Skip to Content

Kindle Fire Gets Seriously Pretty E-Books

Its new e-book format, Kindle Format 8, makes designers of children’s books, comic books, and cookbooks feel welcome.
October 25, 2011

Amazon recently announced a new format for its e-books, just in time for its Kindle Fire tablet, which ships November 15. For its previous Kindles, Amazon had been using a format called Mobi, while its rivals used a format called Epub. Many had anticipated that Amazon might compromise with an Epub-compatible format moving forward; instead, it has opted for the new format, which it calls Kindle Format 8 (KF8) and which adds HTML5 support.

KF8 support enables a new range of formatting capabilities–some 150 of them, listed here–“including fixed layouts, nested tables, callouts, sidebars and Scalable Vector Graphics.” That might sound a little technical to anyone other than an e-book designer, but what it boils down to is this: people can finally make e-books very, very pretty. (Here’s just one small example of this, pointed out by CNET: Amazon’s inclusion of CSS’s @font-face interface means that publishers can choose just about any downloadable font, vastly growing the e-reader’s typographical palette.) Indeed, Amazon in its announcement highlights the new capabilities that will be brought to publishers of children’s books, comic books, textbooks, manuals, and cookbooks. “Children’s picture books come to life with brilliant images, fixed layouts and Kindle Text Pop Up”; “[c]ookbooks and other titles requiring rich design look spectacular with embedded fonts, callouts and sidebars”; “[c]omics and graphic novels are presented in high resolution color with Kindle Panel Views,” promises Amazon.

That last bit about comics is significant. A week ago, Amazon signed a deal with DC Comics for exclusive digital rights to 100 graphic novels, including some Superman and Batman series. This was a major irritant to sellers and owners of non-Kindle tablets. Barnes & Noble, which makes the Nook, pulled physical copies of these books in retaliation. The New York Times found a comics fan and iPad owner who vowed piracy: “What will me and my poor iPad do? I’m so sorry DC! Because it is not like I can download all those comics for free, oh wait yes I can, and now I guess I will and maybe I will download every comic DC produces while I am at it!”

In the past, I’ve argued that picture books are perhaps the last bastion of print publishing likely to remain resilient against the rising tide of the e-book. The children’s book sensation, for instance, Go the F**k to Sleep, made its rounds first as a pirated PDF copy, but ultimately went on to become a bestseller in print, despite its widespread electronic availability. I wonder, though, if Kindle’s new format–and a new generation of book publishers thinking specifically with a colorful, fully-featured tablet in mind–means that even this bastion won’t be held much longer. KF8 threatens to be the first format to frighten even those in publishing who have believed that the paperbound book-as-art-object will always have pride of place on the coffee table or nightstand.

Deep Dive


Embracing CX in the metaverse

More than just meeting customers where they are, the metaverse offers opportunities to transform customer experience.

Identity protection is key to metaverse innovation

As immersive experiences in the metaverse become more sophisticated, so does the threat landscape.

The modern enterprise imaging and data value chain

For both patients and providers, intelligent, interoperable, and open workflow solutions will make all the difference.

Scientists have created synthetic mouse embryos with developed brains

The stem-cell-derived embryos could shed new light on the earliest stages of human pregnancy.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.