file to Amazon

Luckily, that was only necessary for the novels. For the short stories, novellas, and story collections, I only had to do a little bit of tweaking, export again as Mobi, and upload.

I’m not completely done with the conversions. I still have my collection The Future, Imperfect, as well as the Alaska stories to do. But since I started reconverting my books, the returns have stopped. Good news heading into the new year. 🙂

In case I don’t post again before 2013, a happy new year to all!

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2 thoughts on “Ebook trials and tribulations: Fixing the Kindle Paperwhite bug”

  1. Hi Ruth,
    For my books, I just upload my Word file, properly formatted, and always use Garamond 12, instead of TNR as my font. I noticed some time ago that TNR displays as that fixed font like you said in many Kindles. My daughter has a Kindle Touch, and on her device, my books looked like that. Amazon answered my inquiry about that saying it was a problem with Kindle touch and that they were working on it.
    Some time after, my Kindle Keyboard was updated and the same thing started to happen on it!
    So I tried with other fonts, and Garamond was the champion! It worked perfectly on all my devices, and on Kindle Previewer.

    I’m downloading the updated Kindle Previewer so I can check how my books look on Kindle Paperwhite. Crossing fingers Garamond will be good there too!

    Thanks for the heads up. As usual, your blog brings useful info for authors.
    Cheers.

    1. Glad to help. Renata! I get so much assistance on the Kindle Boards, I’m happy to pass it along. And in this brave new indie world, I’d much rather be in the camp that sticks together rather than beating each other down with crappy reviews. *g* If nothing else, I will probably live longer that way! 🙂

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