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Amazon: Time to start programming your e-books

The release of new Kindle tools to create books using HTML and other Web technology dramatically expands graphics and formatting options.

Kindle Format 8, or KF8, uses Web technologies such as HTML and CSS to show much more elaborate e-book layouts.
Kindle Format 8, or KF8, uses Web technologies such as HTML and CSS to show much more elaborate e-book layouts. Amazon

The dividing line between writing books and writing programs just got a big step blurrier.

That's because Amazon has now released tools for creating books using Web technologies. Those tools include Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), used to describe Web pages, and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), used for formatting.

"Through the use of HTML5 and CSS3, KF8 allows publishers to create great-looking books in all categories, particularly those that require rich formatting and design, such as technical & engineering books and cookbooks," Amazon announced. Other features are well suited to graphic novels, comics, and kids' books, Amazon said.

The move reflects the gradual expansion of e-book abilities. Pure text is fine for many books, and it's well suited to the constraints of apps to read on small mobile-phone screens, but graphics are crucial for many markets.

Using Web technology means Amazon gets to capitalize on widely used standards and piggyback on industry efforts for improvements such as hardware-accelerated rendering in browsers.

The first readers able to read the new books are Kindle Fire tablets, the Android-based devices that Amazon began selling last year. Amazon announced KF8 e-book format in October as it released the Kindle Fire.

"In the coming months KF8 will be rolled out to our latest generation Kindle e-ink devices as well as our free Kindle reading apps," Amazon said.

Amazon released two tools for the new book format, called KF8, or Kindle Format 8. KindleGen is a utility to convert source material written in other formats into KF8. And the Kindle Previewer lets authors see how their books will look on the wide variety of devices where Kindle books can be read.

Older book formats will continue to work, Amazon added.