Digital Comics: Formatting Your Comic for the Kindle

As I mentioned in my post about our downloads from 2010, Kindle downloads were our 3rd most popular format, after the Nook (here’s more about Nook formatting) and Comixology.

So I figured I’d cover how we created issues of IN MAPS & LEGENDS for the Kindle as well. Relax — Kindle formatting is WAY easier than Nook formatting. Just wanted to get that outta the way first.

While Amazon’s Kindle was the breakthrough ereader in many ways, its biggest drawback for comics creators is that it only displays in black and white. Urgh!

However, Amazon provides a handful of free, downloadable Kindle apps that let you read Kindle ebooks without actually buying a Kindle.

And guess what? Your comic will be in COLOR on those apps.

So, Let’s Get to the Details!

The Kindle uses files in .mobi file format, but fortunately the Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (formerly known as Amazon’s Digital Text Platform, or DTP) lets you upload a ZIP file with all the relevant files in it. These files include:

  • A single HTML page with some navigation on it
  • A set of JPG files, one for each page of your comic; each page should be sized at 525×640 for best reading on the Kindle screen

    UPDATE, 3/13/2013: For newer Kindle devices like the Fire and HD, you may want to try formatting your pages to 600 x 1024. For more info, see this excellent blog post by Manga & Mascara

You’ll also need a hi-resolution TIF file of your cover, which you’ll upload as part of the new book creation process at the Amazon system.

Some tips about the JPG files, including the following from Alex de Campi’s excellent tutorial over at Bleeding Cool:

I strongly suggest only one image per page, and I use 525×640 greyscale images. When done, zip up the file, and upload it to the Amazon DTP. Easy-squeezy! Of course it’s up to you to sort out your panels/lettering/page cutdowns so they’re legible at 525×640 pixels and in black and white… so not so great for superhero-style comics. Note also, if you name your image files something OTHER than screen001.jpg, screen002.jpg etc (with the cover as screen001.jpg) you will have to go through and change all the IMG tags in the main HTML

I’d just add to NOT use the greyscale images as Alex suggests above, but use the color images instead, for people using the Kindle apps instead of the Kindle itself to read your comic.

Artist Niki Smith does some more tweaking with the IN MAPS & LEGENDS graphic files. Here’s what she does, in her own words:

Our pages are a different dimension than the Kindle screens. So I resize all the files so they’re 640 pixels tall, then I “adjust canvas size” in Photoshop and add in pillarboxes so that they come to the final recommended Kindle size of 525 pixels wide. This ensures that the images will be centered on the ereaders, rather than being adhered to one side.  Not sure if you want to mention it, but I also boost the contrast a bit, so that it doesn’t look muddy on greyscale e-ink readers. I don’t have to really do any measurements… Photoshop automatically calculates it when I tell it what I want the final measurements to be! I also made Photoshop “actions” to do all of this for me automatically for each issue.

UPDATE, 3/13/2013: Again, for newer Kindle devices like the Fire and HD, you may want to try formatting your pages to 600 x 1024.

NOTE: Just like with the Nook, you may want to  increase the size of your lettering in balloons and captions to ensure the words are legible on the Kindle’s screen.

So do some tweaking with the graphics for your own comic until you have the graphics the way you like ‘em, and then slap them into…

Our Kindle ZIP Template

As I did with the Nook, I’m sharing a ZIP template to help you get rolling. You can snag a template by emailing me at mjasper@gmail.com, or you can download the KindleTemplate.doc file to your hard drive. Just be sure to change the “.doc” to “.zip” at the end of the file name — WordPress won’t allow me to add a .zip file as a file download.

Once again, we owe huge thanks to Alex de Campi — our KindleTemplate.zip is based on the ZIP file she created and shared for her wonderful digital comic VALENTINE.  So send her some thanks by downloading all nine issues of VALENTINE, mmkay?

To create a Kindle ebook file using KindleTemplate.zip :

  1. Open KindleTemplate.zip and check out the contents — an HTML page and 3 sample JPG pages from the comic.
  2. Replace the three JPG pages of our comic with all the pages of your comic.
  3. Make sure the JPG file names match the screen001.jpg naming structure (or change the HTML code in IMAL_01.html from the ZIP file).
  4. Edit the HTML file from the ZIP file as needed:
    1. Tweak the Table of Contents info to fit the pages of your comic.
    2. Edit the <img src> info so it matches the number and names of your JPG files. You should be able to figure out the pattern for the pages even if you don’t know HTML.
    3. Rename the Table of Contents with your comic’s title.
  5. Test your ZIP file by extracting it and making sure the JPGs display properly.
  6. Sign up for Amazon’s Kindle Direct Program and upload your ZIP file and TIF cover file!
  7. For your next issue, simply rename your ZIP file and repeat the process of replacing the JPG images and updating the HTML file (if needed) for that issue.

Boom.  That’s It.

I hope this makes the process for getting your comic onto the Kindle easier. Just let me know one way or the other by leaving a note in the Comments, below. Feel free to share this page with other comics creators.

As always, if you wanna say thanks, you can  buy an issue of IN MAPS & LEGENDS in a format of your choice. Issue 4 hits the digital newsstands on Wednesday, February 2nd. Thanks!

For more information about formatting for the Kindle as well as the Nook, check out our ebook, Formatting Comics for the Kindle and Nook.

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46 thoughts on “Digital Comics: Formatting Your Comic for the Kindle

  1. Pingback: Link: Creating Digital Comics for Kindle « 3 Million Years

  2. Clash

    Thanks, as it really helped! I’m on my phone right now, but I can’t wait to get home and see if I can follow all the directions; but instead of sending the zip to DTP, I’m gonna try to put it on my kindle directly. Thanks again and please forgive me for any typos.

    Reply
  3. Josh

    Michael, thank you very much for this article. I found it incredibly helpful!
    I hope you don’t mind a related question. You and Niki mention resizing your existing comic to fit into a Kindle dimension. I’m wondering what your original page dimension is that you are resizing from? If this answer is posted somewhere else on your blog or Niki’s, I apologize for missing it.

    Reply
    1. Michael Jasper Post author

      Hi Josh — nope, that info isn’t in the book (I just checked!). I’ll have to ask Niki about the size of her originals, and she’s out of the country ’til the end of May. Remind me at the end of the month if I haven’t gotten in touch with ya. :)

      Reply
  4. Martin Jackson

    I am so happy I ran across this post because I was looking for what is the best way to format my comic for the kindle.

    Thank you so much.

    I assume going down to 525×640 pixels not only allows the image to fit on screen but makes the file size small enough to be under or at the max size the kindle says they allow.

    Reply
  5. Pingback: Formatting Comics For The Kindle The

    1. Michael Jasper Post author

      Hi Devakrishn – we don’t really talk about codes here, but we do have them wit the Nook template. Those come early in the XML file, and there’s no

      or tags in the XML file.

      Here’s what the start of our .html file looks like:

      etc

      – Please let me know if that didn’t answer your question. Thanks!

      Reply
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  7. Nick Albertis

    Hi Michael
    Great article, congrats.
    Only one question, on image resolution: when you format images to fit the 525×640pxs size what resolution do you choose? 72dpis? Or larger (meaning the 300dpi classic print image)?
    Does image resolution count on kindle cartoon book?
    Thanks
    Nick

    Reply
  8. JesseT

    I had been using Google Docs until I read your post – Google doesn’t output the cleanest html for converting to Kindle books but it did it in a pinch and I already had so much content on Google docs – and other open source tools – to publish my comics.

    Thanks for the tips – I love that I have barely done any real promotion by comparison to some people for my Kindle Books and sold as many there as the competing digital publishers. Amazon just has those numbers and eyeballs.

    Hopefully a software update to Kindles will make it possible to actually embed layers for type something like CSS layers or HTML or even something Flash like to prevent the eventual downgrading of readable type – which I find the biggest problem.

    Most of my main books are black and white which is why I went with Kindle in the first place – I figured they wouldn’t suffer as much – but color (with the Kindle Fire) beckons.

    Thanks again – have fun out there!

    Reply
    1. Michael Jasper Post author

      Hmmm… Is your comic short? For our 22-page comic, the preview at Amazon (the Look Inside feature) only shows 3 pages. I don’t know how you could set this — you may want to just click the Feedback link to let them know, or contact Support. Sorry I can’t help you more!

      Reply
    2. JesseT

      I wonder if there are properly formatted page breaks in your HTML? I am guessing that without seeing your files but it could be that the Kindle previewing system thinks your book consists of only one page? Maybe a missing tag at the beginning or end? Sorry to jump in here but it’s happened in other programs I used where a missing tag was spitting out the file as one huge page.

      Reply
  9. JesseT

    Most of the software I use conforms to using the full “” style
    “” symbols might be getting parsed a little weird and breaking the page flow. Hope that helps. I am not the greatest HTML coder but I did notice problems in my HTML early on.

    Reply
  10. JesseT

    Ah – hmmm – I guess those symbols are blocked in the posts – but I am sorry I didn’t realize that until I saw my post as well – I wish I could be more help – I would definitely try Michael’s advice and try contacting someone in support at Amazon (or try re-uploading) because your syntax looks right to me. If you send me a copy of your HTML I might be able to take a look at it – though past the pagebreak syntax I am not sure what help I can be (click my profile name – should take you to my website).

    Reply
  11. Mr Thomas Biechlin

    yes thank you both for your help this is what Amazon told me try not to laugh.
    “Hello,

    I checked our records and was able to replicate the issue you’re referring to where in the look inside feature is reflecting almost the complete content.

    Upon verifying, I was able to confirm that the look inside the book feature is not reflecting the complete content, instead a certain portion of your book. I verified and see that your content majorly contains images within the book, which is why you see the majority of the book when previewed.

    We’re unable to change the amount of content that can be made available for a Kindle sample book. It is generated automatically, and represents approximately 10% of the book’s content.

    I hope this helps. Thanks for using Amazon KDP.”

    Reply
      1. Michael Jasper Post author

        Ugh. Sorry about that. Maybe try a fresh start, following the steps above. Are you saving each page as a separate file?

        Also, it could be that Amazon has changed their conversion process on us in the time that’s passed since I wrote this blog a year ago…

        Sorry! Wish I had better news for you as well. It sucks that Amazon is essentially giving your comic away.

      2. Michael Jasper Post author

        Okay — looks like it was a bad HTML tag — you were using a line break code “
        ” instead of a page break code “” (I hope those brackets display properly…)

  12. JNunes

    Hi Michael
    Just sent you an email
    Why do you put the table of contents in the end, after the cartoons? (in the template, I mean)
    Thanks!
    J

    Reply
    1. Michael Jasper Post author

      Here’s Niki’s response (she handles the graphics and the Toc):

      We do have the Table of Contents at the end in our template, because Kindles and other e-readers have a simple button click to access the TOC, so it doesn’t really matter where it goes. You’re welcome to rearrange the template however you’d like, though. Just open the .html file in Notepad or TextEdit and put the TOC before the image listings.

      Reply
      1. JNunes

        Thank you, Mike
        I just did that, but left the TOC at the end, after all. Because of the Inside look preview.
        I just sent you an email, can you take a look?
        Book is now live, thanks to your fantastic help.

      2. Michael Jasper Post author

        Hi Jose! Your book looks great on my Kindle Touch, as well as my Kindle app on my iPhone. I emailed you screen shots of the cover and the Table of Contents. Fun book!

  13. JNunes

    I’m having the same problem as MrThomas Biechlin : the Look Inside preview is showing the whole book. And I’m getting duplicated covers: the one uploaded as cover and the one in the template. Need some guidance, here…

    Reply
  14. Michael Jasper Post author

    About the repeated cover — if you already included the cover in with your ZIP file, then uncheck this option in step 4 of the KDP process: “the book cover inside your book” (otherwise the KDP system will use your uploaded cover twice).

    As for the Look Inside showing your whole book, I’m still checking out your HTML code, which looks fine. I’d contact Amazon Support and let them know in the meantime… It COULD just be a glitch.

    Reply
  15. JNunes

    Regarding the look inside preview bug, I’m inclined to think that it has to do with the TOC, as I was indexing all the pages in the TOC, linking all cartoons to it’s one page.
    That is not the way a text book works, where you have several pages indexed in TOC with content pages in between them. I figure if the Look inside algo try to show the first 3 / 4 pages of first chapter after reading the 1ª page in TOC and don’t finds anything but the 2ª page indexed in TOC goes to 3rd page and so on til the end of the book, resulting in showing the whole book. Thinking in terms of reverse engineering the process this can make sense.
    I just uploaded a new version with a few pages (14) indexed in TOC, like the normal text books have. Let’s see if it works. Besides that, all is O.k. with the template, with proper page breaks, etc.
    Or it could be just a glitch, as you say. Bad glitch, bad…

    Reply
  16. tonykelektro

    I tried making an ebook using the Kindle template, but because Amazon’s service converts ZIP files to MOBI, it ended up compressing and creating horrible artifacts in my images, which I just couldn’t let anyone pay for at any price. However, I had better luck with the EPUB template, and I’m hoping that my first ebook goes live on Barnes & Noble’s site in the next day or so. Thanks for the blog post on how to format this.

    Reply
  17. Steve

    Thanks for the great article. I’ve been having trouble figuring out the best image size for the multiple devices (kindle, iPad, kindle fire, etc). How does the 525×640 image size appear in the Kindle iPad app? Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Michael Jasper Post author

      Hi Steve. We chose that size because it fits on all devices consistently. We haven’t tested the various apps on their non-native readers, like the Kindle app on the iPad. I’m afraid that way lies madness. We’d never get it right for every combination! That’s why we have an iBookstore version for the iPad.

      Reply

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