How to Use Amazon’s New KINDLE TEXTBOOK CREATOR (Tutorial)

KTC

KINDLE TEXTBOOK CREATOR

Amazon just released a new FREE self-publishing tool for Kindle, called the Kindle Textbook Creator (KTC).

  • Press release: (It actually mentions my name. So cool!) It’s worth reading as it describes how e-textbooks can help with highlighting, notes, flashcards, dictionary look-up, and portability of the book. These are features that students may appreciate (and so being aware of them may help you sell your book).
  • Kindle Textbook Creator homepage: This is where you can download the free tool and learn about system requirements. You can find FAQ at the bottom, too.
  • KDP EDU: This is a new site that KDP launched specifically for educators. It’s a lead-in to the Kindle Textbook Creator.

The new Kindle Textbook Creator creates a print replica file. Print replica is a basic fixed format designed to preserve the layout of a print book with a rich format.

Print replica is becoming increasingly popular among e-textbooks because it is a convenient way to reformat a richly formatted textbook for Kindle.

Textbooks often have numerous equations, diagrams, multiple columns, footnotes, and many other rich formatting features.

While reflowable Kindle e-books are better, in general, it can be a very tedious—or costly, if you hire a professional conversion service—for a richly formatted textbook.

The Kindle Textbook Creator makes it quick, convenient, and easy to convert a textbook to Kindle format. Regarding the conversion process itself, this tool is like waving a magic wand. There is virtually nothing to do. (But my free tutorial, in this article, will show you exactly what to do.)

I had the opportunity to beta-test this tool before it was released. I’ve also already published two books with this tool and have more in the works.

Want to jump straight to the tutorial? Scroll down and you’ll find it. It should be pretty easy to find if you scroll far enough. Look for the heading, Kindle Textbook Creator Tutorial.

WHAT DOES THE KINDLE TEXTBOOK CREATOR DO?

It creates a fixed format book, called print replica, for select Kindle devices.

The Kindle Textbook Creator also makes it super easy to convert textbooks to Kindle format. It really doesn’t get any easier than this. I’ve used many different tools and converted by hand, but I’ve never seen anything so simple when it comes to Kindle conversions.

What’s more amazing is that it’s designed to convert PDF files to Kindle format. PDF files are infamous for difficult conversion to reflowable format, but convert very well and easily to print replica format with the Kindle Textbook Creator. This is perfect for richly formatted print books. Just open the PDF file in the Kindle Textbook Creator and be amazed at how easily it converts to print replica format.

It only works on devices that support pinch-and-zoom (which I believe all happen to be color): Kindle Fire, Kindle Fire HDX, iPad, Android tablets, and smart phones. It will also work on PC’s and Macs.

The pinch-and-zoom feature is the key: If you simply turned each page of a print book into a picture and uploaded those images, the Kindle e-book would be very difficult to read on most devices. Pinch-and-zoom allows the user to zoom in up to 400%, and then use a finger to scroll around on the page. This way, the Kindle e-book functions sort of like reading the printed version of the book.

Since e-books created with the Kindle Textbook Creator will only work on devices that support pinch-and-zoom, by using this tool you can prevent customers from buying your richly formatted e-book from devices where the reading experience would be most challenging.

BENEFITS OF THE KINDLE TEXTBOOK CREATOR

  • Convenience. Convert your richly formatted book to print replica format for Kindle very quickly and very easily. It easily gets five stars for convenience.
  • Easy preview. This tool has a built-in preview. You don’t even have to upload your book to KDP to preview it on each device. That’s awesome!
  • PDF friendly. That’s right. Kindle usually isn’t PDF friendly, but the Kindle Textbook Creator is effective and efficient at creating a print replica format from a PDF file.
  • No HTML needed. Ordinarily, you would need to know HTML and CSS to create a fixed format book. This tool allows anyone to create a Kindle book from a PDF file without any HTML knowledge.
  • Layout control. If you have a richly formatted print layout that you’d like to preserve with the Kindle edition, this tool will preserve that layout for you.
  • Rich formatting. If you have rich formatting that you don’t want to lose in the conversion to Kindle, this tool will keep that for you, too.
  • Vertical centering. It vertically centers each page on the Kindle device automatically. (You can’t do this by uploading a Word document to KDP. You would have to work with HTML, and separate that into HTML pages, or convert to epub which does the same.)
  • Targeted devices. Books converted with the Kindle Textbook Creator only work on devices that have pinch-and-zoom and support color, so if you have a book that you don’t want to be read on black-and-white devices or which don’t support pinch-and-zoom, this is one way to target just devices with pinch-and-zoom.
  • Navigation. This tool supports navigation from the Kindle menu. In Word, for example, you can use bookmarks (Insert > Bookmark) to add navigation; be sure that this functionality is maintained in the conversion to PDF. Note: Bookmarks and hyperlinks won’t be clickable in a book made with the Kindle Textbook Creator. Rather, the bookmarks from your PDF will translate into chapters in the Kindle menu, i.e. inserting those bookmarks adds navigation from the Kindle menu. Update: The latest version of the Kindle Textbook Creator now supports hyperlinks (provided that you upload a PDF with fully functional hyperlinks).
  • PowerPoints & more. PowerPoints (popular with educators, for example) can now conveniently be converted to Kindle format. Just save as PDF first (you can even Insert > Bookmark to add navigation for the NCX). Formats that didn’t convert easily or well to Kindle format in the past can now be converted with ease.
  • Amazon now lets you insert audio and video with the Kindle Textbook Creator.

DRAWBACKS OF THE KINDLE TEXTBOOK CREATOR

  • Digital features. You can’t add pop-up text or hyperlinks. If you want clickable links, you must use a reflowable format (or use HTML and CSS to create a fixed format book, which is a lot more work). Update: The latest version of the Kindle Textbook Creator now supports hyperlinks (provided that you upload a PDF with fully functional hyperlinks). If you want pop-up text, an alternative is Amazon’s free Kindle Kids’ Book Creator tool. (However, the full launch will include additional features, such as audio and video. See the FAQ on the KTC homepage for more info. But interactivity doesn’t appear to be on the near horizon.) The Kindle Kids’ Book Creator also has an HTML view mode, which allows you to edit the HTML. The Kindle Textbook Creator doesn’t presently allow you to use HTML (its goal is to provide a convenient solution for those who wish to avoid learning HTML). Amazon now lets you insert audio and video with the Kindle Textbook Creator.
  • Fixed font size. Unlike reflowable e-books, the user won’t be able to adjust the font size. Most print books’ pages would have unreadable text if viewed with a Kindle device or tablet or cell phone. This will force the customer to pinch-and-zoom, then scroll around, to read the text. It’s not the ideal reading experience, especially if there are numerous pages of text that will likely be read while zoomed in and scrolling. You have to weigh the pros with the cons. (Or you could make a very large version of your print edition and simply convert that instead.)
  • No Look Inside. Yet. It may be coming soon. Presently, books created with the Kindle Textbook Creator don’t show a Look Inside. However, I’ve been told that this feature is coming. In the meantime, customers can still try a free sample from Kindle Fire devices. And if you have a print edition, once the Kindle and print product pages link together (this is automatic if the title, subtitle, and author names match exactly in spelling and punctuation; but if they don’t link, visit Kindle Direct Publishing and use the Contact Us option), customers can simply visit the print edition’s product page to see inside. Update: As of December, 2015, KTC published books are beginning to generate an automatic Look Inside for the Kindle edition.
  • Limited devices. Your e-book won’t work on devices that don’t support pinch-and-zoom. It won’t work on Kindle e-Ink devices. If you go to the trouble to convert your book to reflowable format, it will be available on more devices, which widens your market.
  • Text-based. If your book is primarily text-based, like a novel, the Kindle Textbook Creator is not for you. Create a simple reflowable format instead. If you have equations, charts, graphs, or other features that make the formatting more complex and you’d like a simple, efficient solution to preserving those features, then the Kindle Textbook Creator is for you.

KINDLE PACKAGE FORMAT

The Kindle Textbook Creator doesn’t export a .mobi format. It exports .kpf format, short for Kindle Package Format.

You can only upload .kpf files directly to Kindle Direct Publishing. You can’t publish them elsewhere (not even at Amazon Vendor Central).

Kindle Direct Publishing will accept your .kpf file when you upload it. It won’t let you export this as HTML or download it as a .mobi file after conversion. (So if you were hoping to get the result as a .mobi file and then look at the .mobi file with Calibre, for example, well, it won’t be so simple. All you get is .kpf. Also, the terms and conditions prohibit you from publishing KTC-created e-book with another platform besides Kindle.)

Note that the only input format accepted is PDF. Most print books require PDF format, so for most authors who have already published a print book, this shouldn’t be a problem. However, it’s very easy to convert Word or other formats to PDF. For example, Word 2007 and up have built-in Save As PDF features, and there are many free PDF converters available on the web (but have a good anti-virus program and find software from trusted sources and get it straight from the source).

SHOULD YOU USE THE KINDLE TEXTBOOK CREATOR?

That depends on the nature of your book and what your needs are.

Consider these questions to aid your decision:

  • Do you have a textbook, supplemental educational materials, a PowerPoint, or other book with a richly formatted layout?
  • Do you want a very quick and easy (and FREE) way to convert to Kindle?
  • Do you mind if the book will only be available on devices that support pinch-and-zoom?
  • Do you mind not having pop-up text?
  • Does your book have features like equations, charts, graphs, or rich formatting features, or does it consist mostly of text?
  • Do you want the option to insert audio or video?

It suits these kinds of books well:

  • Textbooks. Especially complex ones with many diagrams, equations, and rich layout or formatting.
  • PowerPoints. This is great for educators who wish to convert their PowerPoint lectures to digital books. (You may first want to change the aspect ratio. Not necessarily, but worth considering. A 3:4 aspect ratio is probably close enough.)
  • Supplemental educational materials that wouldn’t format well as (or easily be converted to) reflowable Kindle e-books, such as course notes or study guides.
  • Amazon now lets you insert audio and video with the Kindle Textbook Creator.
  • Other print books with a rich layout or formatting, except as noted below.

It doesn’t suit these types of books:

  • A novel. You should definitely make a reflowable book instead. That’s pretty simple for a basic novel. I have a detailed FREE tutorial on how to do that here.
  • An illustrated children’s book. Consider the free Kindle Kids’ Book Creator tool.
  • A comic book. Consider the free Kindle Comic Creator.
  • Mostly text. If your book mostly consist of text, make a reflowable book instead. That’s pretty easy for a book that mostly consists of text.

WHAT’S THE BEST WAY TO FORMAT YOUR KINDLE E-BOOK?

The optimal way to format a Kindle e-book involves using HTML and CSS in either a reflowable format or a fixed format. Reflowable is generally best, except for books that really require a fixed layout.

But just using HTML and CSS doesn’t guarantee that a Kindle e-book will be formatted well. There is a formatting art to sizing images best and for designing a good layout for a Kindle e-book. And if you really want the book to look optimal on all devices, you can use media queries. It can get complex, and it’s not easy to pull off.

It’s like printed books. Typographers know about kerning, widows, orphans, tracking, scaling, and a host of tricks for optimal formatting. The art of typography, whether printed or digital, can get highly complex, and very tedious to implement if you go all-out.

If you just stick with the basics, formatting can be much simpler and the results can still be pretty good. If you try to implement the advanced techniques without really mastering the art, it’s also possible to do more harm than good.

Print or digital, you can get pretty good results yourself, without too much effort, by learning and applying basic principles. This saves time, effort, learning, and expense (as professional conversions can be pricey).

What the Kindle Textbook Creator does is provide a FREE, convenient, and quick way to convert a PDF into a Kindle e-book. It’s not designed to be the Cadillac of book formatting. But it’s such a simple tool to use, it would only take a few minutes to find out if it suits your needs.

If you have a simple book like a novel, you should take a few minutes to learn how to format that as a reflowable format in order to provide a much better reading experience for novels. If you have a textbook or richly formatted book, the Kindle Textbook Creator is a simple solution for PDF to Kindle conversions (whereas other methods of converting PDF to Kindle, such as a direct upload to KDP, often don’t translate well to Kindle).

Do you have compelling reason to expect numerous sales? If so, investing time or money to create a professional reflowable design may pay dividends down the road. For books where sales may be scarce, or where you don’t know what to expect, it might not be worth the risk. You’d hate to pour weeks into formatting or hundreds of dollars into professional conversion only to see dismal sales. Using a free tool reduces this risk.

Here is another way to look at it: The Kindle Textbook Creator lets you quickly and easily produce a digital version of an educational text, so that you can spend more time writing and less time formatting.

Also, see my tips toward the end of this article for improved formatting and marketing with books created by the Kindle Textbook Creator. (But if you’re interested in reflowable layout, check out my free tutorial. If you want to use advanced HTML and CSS features, you’ll need to supplement that with an HTML tutorial from Google.)

KINDLE TEXTBOOK CREATOR TUTORIAL

Download the Kindle Textbook Creator tool (it’s FREE) from Kindle Direct Publishing:

https://www.amazon.com/ktc

PDF FILE

First, you need to convert your book to PDF. If you don’t already have a PDF file for your book, you’ll need to convert it first. Many programs, like Word (2007 and up), PowerPoint, PhotoShop, etc. offer a Save As PDF (or Export As PDF) option. There are also many free PDF converters online (make sure your anti-virus software is up-to-date, find a trusted source, and download directly from the source—of course, anything you download from the internet is at your own risk).

You can (and should) include an active table of contents. In Word or PowerPoint, for example, use Insert > Bookmark to add hyperlinks (choose Place in the Document) and link them to your table of contents entries. Ensure that these bookmarks are preserved when you Save As PDF. (That’s the case with the built-in option in Word, but with other converters, you must check the settings.)

Note that the links won’t be clickable. The point of adding the bookmarks to the PDF is to help the Kindle device create navigation. Customers will be able to navigate through the book using the Kindle menu if you bookmark the table of contents. Update: The latest version of the Kindle Textbook Creator now supports hyperlinks (provided that you upload a PDF with fully functional hyperlinks).

Get your PDF exactly the way you want it. You won’t be able to reformat your file with the Kindle Textbook Creator (except for adding pages, changing page order, or deleting pages), so if there is anything you want to change in your PDF, do it now.

NEW BOOK VS. OPEN BOOK

Open the Kindle Textbook Creator. (When I installed it, an icon appeared on my desktop and it also showed up on the Start menu.)

Go to File > New Book. Find the PDF file of your book on your computer.

Note that New Book is for opening a PDF, whereas Open Book is to open a .kcb file. (When you save a file with the Kindle Textbook Creator, it creates a new folder with a .kcb file.)

SAVING PROGRESS

Use File > Save Book to save your progress. This creates a folder with the .kcb file in it (along with a resources folder).

PAGES PANEL & DOCUMENT WINDOW

When you open a file (or when you use New Book to open your PDF), you’ll see thumbnails of all your pages on the left (the Pages Panel), and you should see the current page in the main workspace (the Document Window).

Note: Occasionally, the current page doesn’t show in the Document Window. When that happens, try highlighting a different page in the Pages Panel, then going back to that page (by again selecting the page from the Pages Panel).

VIEW/ZOOM

Go to View to adjust the view in the Document Window. I normally use the Fit to Window option, but you may want to zoom in more for a close-up once in a while.

ADD, REMOVE, OR REORDER PAGES

Really, there is only one thing you can do with the Kindle Textbook Creator in the way of formatting: Add pages, remove pages, and reorder pages.

But that’s okay. If you want to reformat your book, the logical thing to do is make another PDF. For example, just go back to your source file (e.g. Word or PowerPoint), reformat your file, and make a new PDF.

The Kindle Textbook Creator is designed for easy conversion from PDF to Kindle print replica format. It isn’t designed for reformatting the PDF.

Go to Edit to insert pages, remove pages, or change the order of pages. Just grab a thumbnail (on the left) and drag it to reposition it. You can highlight several pages and drag a group of pages instead of moving them one at a time. Click thumbnails on the Pages Panel while holding down the Ctrl button on your keyboard to select multiple pages; then you can drag them.

If you want to add a page, you first need to make that page into PDF, then you can insert it. You can’t insert jpegs, for example. But you can convert the jpeg to PDF and then insert it.

Note: Sometimes the arrow keys on the keyboard work for navigation, but not always. If the keyboard arrow keys don’t seem to be working, just click on what you want with the mouse.

If you want to drag one or more pages far, you must drag your cursor to the top or bottom of your view of the Pages Panel and position it carefully at the top or bottom. Until you get your cursor in the right position, it won’t seem like anything is happening. Once you hit the sweet spot, it will zoom along. Short drags are more obvious (so in the worst case, you can just drag it a few pages, then drag it a few more pages, etc. and you’ll eventually get there).

Remember, you can delete or insert pages. This is helpful, for example, if you’d like to create a new page for your book explaining that your book works with pinch-and-zoom. You just have to create the PDF for that page first (which is easy to do, for example, from Word).

LANDSCAPE IMAGES?

Watch out for any pages that need to be rotated into landscape view (see the tips section later in this article).

PREVIEW

When you’re happy with the page order, click on the Preview button. You can find the Preview button way over to the right side of the screen, near the top right corner.

This opens two new windows:

  • a smaller inspector window to switch devices, control navigation, or zoom.
  • a preview window that simulates the actual device.

With the inspector, you can select the following devices:

  • Kindle Fire HDX
  • Kindle Fire HDX 8.9″
  • iPad
  • Android tablet

The other devices are grayed out. Books created with the Kindle Textbook do not work on the grayed out devices. Exception: It will work on smart phones, PC’s, and Macs.

Note: The online previewer at KDP is different. The online previewer includes devices where the book won’t actually be available. The previewer that is built into the Kindle Textbook Creator, on the other hand, grays out devices that won’t support the e-textbook (except for smart phones, PC’s, and Macs—it will work on those). It won’t work on Kindle e-Ink devices.

You can zoom in up to 400% using the inspector window.

While you are zoomed in, place your cursor within the preview window, grab part of the screen, and drag the mouse to scroll around on the screen.

Actual customers will achieve the zoom and scroll effects using the pinch-and-zoom feature of the device. The preview lets you simulate this effect with the zoom setting and grab-and-drag with your mouse.

The inspector window also lets you advance from one page to another, or type in a number (and press Enter) to jump to a specific page. (The percentage may help authors who enroll in KDP Select predict where that critical 10% mark is for Kindle Unlimited, though it’s possible that the actual 10% mark in the end product won’t correspond exactly.)

Note: Sometimes the arrow keys on the keyboard work for navigation, but not always. If the keyboard arrow keys don’t seem to be working, just click on the arrows on the inspector window with your mouse.

Simply click on the X at the top right of the preview window to close the preview.

PACKAGE

When your file is ready to publish, first you need to package it for publishing.

If you haven’t already done so, click Save. This creates a folder with the .kcb file in it (along with a resources folder).

Click the Package button at the far right of the screen, or use File > Package for Publishing.

This converts your .kcb file to a .kpf file (Kindle package format).

You upload the .kpf file to Kindle Direct Publishing.

KEEPING TRACK OF THE KINDLE FILE TYPES

You begin with a PDF file. You uploaded that with File > New Book.

When you save a book with the Kindle Textbook Creator, using File > Save, this creates a folder. Inside that folder, you find a .kcb file and a resources folder.

When your .kcb file is ready to publish, you click the Package button at the far right (or File > Package for Publishing). This creates a .kpf file (Kindle Package Format).

The .kpf file is what you want to upload to Kindle Direct Publishing.

(You don’t get a .mobi file when you use the Kindle Textbook Creator. Use the .kpf file instead.)

PUBLISHING YOUR KINDLE E-TEXTBOOK

Visit Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP):

http://kdp.amazon.com

Login to KDP. If you already have an Amazon account, you can just use that.

Visit your Bookshelf.

Click the Add New Title button on the left.

Complete all of the fields.

Step 6 at the bottom is where you upload the .kpf file that the Kindle Textbook Creator made. (Don’t upload the .kcb file. You want .kpf.)

It may take a while, depending on your computer and browser (and internet traffic at the time). If you have functionality issues, try switching browsers (e.g. from Explorer to FireFox or Chrome); make sure that your browser is up-to-date.

If you receive an error message, try again. (I received error messages a few times while I was beta testing. That might be cleared up by now. I was able to resolve the issue simply by trying again.)

PROBLEMS

If you encounter problems, visit the KTC homepage and scroll to the bottom of the FAQ. There is currently a link to provide feedback.

If you have an issue with uploading the .kpf file to KDP, sometimes just trying again resolves the issue. Otherwise, try switching browsers (e.g. Explorer to FireFox or Chrome) and make sure that your browser is up-to-date.

UPDATE

Amazon now lets you insert audio and video with the Kindle Textbook Creator.

KTC SHORTCUTS

The Kindle Textbook Creator supports keyboard shortcuts.

WINDOWS

Ctrl + N to begin a new book with an existing PDF.

Ctrl + O to open an existing project (a .kcb file).

Ctrl + W to close the book.

Ctrl + S to save the book (.kcb format).

Ctrl + Shift + S to save as a new filename (.kcb format).

Ctrl + Shift + P to package the book for publishing (.kpf format).

Ctrl + Z to undo the last change.

Ctrl + Shift + Z to redo the change.

Delete to delete the current page from the Pages Panel.

Ctrl + = to zoom in.

Ctrl + – to zoom out.

Ctrl + 0 (zero) to fit to window (zoom).

Ctrl + 2 to fit to the page width (zoom).

MAC

The keyboard shortcuts are the same as for Windows, but use CMD instead of Ctrl.

KINDLE TEXTBOOK CREATOR FORMATTING AND MARKETING TIPS

READABILITY

If you’re a Kindle owner (or if you’re reading a Kindle e-book on an iPad or smart phone, for example), readability is important.

The longer the book and the more challenging it is to read the text, the more important readability becomes.

What kind of book do you have? Will reading one page of the PDF be difficult to do on the screen of any of the supported devices? If so, how many pages are like this?

If a customer has to read hundreds of pages, and if that customer has to pinch and zoom, and then scroll around the page to read it, that can become frustrating fast.

If it’s a shorter book, say 40 pages, reading one book that way isn’t too bad.

Or maybe most of the pages can be read well, and pinch, zoom, and scroll is only needed on selected pages. That’s much more readable.

Or maybe users will mainly need to just focus on one page at a time. Imagine students consulting the e-textbook to find homework problems on their smart phones, for example. With limited reading at one sitting, pinch, zoom, and scroll isn’t a problem.

But extended, continuous reading like that could become frustrating.

Who is your target audience? Students who already spend a great deal of time on cell phones might adapt to this reading experience better than others.

What is gained from the Kindle edition that may permit a small sacrifice in readability? Imagine an expensive print textbook that a student really needs. By making the e-textbook available, the student gains a much more affordable alternative. (The Kindle edition also makes it easy to highlight, collect notes from the textbook, study, read anywhere and on multiple devices, and look up words with a dictionary or Wikipedia. Students may not think of these things on their own, but you could use them as selling points.)

But any customer who is frustrated with the reading experience can still say so in a review.

So if there may be a convenient way of improving the reading experience, why not do it?

One way is to make the print larger, such that it can be read without zooming on all of the supported devices.

This entails creating a new PDF, and it may involve some changes to the layout. Ask yourself if you can change the font size in the source file and adjust the layout without much trouble. You don’t need to go overboard (e.g. in print, if you adjust kerning, tracking, widows, orphans, etc., this can be very time-consuming). It might not be too hard to increase the font size for body text and adjust the layout just enough so it’s reasonably presentable. You don’t want to publish a mess, of course; it needs to still look nice.

FONT SIZE

Is the font already large enough to read the converted e-book on all of the supported devices? It’s really easy to upload your current PDF. Then you can try to gauge how it looks. While the Kindle Textbook Creator has a built-in previewer, it might be worth testing it out on the same devices with KDP’s online previewer (the display size may be more realistic there). Nothing beats the actual device, of course, so after you publish, try to find out how your book looks on a variety of devices.

If you have a size 12 font in your PDF file, that may turn out to be too small to read on many devices without having to pinch-and-zoom and then scroll through every page.

The larger the font size, the more likely the book will be easier to read on more devices.

If you’re publishing PowerPoint lectures, if those lectures were displayed in a large classroom and students at the back of the class were able to read them, there is a much better chance that your font size is already large enough.

To increase the font size, go back to your source file (Word, PowerPoint, or whatever). If you use Select All, this will also impact headings and other text. (If you used Word’s built-in styles, changing the font size of each style is a piece of cake. Keep that in mind for future projects.) One way or another, you can increase the size of body text (and probably headings, too). You’ll probably have to adjust your layout somewhat to make it look more presentable (e.g. move figures around).

You don’t necessarily need to adjust the font size of all the text. It depends. If you have figures, you could leave the text as it is and customers can pinch-and-zoom for a better view. The fewer pictures you have, the less of an issue that will be (but then it’s also less work to adjust your images, since you have fewer of them).

Try to get feedback from customers you interact with, as that will help you gauge features that may or may not be worth improving. It’s best to have it perfect before you publish, but it’s always worth thinking of how it could be better.

LANDSCAPE

Every image needs to have the correct orientation in your digital book. In print, you can rotate an image 90 degrees and the customer can simply rotate the book to view it correctly, but this doesn’t work in Kindle. If you rotate a Kindle 90 degrees, the image rotates with it, so it’s either always correct or never correct (and the latter is quite frustrating to customers).

In the example below, I want Saturn to appear in landscape. In the print edition, I would do that by rotating Saturn 90 degrees. But in the Kindle edition, I had to rotate Saturn back. If you want it to have landscape orientation, it needs to look like landscape in the Pages Panel. If you’re facing your computer screen and you don’t have to twist your neck to see it right, that’s how it should look.

Test it out in the preview. The best thing is if you can try an actual Kindle device.

KTC Landscape

LOOK INSIDE

Amazon’s Look Inside feature can be a powerful selling tool. (But it can also be a sales detractor. The potential is there, however.)

Unfortunately, books created with the Kindle Textbook Creator presently do not display a Look Inside. I was informed that this may change soon.

Update: As of December, 2015, KTC published books are beginning to generate an automatic Look Inside for the Kindle edition.

Don’t count your chickens until they hatch, though.

With that in mind, don’t rely on the Look Inside to come later. What if it doesn’t? And what about now?

In the meantime, customers can download the free sample to their actual Kindle device. Many customers instead shop on Amazon and send the book to their device if they make a purchase.

Make a print edition and get it linked to the Kindle edition. That way, customers can visit the print edition’s product page to get some idea of what to expect. That’s better than nothing.

ADD INSTRUCTIONS

Not all customers understand their devices well.

Your book has pinch-and-zoom. Amazon will mention the print replica format on the product page.

Yet some customers won’t realize that they can pinch the screen to zoom in on images, or that once they do so they can then scroll around on the page.

It doesn’t hurt to help educate your customers.

What can you do? Create a page that briefly explains that this book is equipped with pinch-and-zoom. Briefly describe what this means.

Even better if you can use a picture to illustrate this. (Marketing tip: Use a picture from one of your other books and you get yourself a little exposure for another book.)

Make sure that these instructions show up past the start position. When a customer opens a new book in a Kindle device, it doesn’t start at the very beginning. Often, it jumps straight to Chapter 1. If you put this note on the page after Chapter 1’s beginning, customers are more likely to find it. (Is it worth interrupting the text? Good question. You have to decide that.)

Note that reading on smaller screens, like some smart phones, is optimized if the device is read in landscape orientation. (If this point is critical for your specific book, it might also be worth mentioning in a brief note.) Students often read with cell phones, but have the habit of holding the device in portrait orientation.

EXPLORE YOUR OPTIONS

I know, you’re eager to try this new tool out and publish your book.

But there is something so very simple that you can do to try and improve your book’s chances for success.

Browse through the educational market in the Kindle store for print replica books. Try these books out. See how they work. See what other authors and publishers have done.

When is the font size too small? Which books are more readable? Why? Look for possible features that you hadn’t thought of.

List things you like. List things you don’t like. If you were a student, what would you prefer?

After you publish, view your book on a variety of devices to find out exactly how well it came out. Get feedback from your audience.

EXAMPLE

Here are two of my shorter books (40 to 50 pages) where I converted the PDF of the print edition to Kindle using the Kindle Textbook Creator.

These are just the basic conversion (presently; I may improve them further), so you can see how this came out. Ask yourself if you might have changed the layout and design to make them more readable. The astronomy book has a larger font; the book on the fourth dimension is much smaller (though that book is largely visual, and was designed for the reader to spend time contemplating the images on each page, i.e. not to be read straight through).

You don’t actually have to buy these books to check them out. If you have a supported device (not just Kindle Fire, but also smart phone, tablet, Kindle for PC, Kindle for Mac), try downloading the free sample.

Full Color Illustrations of the Fourth Dimension: Tesseracts and Glomes

 

Basic Astronomy Concepts Everyone Should Know (With Space Photos)

For comparison, I have a more detailed astronomy book in reflowable format. Back then, I had actually uploaded a Word file (if I ever revise this book, I’ll go into the HTML and make some improvements).

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2015

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

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How to Use the New Kindle Kids’ Book Creator (Tutorial)

Kids 1

KINDLE KIDS’ BOOK CREATOR

KDP Kids features a new FREE, easy-to-use tool for designing illustrated children’s books. It’s called the Kindle Kids’ Book Creator.

Will this tool work well for your book?

  • If all (or most) of your book consist of illustrations, and some (or all) of the pages also have text, this tool provides an EASY way to create pop-up text for Kindle devices (and apps).
  • If your book reads more like a novel or chapter book where many pages have just text, I recommend creating a reflowable e-book instead.

First, I will tell you a little bit about the tool, and then I will show you how to use it. It really is easy!

BETTER FORMATTING

Kindle Kids’ Book Creator solves a major hurdle in creating Kindle e-books:

  • Pop-up text makes it much easier to read illustrated children’s books on small devices, such as cell phones.
  • As I’ll show you, it’s really EASY to use. And it’s FREE.
  • It respects the concept of a page, which is so important for children’s books, while still making the text readable on small devices.
  • It’s designed to work on Kindle Fire tablets, iPads, cell phones, and Android Kindle apps. You see the pattern here? These devices all support color. (Although Paperwhite comes up as an option in the previewer, I checked on a book published this way and it wasn’t available on the Paperwhite.)

Better and easier formatting will attract more children’s authors to create illustrated Kindle e-books.

Better-formatted children’s Kindle e-books will attract more parents and educators to the Kindle children’s market.

This may also increase parent participation in Kindle Unlimited. For $9.99, you can read unlimited Kindle e-books from 600,000 participating titles, which is a great value for bedtime stories, chapter books, early readers, and homework resources.

You might as well enjoy the benefits of KDP Select, since the output format only works with Kindle anyway.

KDP KIDS

Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) has a new page just for kids, called KDP Kids: http://kdp.amazon.com/kids.

Visit the KDP Kids page to download the new Kindle Kids’ Book Creator tool. Click the Get Started button.

  • It’s available for both Windows and Mac.
  • For the PC, you need Windows Vista, 7 or later.
  • For Mac, you need OS X 10.5 or later.
  • Click the Learn More link for additional options (and to read the FAQ’s).

If you have any problems with functionality, first I would try using a different web browser (e.g. Mozilla FireFox instead of Internet Explorer). If switching browsers doesn’t resolve your functionality issue, visit the KDP help pages and look for the Contact Us button to explain your problem to KDP support.

I downloaded the tool without any problems. Everything was virtually automatic. I just had to check boxes for what to install (I selected everything) and agree to the terms of use.

It added itself to my start menu and also appears on my desktop. However, as a general rule, it’s wise to write down the location where you save it on your computer so that you can always find it, just in case.

GETTING STARTED

Before you open the Kindle Kids’ Book Creator, you’ll want to get your materials together.

You have a couple of options:

  • You can upload a PDF of your illustrated children’s book.
  • You can upload image files in JPG, TIF, PNG, or PPM format.
  • The images can include text, or you can add text later.

A partial PDF is okay, too: That is, once you upload a PDF, you still have the option to add additional pages as images later.

When you upload a PDF, the Kindle Kids’ Book Creator automatically converts every ‘page’ to an image.

Every ‘page’ should appear exactly how you want it to appear on the screen (but you can leave the text out now, if you wish, and add the text later).

If you already have a PDF of your illustrated children’s book for a print edition, that’s perfect.

If not, you need to first create the ‘pages’ for your book:

  • You can open a graphics program (find one that’s better quality than Paint) and create each page there (with or without the text—you can add text later, if you wish).
  • You can scan images onto your computer, but, if so, you’ll want high-quality scans that will look good on any device. If the scans don’t include text, that’s okay, as you’ll be able to add text later.
  • You can open Microsoft Word and put each image on a page (without text is okay, as you can add it later), and then you can save your Word file as a PDF. Making a PDF is unnecessary, though, as you can simply leave all of your images separate, and just upload your image files.

ADDING YOUR IMAGES

Here is how to add your images (or how to add a PDF):

  1. Open the Kindle Kids’ Book Creator.
  2. Click the button to create a new book.
  3. Read the directions, then press Continue.
  4. Enter the title for your book.
  5. Enter the author name(s).
  6. If you have a publisher name to use, enter it here.
  7. Select a language from the list. Note that not all languages are supported. Presently, it’s English, Spanish, German, French, Italian, Chinese, Russian, and Portuguese. (Someone should contact KDP and let them know that they misspelled Portuguese. Oops!)
  8. Click browse and find a location where you want to save your book. You’ll actually have to create an empty folder for your book. Right-click in the pop-up window and choose New > Folder, then right-click the folder to name it, and then select this folder. Press Select Folder.
  9. Choose landscape or portrait. The bottom options only apply if you choose landscape (they disappear if you pick portrait). If you’re using landscape, choose the options you want.
  10. Uploading the cover and pages: Only choose the top option if you’re uploading a PDF and the first page of the PDF is your book cover. (You don’t have to bother adding the cover to your PDF. Just pick the second option and you’ll be able to submit your cover file and PDF separately.) To submit your cover as a separate file, pick the bottom option.
  11. Browse for the files as instructed. You should be doing one of the following.
  12. One option is to upload a PDF that includes your cover and your pages. You can still additional pages later.
  13. Another option is to first upload a cover as an image file and then upload a PDF of your pages. You can still add additional pages later.
  14. A third option is to upload image files. In this case, each image file should contain one ‘page’ from your book (including any text that needs to appear on that page).
  15. Once you upload your files (and you wait a while for the program to assemble the pages of your book together), you will have the option to add images, add text, or add blank pages.

PERFECTING YOUR BOOK

You may wish to adjust the zoom from 100% to something else.

The main features you’ll need to perfect your book can be found on the toolbar above:

  • Add page.
  • Delete page.
  • Add text.
  • Add pop-up.
  • Add blank page (see the little arrow on the right side of the Add Page button).
  • Add multiple pages (see the little arrow on the right side of the Add Page button).

ADDING PAGES

It’s easy to insert pages:

  • Click on the page where you’d like to insert a new page.
  • Browse to find the image that you’d like to add.
  • Choose whether to add the image before the selected page, after the selected page, or at the beginning or end of the book.
  • If you choose before or after a page, you can also select the page number you’d like to have it placed before or after.

You can also add a blank page by clicking the little arrow on the right side of the Add Page button.

ADDING TEXT

It’s easy to add text to any page.

  • Select the page.
  • Click the Add text button.
  • This opens a rectangle. Grab any corner and drag it to resize. Grab any edge to move the rectangle.
  • Type your text in the rectangle. Place your cursor in the pop-up and look for a gray box just above the rectangle called View Pop-Up. Click View Pop-Up. This pulls up a white box that says Enter Text Here. Just start typing and you should see the text you type show up before Enter Text Here. Press the delete button to delete Enter Text Here.
  • Highlight selected text and use the toolbar above to change the font style, font size, boldface, italics, underline, font color, line spacing, letter spacing (kerning), or alignment.
  • Add as many textboxes as you’d like to any page.
  • Select the number at the top left of the textbox and press the delete button on your keyboard to delete a textbox. Or just right-click on the pop-up. You don’t want stray, empty pop-ups lying around.

Text added this way will automatically pop-up. You won’t need to do the next step unless you have text that was already part of the image (or if you uploaded a PDF).

ADDING POP-UP TEXT

If your text was embedded in your images, you’ll need to add pop-up text in order to make the text pop-up. It won’t be automatic if the text was embedded in the images that you uploaded (or if you uploaded a PDF), as opposed to adding text through the Kindle Kids’ Book Creator.

Here is how to make your text pop-up:

  • Select the page.
  • Click the Add Pop-up button.
  • This opens a rectangle. Grab any corner and drag it to resize. Grab any edge to move the rectangle.
  • Place your cursor over the rectangle and you’ll see a View Pop-up option. Click View Pop-up.
  • A white box will appear that says, “Enter text here.” Enter your text.
  • Highlight selected text and use the toolbar above to change the font style, font size, boldface, italics, underline, font color, line spacing, letter spacing (kerning), or alignment.
  • Add as much pop-up text as you’d like to any page. You can create a pop-up text for each text area.
  • Select the number  at the top left of the pop-up text and press the delete button on your keyboard to delete pop-up text.

EDITING THE HTML

A cool feature of the Kindle Kids’ Book Creator is that it allows you to edit the HTML. You don’t actually need to know HTML: just what to look for to change.

For example, if you wish to insert hyperlinks, such as the url for your author website, you can click View > HTML View. You would then find the text (which you probably don’t want to be in a pop-up, if you want a clickable link in the text; note that you can disable a pop-up if you wish), and place something like <a href=”http://www.website.com”>website</a&gt; where you would like to make a clickable link. The syntax is very important. Put the website url in the quotes, including the http:// part, and the text that you want to show between the > and </a> (that text can be the same as the url, if you want).

Be very careful with HTML, especially the syntax. If you’re not already fluent in HTML, research exactly what you want to do thoroughly before you try it out.

BOOK PREVIEW

Click Book Preview at the top of the screen to preview your book.

This opens your book in the downloadable Kindle Previewer tool.

Preview your book carefully in each device.

Click the Devices button at the top.

You need to check:

  • Kindle e-ink
  • Kindle Fire
  • Kindle for IOS

The e-ink option will only give you Paperwhite, but when I checked on a book published this way, it wasn’t available on Paperwhite. (Try finding a book published this way and see if this may have changed recently.)

When you select Kindle Fire, you’ll see three options:

  • Kindle Fire
  • Kindle Fire HDX
  • Kindle Fire HDX 8.9″

When you select Kindle for IOS, the previewer will create an AZK file that you can download. Connect your iPad or iPhone to your computer with a USB cable to preview your AZK file. If you’re not familiar with this, you may need to Google some help.

With view, you can also open the file in Kindle for PC.

SAVE FOR PUBLISHING

When your book is ready, go to File and click Save for Publishing.

This will create a .mobi file.

Find the .mobi file in the book folder.

Now you can log into KDP and upload your book file.

MORE HELP

Click the help button and choose user guide to explore all the possibilities.

VIEWING TIP

I would add a page near the beginning of the book that says:

This e-book features pop-up text:

Double-tap on text to open a text pop-up. The pop-up text displays in a large font size for easy reading.

This is especially convenient on small devices.

I would also include an image on the Viewing Tip page to make it look interesting. A picture of you actually doing this on a device with your book would be perfect. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2014 Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

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What the Dreck?

Slush Pile

The Dreaded Slush Pile

Two popular terms among authors and readers make me cringe every time I see them—which is much too frequently. There are some very strong opinions about this subject, too.

  • dreck
  • slush pile

These terms generally refer to the ‘worst’ of the books, but this definition by itself creates some problems.

  • There is more than one way to define the word ‘worst.’ Do you mean editing, subject matter, sales rank, very short books, web content disguised as books, or something else entirely?
  • Thus, some authors take this the wrong way. “Are you talking about my book?”

Any one of these things, by itself, doesn’t necessarily make a book bad:

  • Maybe an author has a fantastic story, but on a low budget, chose not to invest in an editor without knowing if the book would sell. Given a choice, I’d rather have a great story that needs editing over a lousy story with superb editing. (But there are many excellent stores with good editing to choose from, so this isn’t a decision that we really have to make.) My point is that editing alone doesn’t imply that a book is bad.
  • Similarly, if the book simply has poor formatting, it could still have great content. I wouldn’t call a book poor just because it could use some tender-loving formatting care.
  • A miserable sales rank—or no rank at all—doesn’t make a book lousy. Maybe the cover and blurb aren’t attracting attention, but the story is amazing. Perhaps the author didn’t attempt any marketing. Or maybe there is a very tiny audience for the book. These things don’t determine that a book is poor. (Just that the author isn’t getting rich from that particular book. At least not presently—for all you know, it could have sold like hot cakes when it first came out, but just hasn’t sold in recent months.)
  • How about a very short book—just a few pages? If the information is valuable, people will want it. If it’s very well written, what’s the problem? The beauty is that customers can decide if that appeals to them. More people writing short books doesn’t mean that other books won’t sell. It doesn’t mean that shorter books are selling. Kindle Unlimited makes it easier for customers to reach 10% of shorter books, but Kindle Unlimited doesn’t encourage customers to download shorter books. Why borrow ten very short books? Customers spending $120 per year may be more inclined to get the best possible value for their money. But let’s just say that shorter books do start selling more. This means that those books are appealing to customers. If those short books truly are dreck, customers will stop buying them. So if they sell frequently, they must not be dreck just because they’re short.
  • Perhaps you’d like to judge the content as dreck—e.g. certain kinds of romance novels, sales pamphlets, get rich schemes. Return to my last point. If it’s selling and continues to sell, apparently it’s satisfying readers. How can you call something dreck if readers appreciate it? Because if there is something that you’re sure is better, then wouldn’t readers also agree that it’s better and stop buying the ‘dreck’? But again, even if it’s not selling, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the book is bad.
  • There are, indeed, books that we may agree are lousy. Maybe we can judge by the intention of the author. If the author made a poor effort, and was just hoping to turn a quick buck, perhaps that could properly be classified as lousy. If the author tries to deceive readers, does that make the book lousy? If the author recruits dozens of reviews to make a book seem far better than it actually is, when the author knows that nobody would have bought the book otherwise, can’t we call that book lousy?

The worst of the worst, however you want to define them, are important for two good reasons:

  • When a reader experiences a book that turns out far worse than the reader was expecting, it leaves a significant impact on the customer’s reading experience (and it tends to change the customer’s book buying habits).
  • When one of the worst books sells, it frustrates authors who have worked very hard to master their craft and publish a quality book.

Not all mention of the ‘slush pile’ stems from good intentions, though:

  • Some authors feel a sense of superiority and mention the slush pile with a sense of arrogance and disdain. This isn’t expressed as the frustration of an author who worked hard, but comes out as an “I’m better than you” feeling.
  • Some authors feel a sense of inferiority and mention the slush pile to feel better about themselves.
  • It may be in the financial interest of traditional publishers to advertise the slush pile as often as possible, hoping to create a perception that self-published books aren’t worth reading so that more customers will, hopefully, buy traditionally published books.
  • Editors and book formatters may advertise the slush pile, hoping to encourage authors to hire their services. (Editing and formatting are important. I’m not saying you shouldn’t pay for such services, just that this might be one of the motivations for advertising it.)
  • Some readers want to feel superior in terms of what they are reading. For example, they might feel superior reading literary works, and thus denounce everything else as dreck.

Personally, I feel that not enough people read. A greater selection improves the chances that everyone can find a book that he or she would like to read.

Here are some truths about the ‘dreck,’ including reasons that I cringe every time I hear it mentioned. (Am I a hypocrite for mentioning it here? My hope is to help improve the perception, and that some good may come from the following points).

  • Every indie author who mentions the slush pile or dreck is marketing a poor image for indie books, which in turn hurts his or her own sales indirectly. Oops!

  • The worst books aren’t in the way of better books. Lousy books that don’t sell quickly fall in the rankings and fall down into the depths of obscurity. Why worry about lousy books that are hard to find?

  • When a self-published author says derogatory things about other authors’ books, how does that affect his or her image? Brand a positive image for yourself. It might even help your sales.

I’m not saying that we should ignore books that have problems.

Here are some positive ways to address this issue:

  • Don’t advertise lousy books.

  • Don’t use the words ‘dreck’ or ‘slush pile.’

  • Do find a few excellent examples of self-published books and advertise those instead of the bad ones.

  • Don’t put other authors down.

  • Do find indie authors who are producing quality books and bring those authors up.

  • If you know a friend or acquaintance who is a newbie author, offer some helpful tips that will result in a better first book.

  • Occasionally share tips in your social media posts that would help fellow authors produce better books

  • Help motivate self-published authors to perfect their books.

  • Do your best when you self-publish. Do some research. Seek feedback. Don’t view your first book as an experiment. You only get one chance to make a good first impression.

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2014 Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

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Dictionary Phobias in the Digital Age

Fear of Long Words

Reading in the Digital Age

—Have you heard the argument that most readers want easy reading, which doesn’t frequently send them to the dictionary? This is the subject of much heated debate, which isn’t the focus of this article (though I would say different authors have different styles and different audiences—if there is a significant audience for a style that you can write, it would make sense for you to write to that audience). Put your opinion on whether or not we should make reading vocabulary friendly aside for a moment. As I mentioned, I didn’t bring this up with intention of stirring that debate. I want to just call attention to the fact that there is a dictionary phobia in the Digital Age. Doesn’t it strike you as odd that there is one? Technology should be making it easier to deal with and improve vocabulary. If so, why are many people still afraid of encountering words they might not know? Here is my point:

  • I just opened a book on my Kindle Fire.
  • I encountered a word I didn’t know.
  • I touched the word with my finger until it was highlighted in blue.
  • A window popped up showing me the pronunciation key and definition.

Back when I was a kid (and we had to walk uphill both ways—if you want to enjoy a little humor, look for my ‘proof’ of this toward the end of this article—into the wind, too!)… …There was a mammoth unabridged dictionary sitting on its own table in every classroom. If a student asked a teacher what a word meant, said student would soon be standing at that table thumbing through said dictionary. …Sometimes, we’d be reading on the bus, with no dictionary in sight. Now it’s so easy. If you’re reading a digital book, all you need to do is touch the word. It’s almost like having a magic genie, except it’s a hundred times easier to press the word than it would be to rub the lamp and make a wish (and then you only get three wishes and each wish has unintended side effects).

When it’s so easy to look up a word, why are so many people afraid of seeing words they didn’t already know?

I think it’s a good question. There are probably some answers. That is, some reasons. I really mean, some ways to explain why it is the way it is. But maybe that isn’t the way it should be. Reading is a great way to develop better grammar, improve your vocabulary, and improve your writing. Now it’s so easy to look up any word you don’t already know. Okay, let me address the obvious exception:

  • If you have to look up every other word, even pressing the word in an e-book will become a chore and detract from story enjoyment. My question relates to occasional words, not this extreme.

Proof that we had it harder when I was a kid

So, I said, albeit in jest, that we had to walk to school and it was uphill both ways. I’m sure you ‘know’ that can’t be true, so I’m going to apply my knowledge of physics to prove you wrong. Here’s the deal. As illustrated below, the school was located on the side of a mountain. The school was very tall. The town was situated halfway up the mountain. First period was at the top of the school, so we had to walk up to get to the top of the school. Last period was at the bottom of the school, so we again walked up to get back home in town. QED.

Uphill Battle

Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia

Isn’t that a great word? You gotta love it!

How do you pronounce hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia? What does hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia mean? Forgive me for my repetition, but any chance to use hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia in a sentence just can’t be squandered. 🙂

  • Hip·po·po·to·mon·stro·ses·quip·e·da·li·o·pho·bi·a (Hip’-uh-paw-tuh-mahn-stroe’-ses-kwip’-uh-dah-lee-owe-foe’-bee-ah) n. (hippopoto– Greek-derived for fear, –mostr– Latin for monstrous, –sesquipedali– Latin for long word, and –phobos Greek for fear)—fear of long words.

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2014 Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

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