How Automated eBook Conversions go Wrong (Mobi EPUB)

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I don’t have to tell you that the ebook industry is exploding. Everyone seems to be putting out a book. Unfortunately, many of these would be authors will have problems with their ebook output they didn’t foresee, simply because they didn’t familiarize themselves with how an eReader works.

eReader Limitations

People are used to viewing HTML coded pages on a computer monitor — a Web Page. You can view, scroll, and even have the ability to see the entire document (or most of it).

eReaders, on the other hand, do not have this large screen luxury. Most have small screens, approximately the size of a mass-market paperback. Though a few have slightly larger screens, you are still limited to being able to display a small section of information at a time.

Because eReaders allow the reader to adjust the size and width of text presented, this can wreak havoc on content display — especially ebooks that rely on special formatting, such as poetry.

Table Troubles

MOBI and EPUB ebooks use HTML/XHTML coding (respectively). Every Web site utilizes a form of HTML; however, not all tags are supported by e-reader devices. In addition, automated conversion solutions can destroy the look, layout, and size of the table. Plus, due to the readers ability to increase font sizes, ‘text’ tables tend to reflow, making some content difficult to read.


Create a graphic image (JPG) of your table and insert it into your document. This will ensure the image / table display s exactly the way you intended. I no longer suggest creating graphics of tables as this makes it difficult for people with visual impairments who are using a screen reader. However, if you do have text embedded in a graphical element, be sure to use the ALT (alternate tag) element — adding all the text for the image.

Image and Style Limitations

When formatting your book, a style sheet (CSS) is created in order for the page to display properly (chapter headings, paragraph indents, etc). Amazon’s Kindle does not support all CSS styles. In turn, the Kindle displays graphics in grayscale, so use of colors will be ignored.

PDF to eBook Conversion

NEVER CONVERT FROM A PDF TO KINDLE OR EPUB. OK, perhaps I yelled it, but it needed to be stressed.

The ONLY reason you convert a PDF to MOBI or EPUB is for your personal reading. A PDF file includes coding proprietary to Adobe files, and does not convert properly.

READ: Why you Shouldn’t Convert a PDF to MOBI (Kindle) or EPUB for e-Publishing. It provides options on how to extract PDF content and put back into a word document for proper formatting and conversion.

Learning the Language

Kindle (MOBI) uses the authoring language of HTML (Hypertext Markup Language. EPUB utilizes XHTML (Extensible Hypertext Markup Language), a family of XML markup language that extend versions of HTML.


When formatting your ebook, learn the basic HTML tags and CSS styles that are compatible with ereaders in order to avoid time consuming mistakes. Your goal is to offer the best reader experience to the consumer without sacrificing quality.


Learning HTML and CSS Styles for fiction is a lot easier than you may think. Use our DIY Formatting Kit that provides DIY ebook, workbook, videos, sample pages, templates and more — available MAY 2011.


Feel free to contact us for you design, formatting and marketing needs.


    • says

      Thanks Roz, It’s nice to be ‘distracted’. Been working long hours to get our book DIY Formatting Kit for Kindle and EPUB done for next week (co-authored with Rox). Want to beta test? Let me know, would love your input. — Suzanne

  1. says

    Cool. Thanks for all the information. One question: How do I convert a section of text (a letter) to a picture so the font is preserved? Or do I need to worry about that? As I understand it Font is an issue and I like my fonts. That is the biggest reason I haven’t ePublished yet.

    • says

      You can take a screen shot of the page and save it as a JPG, which then can be placed in the document. As for retaining your font style I can understand that from a design perspective. That is one factor when I moved from Graphic Design (Brochures, etc) to the Web, that was difficult for me to accept (I’ve been a designer for 25+ years). However e-publishing is an entirely different animal and the people who use e-readers aren’t concerned about fonts. Like the Internet Web page – if you wait for the fonts to catch up with technology, you will never e-publish.

      I read a book a week, and when I read a book in a different font, it really throws me off – in fact, I don’t like it. I am used to the same serif font – it is easy on the eyes and easy to read. So, I hope you reconsider e-publishing, as it is the book quality you want to share.

  2. Alice Wonder says

    Please do not suggest creating a graphic of a table as a simple solution.
    It makes the book horrible to use for people with visual impairments who are using a screen reader.

    • says

      Alice, You are so right. This post reflected two items, taking recommended information from other sources, and my ignorance to not making books “accessible”. This is an area that is sadly overlooked in the e-book revolution, and I truly appreciate you bringing the post issue to my attention. I have revised the post. Thank you, Suzanne