To TOC or not to TOC

Well, again on the Mobilreads forum, that’s a forum for all of us who produce ebooks for Kindle as well as epub… on a thread that has been ongoing for months about the Start point in Kindle ebooks… we have found that Amazon is doing something to our books even after they are uploaded. Here’s the story so far.

Back about last December Amazon started re-setting the Start point on ebooks, well on some ebooks. In the process that I and others use to produce Kindle content(and there are many ways to make a Kindle ebook) We start with an HTML file which has already been tagged with a Start point (Start_Reading) usually either on the Prologue if there is one, or if not on Chapter 1. Lately most of my clients want a Reader Letter right before the start of the book, so I put the Start_Reading tag there.

Then I take that ‘tagged’ HTML file, put it into Calibre and build an epub. But there’s more. Then I take the epub into a program called Sigil, a text editor that works with epubs as well as HTML, and re-tag all my points… Cover, Title page, copyright page, Table of Contents, and Start_Reading although the guide feature in Sigil calls this merely ‘text’.

Now here may be the problem. Amazon really wants the Table of Contents to be in the front of the book as if this were a non-fiction. But these books aren’t non-fiction and don’t even need a TOC, it’s just a courtesy to readers to put one in so they can get to things like… well, the Reader Letter, Acknowledgments, Dedications, Author Bio… stuff like that. But most of my clients don’t like to clutter up the front of the book with these things… they want me to put some of it in the back, most particularly the TOC. It affects the Sample size of the book. If your TOC runs 3 pages, then that’s 3 pages less of actual text.

The thread on Mobilreads has been discussing this lately and thinks Amazon has been inserting their own ‘Start-Reading’ tags or SRL willy-nilly (well, not really, they do have a process) into a book after it’s uploaded. They want the book to open at the text right after the TOC. AND if you don’t do this then it may affect these features “If You Liked The Book” and “Last Page Read”. That’s the rub, we don’t actually know if it DOES affect those features.

Do you see the problem? The TOCs in my books are at the end! Now I haven’t noticed that any of the books I have produced since December have a wonky start, or that the TOC cannot be accessed with the little ‘open book’ icon on my kindle… but then I’m not buying those books… They haven’t actually gone through the upload process at Amazon (or KDP their publishing site). And none of my clients have gotten letters either from Amazon or from Readers that their purchased books have a weird start point. But… I guess I’m putting the TOC back at the beginning where Amazon wants it. Most of the books that I have on my Kindle (the purchased books… and I have several hundred) open just fine where they’re supposed to and also most have the TOC in the back of the book. One of my Mobilreads buddies even said that James Patterson… well his formatter, I’m sure he doesn’t format his own books… puts a mini-TOC in the front of the book which is linked to the actual TOC in the back… I may try that… but personally I don’t think readers will know what to do with a Mini-TOC… maybe I’ll have to get a sample of one of his books and see what one looks like.

I think I shall take my problem to the top… tech support at KDP (Kindle’s publishing site). I’ll let you know how that goes!


About athirstyblog

If you're a published author and are sitting on a basement full of backlisted books, then you've found the right blog. Although I formerly filled these pages with book reviews, they will now be filled with tips on eBook formatting, talk about the current technology of eBooks, and other stuff that interests me and hopefully interests you. I'm currently an eBook formatter, formerly a bookseller, archaeologist, illustrator and lover of all things historical and scientific. And I'm now a permanent citizen of DownEast Maine with my own beach and 175 year old house and everything! Come along for the Journey!
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