Kindle e-readers come in many sizes and shapes nowadays. The two most popular are the standard Kindle e-ink device and the Kindle Fire Tablet. The Kindle e-ink device only displays black and white. A Kindle e-ink screen is precisely 3½x4¾" in size, with a ¼" margin all-round. You will want to remember this when you format your book, if you have any images, or charts and tables. When you think about using a chart inside your book, shrink it down to 3” wide, and see if you can read it. If you can, then it’s safe to use in a Kindle book. Below, you'll see an image of an e-ink Kindle, followed by an image of a Public Domain book, "The Prince and The Pauper," by Mark Twain, as it would appear on a Kindle e-ink device.
A basic Kindle Fire Tablet is 7” long, with a reading area of 3½” x 5”. It displays in vivid color. It also has advanced formatting features that the e-ink devices do not have, like drop caps, as just one example. Below, you'll see an image of the 7" Kindle Fire tablet, followed by an image of a book, "Madman Dreams," by Keith Ferstl, as it appears on the Kindle Fire tablet (note the Drop Caps and the red line highlighting the Chapter title.)
With very few exceptions, books have to work both on the regular Kindle device and the Fire Tablet. Children's books can be formatted strictly for the Fire, “forcing" the reader to view the content in landscape mode. Some other types of books, like cookbooks, can be formatted this way. Authors who want to format their books for the “Fire only" should remember that many, literally millions of, Kindle owners have the e-ink devices. You can see an example of a children's fixed-format book, below, from "The Fox and The Fawn," by Daniel Derasaugh, displaying the Region Magnification (pop-up text) capability, which is very useful for reading on the smaller devices, like Android smartphones with Kindle for Droid reading apps.
Unlike the iPad and the Nook Color, as of this writing, the Kindle Fire cannot support embedded, recorded files as “read-along” for children's books for self-publishers. Unlike the iPad, the Fire cannot support embedded video inside of eBooks at this time. (June 7, 2012, updated 5-31-2015)
The standard formatting for a Kindle novel is paragraphs with first line indent, and no blank lines between the paragraphs. If your book has block paragraphs with no indent, we will have to add the indents. If you have extra lines between paragraphs, we will have to delete the extra lines. The first paragraph of a chapter may usually be flush-left (no indent) and the first paragraph after a scene-break.
Remember that on the Kindle devices, readers can change the font size (all devices) and sometimes even the font (the Fire Tablet). This will cause your book text to reflow. If this concept is unfamiliar to you, you may wish to read our FAQ article on the topic, Text reflows--or wraps.
Barnes & Noble, the second largest seller of eBooks as of the writing of this booklet (8-12% of the market monthly), has its own lines of e-readers, called Nooks. The Nooks come in B&W e-ink, like the Kindle, called the Nook Tablet, as well as a color model, called the Nook Color.
The Nook Tablet is 8.1” long and 5" wide. The screen, with a PPI (Pixels per Inch) resolution of 169, is 3.55” wide and just about 6” long, not dramatically different than the Kindle Fire Tablet.
The Nook Color is exactly the same physical size, and its screen size is also identical.
The Nook uses ePUB formatted books (see What Are the Main eBook Formats? if you need a reminder on formats). This means that unlike books read on the (basic) Kindle e-ink device, some advanced formatting is possible, like drop caps and images wrapped inside of text.
The Nook Color also has available a fixed-format ability, like the Kindle Fire, for children’s books in landscape mode. Moreover, it has “read along” capabilities, for audio files to read to children. (This should not be confused with the “text-to-speech” capability of the Kindles, which uses an automated voice. The read-along uses MP3 audio files.) The two vertical pages below are from the NookColor Tablet; the horizontal page is also from the NookColor tablet, but is from a proprietarily-formatted "ePIB" NookKids' books, which operates in "Fixed Format mode," so that text can display atop images, and show "spreads" (images that cross two pages) in the way that childrens' books should be read.
Some Screenshot Examples of Books on the Nook Reader:
(click images for lightbox slideshow):
Apple's iPad tablet computer has a built-in reading application called “iBooks.” The iBooks application works with either ePUB or PDF files, but only ePUB files may be sold on the iBookstore as “eBooks.” Apple has high barriers to entry for self-publishers. They require approved iTunes Publisher applications before accepting content. Each book is run through what is called “ePubcheck,” a program that tests the technical perfection of the book, and each is vetted by Apple personnel for acceptability, based upon criteria that are not public.
The iPad tablet is 7.31” wide and 9.50” long. The screen size is 5.81” wide by 7.75” long. Obviously, the iPad is the largest of the now-available “readers.”
The iBooks application also allows for a fixed-format book to be created. Books may have embedded video, audio, and even embedded PDF's. Arguably, as of this writing, the iBooks application has the most advanced technology for multimedia books. Many publishers prefer it for those titles that need multimedia, like cookbooks or “how-to" titles. It is also very popular for children's titles, and many of these titles are public domain books (free) like “Alice in Wonderland” or “The Velveteen Rabbit.”
Like the Nook and the Fire, iBooks allows readers to change orientation (portrait or landscape), one-page or two. It allows the reader to choose from a wide variety of fonts and background colors, as well as font-sizes. Many advanced eBook features and formatting can be used in the iBooks application that are not available in other readers. If you have a book that requires very advanced features, like embedded audio or video, you may wish to consider pursuing distribution to the iBooks platform for your book.
Below, you can see how embedded video looks on the "page" in an ebook, in BooksBnimble's comedic romp, Phone Kitten. In the first image, you see how the video is show to exist, with a small placeholder, or "poster" on the screen, and in the second image, you can see the video, tapped by the user and now displaying and playing full-screen size on the iPad device.