Kindle has announced it has introduced Kindle Format 8, the first step in a progression toward interactive and rich media ebooks. The new format is built on HTML5 and CSS3, rendering previously impossible or not recommended formatting now possible; this includes embedded fonts, drop caps, tables, highlighting, colored text, text-wrap, bulleted lists, and so on. It will also allow for scalable raster graphics, and more complex interactions such as pop-up text windows, paving the way for an improved experience with children’s books, graphic novels and comic books. This move brings Amazon back in pace with Apple, who were leading the way in interactive ebooks.
Before you begin to panic because you think you’ll have to reformat those ebooks already on sale, you need not worry as your ebooks will continue to work fine on the Kindle Fire and subsequent devices. Also, most indie ebooks are novels, and this development is really of greater interest to those wishing to create more complex ebooks such as cookbooks, graphic-intensive books, and non-fiction manuals with illustrations. Some of the “new” features for fiction advertised on the Format 8 page — like line spacing, indented text, and justification— are already possible, though I am keen to learn how well the indented paragraph, with both left and right margin indents, will work; whether there will be multiple indent values available, something only currently possible if you use a program such as Calibre to build your mobi files; and whether Kindle Format 8 has abandoned that wretched automatic first-line indent.
For those excited about the new format, it bears mentioning that the Kindle Format 8 is currently only supported by the Kindle Fire. Moreover, Amazon states, “…in the coming months KF8 will be rolled out to our latest generation Kindle e-ink devices as well as our free Kindle reading apps,” but this is ambiguous: does this mean only new Kindle devices that follow the Kindle Fire or will Amazon be rolling out new firmware for existing devices? If the former, this is going to make owners of older Kindle models very unhappy, and may actually encourage people to gravitate toward using tablets as ereaders rather than a dedicated device that is obsolete before you’ve finished paying off your VISA.